THE LITTLE GAL, THE ANAWIM
Today’s first and third reading trigger the thought of noticing the little guy. So the title of my homily for this 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time [C] is, “Noticing the Little Guy, The Little Gal, the Anawim”
This is a key theme in the Hebrew scriptures: Don’t forget the Anawim. A N A W I M: Aniwim. It’s the Hebrew word, for “The Little People.” The little people are God’s People.
This would be a good homily, if this week, everyone here noticed people we never noticed before - especially the little people - especially people we don’t think important – people we walk by every day.
This would be a great homily – if everyone here began to notice people we never noticed before – especially the unnoticed – for the rest of our lives.
This would make my day. It would also might make the day of the person we noticed.
God notices all people. God is concerned with all people.
Today’s first reading presents a paradox. It’s from the book of Wisdom. The author begins: “Before the Lord the whole universe is as a grain from a balance – a weighing scale in the market place - or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth.”
What an amazing notice! This universe is vast. We have no clue how far and how many universes there are out there – and how far it goes. Our universe doesn’t stop at our ceiling.
Spot a piece of dandruff on the shoulder of someone in front of you. The author is saying: “To God this vast endless looking universe is like that tiny, tiny speck of dandruff, skin that softly dropped off someone’s scalp to someone’s shoulder.”
Then the author switches his thought and says: “Even though everything is so small to God, God sees all. God has fashioned all. God loves everything and everyone He has made. God is a lover of all souls” God notices all!
A FOOTBALL GAME
We’re at a football game. The place is packed. People are everywhere. Whom do we notice? Whom do we see?
Parents notice their kid or kids on the field or in the stands. The rest of us might be spotting a running back or quarterback or cheerleader – or wondering where the beer man is.
God is spotting everyone. We are all God’s children.
We see those we know – sometimes. We see crowds. God sees every individual person – those on the field, those in the stands, the person in the ambulance reading the newspaper because he or she doesn’t’ like football, but is there in case of an injury.
God notices the little guy, the little gal, the Anawim.
THE SCULLY FAMILY
I grew up on 62nd Street in Brooklyn, N.Y. We moved to that street because a man named Mr. Tim Scully told my dad about a house there. He had gotten my dad a job at Nabisco. I’ve heard several times that Mrs. Scully brought my mom to Victory Memorial Hospital for my birth. I don’t remember that. I also have heard a story that Mrs. Scully once checked my head after she heard I had fallen on my head in the basement - right onto a hard cement basement floor. My head was soft. She got me to the hospital.
So Mr. and Mrs. Scully were very much part of our growing up years.
We went to their house to watch TV - especially the ball games before we had TV. At Christmas time I remember they had electric trains that went around the Christmas tree. We didn’t. We never did.
Well, one of their grandsons, Jack Scully, was All American football player at Notre Dame. He was a big guy. Notre Dame could use him this year. He then started for the Atlanta Falcons for about 11 years. Well, whenever the Falcons played on television, I saw crowds in the stands, players on the field, lots of people with numbers – but I found myself always looking for Number 64. I noticed Jack Scully. I didn’t notice the guy who held the clip board or Ipad for the coach.
When God watches us everyday, God notices the little guy, the little gal, the Anawim. God sees everyone of us – especially the unnoticed by everyone else.
A priest named Art Finan once gave a sermon at St. Michael’s Church in West End, N.J. His sermon was on today’s readings and every time I read these readings I remember what happened after that Mass – a Mass I wasn’t even at. I was having lunch with some people who went to that Mass and they were talking about the sermon that Father Art Finan had preached. He told them about the Anawim. I stole his sermon thought secondhand and you’re hearing it today. He said that the Anawim were like crumbs - the iddy bitty crumbs that fall off our toast onto a kitchen counter or onto the floor. The Anawim are the crumbs – especially those on the floor. We step on them.
God doesn’t. God is concerned with them. He sent the prophets to tell people to be aware of the unnoticed – the rejected.
He sent his son to reach out to them. He sends us to be for them.
A few years ago a Redemptorist priest named Joe Adamec died. I followed him after he got off the job as novice master for our students. I didn’t know that was going to happen when I once found myself dropping into our parish of St. Mary’s in Buffalo, N.Y. on my way somewhere.
Then, I found out at supper, it was Joe’s last night at St. Mary’s Parish there – before he left for Wisconsin to be Novice Master.
After supper, Joe asked me, “Do you want to see the parish?” I said, “Good.” It was raining. It was night. But he still gave me a great tour of the parish.
The parish was in one of the toughest sections of Buffalo. Well, we went into bars and everyone said, “Hi Father Joe.” We went into this three story abandoned house. The roof had a big hole in it and I could see the night and the rain coming through. But I didn’t notice this guy living in a corner in some cardboard boxes. Joe knew he was there., “Hi Father Joe.”
9 years later I ended up taking Joe’s place as novice master and he went to our parish in Boston – that’s a small town in New England – that has people making lots of noise lately.
Years later, another priest, also named Father Joe, told me that he was covering two hospitals: one for Father Joe Adamec and the other for this other priest for two weeks – so they could go on vacation. This second Joe, Father Joe Krastel - now here at St. Mary’s, Annapolis, told me that he goes to the first hospital, the one which Father Joe visited and it was the Haitian floor cleaners who kept asking, “Where’s Father Joe?”
Joe Krastel laughed, because when he covered the other hospital for this other priest, it was only the pretty nurses who kept asking where this other priest was.
Whom do we see? Whom do we notice?
I think of my dad. He had a fourth or fifth grade education. One of his wonderful traits was his profound respect for all people – especially the little guy. I remember vividly him talking about the different men he worked with at Nabisco – those running the high lo’s, those running the elevators, etc. He would always be talking about these fellow workers with a rich smile on his face - people at work who fascinated him. Looking back, I loved that quality in my dad. He noticed the little people.
In today’s gospel, Jesus notices the Little Guy – Zacchaeus – up a tree and invites himself into Zacchaeus’ home. The town knew who Zacchaeus was – and they didn’t like him. As we read the Gospel of Luke – as well as the other gospels, we’re often surprised at the people Jesus noticed. It’s often people nobody else noticed.
As people read our gospel: the gospel according to Jane or Sarah or Evelyn or Larry or Bernie or Walter, who are the people they read that we notice?
The title of my homily is, “Noticing the Little Guy, the Little Gal, the Anawim.”
This week, let’s notice one another – especially the Little Ones.
Noticing is the step before loving one another. We have to notice each other first.
This week stop a few times before you take your next step. Notice who is around – who is surrounding you. Is there anyone you’re not noticing? Is there anyone you’re treating as a crumb – those whom you think are crummy – and invite them down off the tree or up from the floor and invite yourself into their life. Amen.