I was running errands for my mother this week. I had made a stop at the grocery store. On her list was watermelon and they were out of it so I decided to try another store. As I walked towards the entrance I noticed a large black dog wearing a brown scarf around his neck. He was lying down pressed up against the building, trying to keep cool in its meager shade. While he caught my attention, still I guess I didn’t pause to think much of it. Instead I kept walking, making my way to the back of the store where the fresh produce is. I picked out a melon and headed for the check out lane.
When I got to the front of the store, there was another customer before me waiting to pay for his purchase. But there was no clerk. We stood there for a moment when we saw a worker moving quickly towards the door holding several bottles of dripping cold water. She shouted to us that she’d be right back.
As she punched the numbers for my watermelon into the cash register she apologized again for the delay, telling me how thirsty that dog was. Then she said that his owner had been in a few moments before and had spent his last bit of change on food for his dog.
As I made my way back to my car, I saw the young man sitting on the pavement next to his dog, sweltering in the 100 plus degree heat index. He was dressed in dark jeans and shirt and hat and had his ear buds in. The dog’s food had been poured out on the pavement where it was by now half eaten. Both were soaking up the cold water which had just been given them.
I put the watermelon in the back seat and digging into my purse I walked back and handed the young man $20, commenting that it looked like he could use it. (Oh, I know all the reasons not to do so and normally I don’t, but I figure anyone who will spent his last bit of change on his dog is doing his best.) He looked up at me and thanked me and then he said, holding aloft the $20 bill. “This is what I love about this country — that you would do this for me.” I, for one, think there must be something wrong with a country where people have nowhere cool to go on such a hot day — where impossible choices lead one to spend one’s last meager resources on one’s dog and not one’s self. Even so, I didn’t argue the point. I told him to take care of himself and I returned to my errands.
It’s a less than perfect story, I know. There are certainly any number of directions one could go with this experience, but as I was sitting with this week’s Gospel I couldn’t help but hear the echo of Jesus’ own words, “Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead?” and “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children… if you then, would take your last bit of pocket change and be sure your dog is fed instead of feeding yourself… how much more then will the Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”
The word for us today is that God will give us what we need. All we have to do is ask. Indeed, sometimes, often, we don’t even have to ask and it is still ours to receive. Oh yes, I would guess that at least part of what Jesus is getting at in this piece of Luke’s Gospel is the relationship we share with God. One which addresses God as “Father.” One where God acts as a loving Father, providing what we need. It is a relationship where we do, in fact, at times find ourselves asking, searching, knocking. And in turn receiving, always receiving.
But back to that young man and his dog. It seems to me it would have been easier going for him if he didn’t have his dog with him. I can’t think of a nearby shelter which would take them both. And the dog seemed devoted to him, in turn. I can’t imagine he would have been easily separated from his owner. The relationship, the devotion, they share is a mutual one. Not that it compares to the relationship you and I have with God. Except that ultimately we are also utterly dependent on God. Except that God, too, spent his last, his most for us. Except that God always gives us what we need.
Oh, it’s not a perfect story this one and I am still haunted now by all that I could have, should have done. I hope I will do better next time. Even so, I witnessed something this week which spoke to me of at least part of the intent of our Gospel word now. “If that young man would spend his last bit of change to be sure his dog is fed, how much more will our Heavenly Father do for us…”
- There are a number of lessons about prayer for us in Jesus’ words for us now. What stands out most for you?
- My parallel with this week’s Gospel is less than perfect, I know. Have you witnessed something which rings more true?
- How have you experienced God as a loving parent giving you all that you need?