It was 10:30 in the morning as I crossed Market at 7th and slid between the line at the food cart and the walls of the Free Library. The woman was heaped on the walkway to the library. Her green aluminum cane made a sharp contrast to the sun washed red brick of the entryway. She slumped, asleep, over her belongings, exhausted already by the heat that had just begun to rise. Her lined face, pink with heat, was turned to passersby. She looked like my mother, sleeping restlessly in pain.
I stood there for a fleeting moment. I wanted to reach out and hold her. I wanted her to bring her to a cool, safe space to sleep. I wanted to ask what she needed. I wanted to help. And yet...I did none of these things. I walked on down 7th, headed to a cool, dry archive where two librarians would bring me the books I desired, without my lifting more than a finger.
We wrangle over translations and whether we are sufficiently reverent with the body of Christ when we receive in the hand. We issue lists of grave sins, such as "the taking or retaining for a sacrilegious purpose or the throwing away of the consecrated species" and meanwhile here lies the body of Christ crumpled and abandoned on the sidewalk. And I walk past. This is what I will have answer for to Christ when he asks, when I was thirsty, did you give me to drink? This is delicta graviora. It’s not on the list.
Photo from dgphilli.