Originally written on May 9, 2010
“The Lord of May is coming to your neighborhood on the first day of the month. Be prepared to receive him.”
I read these words as I picked up the small piece of paper that someone had slipped under the door in our backyard gate. Before stuffing the tiny flier into my trash bag along with all of the other miscellaneous fliers and announcements that appear daily under the gate, I noticed a picture of one of the resident icons of the local Catholic Church. The “Lord of May” is a statue of Jesus that enjoys a special notoriety during the month of May, and as stated in the flier that would soon find itself in my trash bag, this particular icon would be visiting my neighborhood next week. I needed to get ready!
I cannot deny that my heart jumped with excitement when I first read that the Lord would be coming to my neighborhood! What would it be like to have Jesus himself visit our home? What should I do to get ready? But my excitement was quickly replaced with a strange mixture of sadness and peace: sadness for our neighbors who thought that they needed to wait and prepare for a once-a-year visit, and peace for my own family at the realization that Jesus is present in our home on a daily basis. What a privilege to count Jesus as a member of our family, and not just as a visitor on the first day of May.
Filing away this “living sermon” in my mind, I promptly forgot about the Lord of May’s upcoming visit to our neighborhood. In the meantime, I discovered that our elderly, deaf neighbors had not been able to sell any of their hand-tooled leather crafts for several weeks, and had consequently run out of money and food. My husband and I decided to help out by taking grocery items to Blas and Maria on a regular basis. And so it was that I found myself in the street on May first, with a large flat of eggs in my hands.
May first. I had forgotten that this was the auspicious day of the Lord of May’s visit. I noticed that the hardware store facing our back door was immaculate, with even the sidewalk and street swept clean. Lázaro, the store owner, had festooned the entrance with large palm branches and flower chains, a fitting adornment, I suppose, should the Lord decide to enter his shop.
Glancing down the street, I could see that all of the other neighbors had tidied up their front doors and sidewalks, and had garlanded their doors with flowers in a similar fashion to the hardware store. Some of them had even placed small replicas of the Lord of May statue on their front steps. Several houses down from ours, the neighbors had blocked the street so they could decorate it with an elaborate flower-petal mural, not to be disturbed except by the feet of those who would bend under the weight of the heavy litter bearing the Christ statue.
And there I stood, on my bare and very un-swept back door sidewalk, with a large flat of fresh eggs in my hands. What must the neighbors think of me? Not very welcoming to the Lord of May, I’m sure. Oh, well, I sighed, at I crossed the street and headed down the dirt alley where our elderly friends lived.
There was no fanfare in the street as I delivered the eggs. No flowers, no candles, no band. Only a grateful smile on Maria’s work-worn face. But that’s when I heard the still, small voice speaking into my heart.
“Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter -” (Isaiah 58:6-7a)
The Lord did come to our neighborhood that day, but it was not the Lord of May who made His presence known. The One who came is the Lord of every day and every month, the One who dwells within us, showing us who has a need, and affording us the tremendous privilege of being His hands and His feet in our neighborhoods.
Suddenly, my un-swept sidewalk didn’t seem so important anymore.