Driving through the night — A faithful co-worker of the Lord Print
From the Diocesan Administrator
Thursday, Apr. 18, 2019 -- 12:00 AM
From the Diocesan Administrator column

Following is a homily given by Msgr. James Bartylla, diocesan administrator, for the fifth Sunday of Lent.

The Gospel account of the woman caught in the sin of adultery is one of our favorite Gospel passages -- one of the passages most people remember best.

It has the drama of Our Lord Jesus Christ turning the tide of retribution of the scribes and Pharisees by pricking their consciences, and then tenderly forgiving the adulterous woman.

The most loving part of the account is Jesus' admonition to the adulterous woman not to sin again, since adultery always involves another often unseen victim -- for example her husband, or maybe the wife of the man who joined in the adultery. Our Lord is concerned for all of the souls in the account. His concern and mercy is full and true and not mere momentary, superficial sentiment.

Given the popularity of this Gospel account, what is so interesting is that there is no miracle by Our Lord in the strict sense, but simply his persuasiveness in his Divine Ministry, helping the stone throwers to convict themselves, and forgiving the adulterous woman with the further admonition not to sin anymore. You could say it is Jesus just doing his "regular job," his "divine ministry" -- and in that it is a great lesson for all of us in our daily work.

A story to remember

A story I heard recently focused on the role of our ordinary daily jobs for the sanctity of our lives. The person wrote the following account:

"Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living. When I arrived at 2:30 a.m., the building was dark, except for a single light in a ground floor window. Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait for a minute, and then drive away.

"But, I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation. Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself.

"So I walked to the door and knocked. 'Just a minute,' answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor. After a long pause, the door opened.

"A small woman in her 80s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase.

"The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks, nor any utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware. 'Would you carry my bag out to the car?' she said. I took the suitcase to the cab; then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb.

Treating people with respect

"She kept thanking me for my kindness. 'It's nothing.' I told her. 'I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated.'

"'Oh, you're such a good boy,' she said. When we got into the cab, she gave me an address, and then she asked, 'Could you drive through downtown?'

"It's not the shortest way,' I answered quickly. 'Oh, I don't mind,' she said. 'I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to a hospice.' I looked in the rear-view mirror and her eyes were glistening.

"'I don't have any family left,' she continued. 'The doctor says I don't have very long.'

"I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. 'What route would you like me to take?' I asked.

"For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds.

"She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl. Sometimes she'd ask me to slow down in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing. As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, 'I'm tired; let's go now.'

Destination arrival

"We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico.

"Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her. I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door.

"The woman was already seated in a wheelchair. 'How much do I owe you?' she asked, reaching into her purse. 'Nothing,' I said. 'You have to make a living,' she answered. 'There are other passengers,' I responded.

"Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly. 'You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,' she said. 'Thank you.' I squeezed her hand; then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.

"I didn't pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk.

"What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away? On a quick review, I don't think that I have done anything more important in my life."

"We're conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware, beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one."

The work of God's servant

The loving act of that cab driver, the gentle act of turning off the cab meter, naturally moved him toward further contemplation of what happened -- his personal quiet act of offering to God.

Jesus, Our Lord, bent down and wrote on the ground with his finger, contemplating what He would do with the scribes, Pharisees, and the adulterous woman. The day-to-day work of Our Lord's ministry or the day-to-day work of His servant the cab driver, is the "stuff" of great sanctity.

May you have a Blessed Lent, even in your acts of kindness in the workplace.