Today God passed my way and I was too dimwitted and afraid to recognize Him. Have you ever realized how fear shuts down our capacities? This morning leaving Coimbra, it was as dark as ever. The city, the third largest in Portugal, sprawls a while before rural space emerged. CITIES are amazing. I will speak of the glory of the city an the folk festival last night, but not yet. Now I want to speak about the effect of the city on us.
Leaving was particularly difficult. The map has a path through the city. I tried to join the original way by the canal. No roads connected back to. I went down a road and three quarter way down I knew it was a mistake. It was dark, grinch and lonely. I retreated back up the same road and kept walking to the city's edge.
As you leave the city centre, the grime and the negativity appear. People sleeping on under archways and the lighting decreases. The whole scent raises awareness, At the edge of the city, trying to join back to the canal again. The way was fenced because of construction. While trying to figure this out a man approached me. There is no one around and nowhere to hide. He asked for money. At first I brushed off. He came back in English and I could not brush him off again.
I wanted to run. I did not want to take out my wallet in that lonely pose, that could invite trouble. But here in front of me was a man who was obviously in need. He asked for a Euro. To oblige I would have to pull out my wallet expose where it is and expose that I have money, I was terrified.
I pulled out the wallet and pulled together all the change I had. I handed it to the man. I told him use it for good. I gave this man what he asked for. I did not give him what he needed most. He is a human being and like all of us he needs human contact and appreciation. I failed to see it was God asking me and I failed to see how to respond with love.
As I walked away I left looking back to see if he was following me. The city has this impact on us. We can be better than this. So no I did not see God this morning. 3Km later, listening to the office of readings, St John Chrysostom gave a sermon titled: "do not adorn the church and neglect your afflicted brother."
I did not recognize God this morning. I felt shame, I wanted to go back. But it was too late. Fear and vulnerability got the better of me. We are supposed to be friends and defenders of the poor. Blindly I passed Jesus by.
Last night I had a very different experience. As God would have it, there was a cultural celebration in Coimbra last night. I went out on the plaza and sat at a restaurant and ordered dinner. There was action every where. We had a band playing pipes to accompany dinner. There were many musical gigs all her the city. They led me to my seat and it was next to Steve. We met several times yesterday.
Steve is an agnostic, he is searching and wants answers. In the midst of the music, great food and wine we had a conversation that lasted two hours. Three times I tried to leave. We began with football and cricket. Steve is from Briton. We then spoke about life, purpose or vocation, the restless mind that wonders and leaves us depleted, Also about Life choices and consequences. And ultimately we spoke about the inner pilgrim.