- Do you think I am like you? (Ps. 50:21)
Not unlike the Israelites of the exodus, I doubt God’s providence in trying and tempestuous times. I wonder if the Lord is in our midst or not (Ex. 17:7). And even when I am given some assurance of the Lord’s presence and favor, my response becomes one of skepticism not unlike Gideon’s.
Gideon, it appears, was not particularly appreciative of the angelic greeting, “The Lord is with you, O champion!” For his reply, while respectful, was nevertheless questioning and a manner of saying, “That’s easy for you to say.” He said: “My Lord, if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are his wondrous deeds of which our fathers told us when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ For now the Lord has abandoned us and has delivered us into the power of Midian” (Jgs. 6:13).
But if I call into question God’s presence and cast doubt on his concern for those in danger of perishing, could it be because I am largely absent myself and uncaring? Perhaps I am too caught up in trying to eke out a living to be able to be present to others and care about them. Resigned to my hopeless fate, I may have finally convinced myself that there is not much I can do either for myself or others, and so must settle simply for the task of, so to speak, “beating out wheat in the wine press to save it from the Midianites” (Jgs. 6:11).
And there are those, of course, who turn oblivious and indifferent because they are wholly dedicated to both amassing wealth and increasing profit at all cost or are fiercely competing to maintain their comfortable lifestyle. But whatever our idols, we become like them—having mouths but do not speak, eyes but do not see, ears but do not hear, noses but do not smell (Ps. 115:5-8)—and unlike the true God who takes notice and cares (cf. Ps. 10 and Ps. 94).
God does care and is in control of the situation no matter how precarious it may seem to us. And if the story of Gideon and the life and works of St. Vincent de Paul mean anything, they reveal that if we can only care a little about others and not allow the need to survive, much less the relentless pursuit of financial advantage and social advancement, get the better part of us, we will soon discover for ourselves and others God’s providence and wonder at the works he is able to accomplish in and through us, our littleness notwithstanding.
If we can only care just a little and say to a stranger, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over,” then our eyes will no sooner be opened to recognize the Lord as he, at table with us, takes bread, says the blessing, breaks it and gives it to us (cf. Lk. 24:29-31), and we will partake of his compelling love.