Once upon a time I was in London airport returning from holidays. My friend John’s luggage had split and he had real trouble collecting it together. A new Aran jumper was missing; then suddenly from across the hall, someone shouted ‘who owns this?’ and held up the jumper. He added, ‘I would love this!’ So, in a fit of generosity, I suppose, John said ‘well, keep it and give something to St Vincent de Paul.’
Apparently, they kept in contact. The new owner was a black man from St Louis Missouri and at first he suspected his new Irish friend thought of him as one of the poor, deprived and marginalised. In any case, when he got home his wife investigated locally and found a Vincent’s shop where she began to leave stuff which before she would just have discarded. She would drive over in her Range Rover every month to the depot and leave generous parcels. She got to know the personnel and got closer to the Church community over the years. Her husband who was a successful business man, a big supporter of the Democratic Governor, which we won’t hold against him, decided later to have one of his outlets incorporate a small Vincent’s shop. It was an excellent way to help the deprived, a way to attract all sorts of custom, a charitable enterprise par excellence.
He used to write occasionally to his Irish friend and even supported him through unemployment and hard times. You are thinking, ‘This can’t be true. Such things do not happen! Can people really be so generous to apparent strangers! And then you think, wouldn’t the world be in a better place if more supported Vincent de Paul?’
The story fits in well with the Palm Sunday gospel. Jesus is welcomed and supported by his own fellow pilgrims in Jerusalem. All goes well.
They are with their leader. Changes are going to happen. They will benefit. Religion will pay, big time. In later life they would realise the full implications of that day when they did the right thing. Sure enough, things fell apart but Jesus never forgot them. Their generosity bore fruit.
Jesus continues to explain the good news from God to us, often in fraught circumstances. We learn God’s will from his word and his actions. Be truthful always, stand up to those who do wrong. Be ready to explain to those who are ready to listen. Rejoice today in God’s goodness. But also accept that human beings have an awful tendency to go down the wrong path, leading others with them. For instance, today in the middle of a pandemic, when funds are scarce, when people are deprived, when pressure of daily living is increasing, what does the Government do? It announces more funds for nuclear weapons and armaments, so as to oppose others, and provide warring factions with guns and ammunition to terrorise their neighbours. I am not making this up! Fear, anger and hatred seem to win out. Yet we know from the Passion story that the goodness of Jesus will conquer eventually. Deep down people will realise that God’s way is best. Jesus invites us to form a new community where he will be central. We are called to rejoice, stand firm, come back when we fail, and Jesus will be waiting.
At times we will find ourselves on the spot. It will be a case of – Do we help or not? Will we be generous or not? Will we take time to compose ourselves and respond to God prayerfully? Will we join with others in building a little community where people care, help, support, pray together and make ‘hoping for the best’ a reality. In your case, will St Vincent de Paul be helped? It could be the start of a great story.