Eyes that see the small people

There are no less important and more important people in the eyes of God. All are important.

Since some time I have been thinking of writing about Hagar and Ishmael. Was it prompted by my subconscious sympathy for them? May be. In any case there might have been something in my personal life too that occasioned these reflections. I had crossed the magical point of my fiftieth birthday.

With a receding hair line and grey invading your temples at an alarming speed, suddenly you begin to realize what it means to be middle-aged. It is not a comfortable feeling I tell you. It takes some time and a lot of hard thinking on the mystery that life is. Then you slowly come to terms with it. Accept it as an unalterable fact of life. For one thing you feel a loss of self worth. That one is not valued any more. Your services are taken for granted. You don’t matter or mean anything to people any more. With that let me tap the ‘stop’ key to wallowing in self-pity. The point has been made I suppose.

Now to return to Hagar and Ishmael, two colorless nondescript figures hidden away in less than two chapters of the Old Testament.
Sarah, who was baren, was jealous of Hagar who had conceived a child from Abraham. Womanly jealousy is not anything new after all. Abram’s attitude and the stand he takes in relation to the hapless slave girl is baffling to us. “Your slave girl is in your power; do to her as you please”. Sounds casual and heartless to the modern reader. But such were the times in a semi – nomadic tribal ethos of the Semitic people. Hagar flees to the wilderness to escape the cruel treatment of her mistress. This an ultimate experience of abandonment and alienation. There “the angel of the Lord found her”.

Angelic presence is an unfailing sign and indication of a divine intervention. He is God’s emissary. He bears the stamp of God’s power and authority. She is commanded to ‘return to her mistress and submit to her’. Then God makes his plans and purposes clear to her. (Gen.16/10) The second episode that caused Sara’s displeasure is when Ishmael played with Isaac (Gen.21/9). So she demands that Hagar and the boy be sent away. Abraham complies with her wishes. And it has God’s approval. She and the boy are sent away to the desert again. God heard the cry of the boy. God called to Hagar from heaven. “What troubles you Hagar? Do not be afraid.”. Then God caused a spring of water to well up in the wilderness to slake their thirst. Their lives are saved. A future is assured for them.

Who are the people we usually take notice of? On whom does our gaze rest ? Most of the time on people who are important, rich, famous, good looking, people in power etc.. The poor and the weak, the marginalized, the physically unattractive people, the non entities of our society are often forgotten. As far as some of us are concerned they simply don’t ‘exist’. We see selectively.

On the contrary, God’s all seeing eyes, that scrutinize even our most guarded thoughts, are on all his children and all that he made, in a special way on the poor and the weak and the oppressed, the ‘nobodies’ of this world and the failed and the spurned. They are never forgotten by Him. Their cries never go unheard. Pope John Paul II of blessed memory said, “No one is nameless in the eyes of God.” They are all known and loved by face and by name. “For the needy shall not always be forgotten, Nor the hope of the poor perish for ever”. (Ps. 9:18)

Just last week I had this experience while I was in Bangalore. Some of my readers might think what I am going to narrate is plain silly. My computer was acting funny making my work impossible. The black vertical pulsating line that goes ahead as we tap the characters on the key pad started running fast making it impossible for me to regulate the task I was doing. It was a frustrating experience. I tried to do all that I knew to normalize it. But nothing worked. Then in desperation I rose from the chair. Joined my hands prayed for a few seconds. Then placed my right hand on the computer and gave a blessing.

Then suddenly came to my mind the miraculous icon of the Mother of God installed on the south-side of the main altar in my parish church in Kerala. (St.Mary’s Forane Church, Kuravilangad, in Kottayam Dt.) Then I told the Blessed Mother, “Please get me out of this mess”. Immediately, as though through some divine inspiration, my right index finger reached out and gently pressed the ‘Home’ key on the key pad. There to my utter astonishment and stupefaction, the racing black line stood still. I had tried everything for the last three days. I had not succeeded. But now in less than five minutes the problem was solved and I could carry on with my work.

No one or nothing is too insignificant for God to take notice of. Even our ordinary annoyances are God’s concern. Our struggles and silent sufferings move the heart of God. No matter however ordinary the situations in which we live and work or however humble the duties we perform or low the rank. God’s benign gaze pans the entire world looking for the ‘Hagars’ and ‘Ishmaels’ among us.

– – – written by Fr. George Vettukattil MSFS