A week ago Wednesday, I had a 9:00-12:00 meeting at headquarters that I hoped would not last all the way until noon, since noon is the time of Mass at the little chapel near my office, about twenty minutes from headquarters. I squirmed as one hour turned into two. After all, I don't sit still readily, so these three-hour meetings, of which I have had many recently, are killers. Then, two hours rolled over into the start of the third hour. 11:00, 11:10, 11:15 ticked by. It seemed like all we were doing at that point was wrapping up AND wrapping up AND wrapping up. Of course, I could not sneak out of the meeting. I was supposed to be leading it! However, I was working together with our Human Resources folks, and, of course, I could not ride ramshod over their input. So, we continued to wrap up. 11:20, 11: 25. At that point, I just assumed I would not make Mass and starting to plan on lunch over the noon hour, followed, sigh!, by another 3-hour meeting from 1:00 - 4:00.
Right before 11:30, though, we finished our work. Yes! Not only would I be able to catch Mass, but I would be able to do a quick drive-through McDonald's to pick up lunch. Yippee! It was going to be a better day than I had imagined.
So, I headed to my nearby car, hopped in, and took off. As I came to the intersection by McDonald's, there was a man holding a sign, asking for help. Oh, oh! I knew I had no cash in my wallet. So, I looked around the car. Nothing laying around there, either -- not even the spare McDonald's gift card that I usually keep on hand. I did not remember giving out the last one, but apparently I had. Hm...
Talking myself into thinking that I had no way to help (which, of course, I did; I could have invited the man into McDonald's and paid with a credit card, which is how I planned to pay for my own meal), I drove into line at the drive-through, ordered, and started to drive away when I noticed the man was still there. Now, I seemed to have a dilemma, and I was aware that I did have options: (1) give the man my lunch (but he probably would not like it -- I never get anything except meat on my hamburger -- no fixings and no dressings -- and that would not be very filling for him); (2) go to Mass and ignore the man; (3) go back and get a gift card (probably would take too long, having to wait through line and all); or (4) invite the man in and blow off Mass.
Mass or man? The verse where we are told that what we do "for the least" among us is what we do for Jesus kept coming to mind. Was I being given some direction? I took a step back and looked at the real choices: (1) do something for myself -- going to Mass was at some level for me, to allow me the opportunity to worship, to continue to develop my relationship with God, or (2) do something for God -- feed one of His children. Seeing it in that light made everything clear. So much for Mass, I thought, and headed toward the man. When I reached him, I explained that I had no cash on me but would be happy to take him inside and buy him a meal. He responded that he was not really hungry at the moment but that he would love to be able to eat later and would appreciate a gift card. OK, that would be option #3.
I headed back to McDonald's, parked, and walked inside. Amazingly, there was no one in line. I quickly purchased a gift card, returned to the car, and handed it to the man.
Happy that I had done what seemed to be the right thing but somewhat saddened at the loss of opportunity to attend Mass ("daily" Mass is offered only twice a week at this chapel, and it is the only church near where I work), I headed back to my office. As I drove, I noticed the time: 11:48. Not quite enough time to make it all the way back, or was it? As I came to the intersection where I needed to go straight to the chapel or make a left to my office, I looked at the clock in the car: 11:58. How could that be? It was like time had stood still for for a few minutes. Since the intersection is only a minute or two from the chapel, I drove straight, arriving at the chapel exactly at noon.
Sometimes discernment comes slowly, but when it is right, it is obvious. And, often, I have found, when right, it gets rewarded. After all, I got both options: helping a child of God (something for God) and attending Mass (something for me). Lunch never tasted so good!