For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes, he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9 KJV)
It’s one of those memories that surface when you are trying to get to sleep, demanding the reflection and deference that are its due.
One day when I was still in one of the mid grades of elementary school our class was finishing our lunch break in the school cafeteria and we were filing past the kitchen window where we dropped off our used plates. What attracted my attention that day was a classmate manning the window, scraping the remains of our half-eaten meals from our plates, wearing an apron over his clothes to protect him from the mess. Recognizing him and not wanting to ignore him and create an awkward silence between us, I hesitated, fumbling about for a feeble hello for him.
If there was any discomfort from the situation, it didn’t appear to be on his part. He continued the rhythm he had established, attending to his duties in a way that was clearly more mature than any I could feign. While the rest of us complained about the quality of food we were being served, this young man was quietly going about the business of cleaning up after us
Poverty suddenly had a face for me and it wasn’t one I would have expected. It was only a moment yet I am left with his facial expression, which did not fall between the extremes of embarrassment and defiance, but rather spoke of a dignity he had embraced at such an early age.
Jesus was no stranger to the plight of the common man. The very fact He chose to come to earth in the humble fashion He did, not arrayed in splendor and accompanied by an army of angels to do His bidding as He was accustomed to, instead choosing to labor as a tradesman is illustration enough of this. He identified with the poor. Indeed the Gospel or Good News He was anointed by God to preach was tailored to that audience (Luke 4:18). But the similarities don’t end there. When His time came to assume the role of Savior and He was paraded before Pilate, the quiet dignity He displayed was in keeping with the humility and composure of a man schooled in hardship and resigned to His fate. His death may have been that of a common criminal, but His resurrection fulfilled His divine mission. In so doing He gave hope and purpose to generations of the disadvantaged.
Blessed Savior, Please guide us towards the dignity that comes through humility and faith. Amen.