“Oh-oh, Someone’s in Trouble”

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

My mom, God rest her, was a gentle, peaceful soul. She avoided confrontations and disliked arguments, even friendly family arguments about crazy things. And conversely, she had a keen awareness of other people’s problems and struggles.

I remember one endearing little habit she developed, especially as she grew older. If we were walking or driving somewhere and she heard an emergency siren, from a firetruck, police car or ambulance, she would make the sign of the cross and say, “Oh-oh, someone’s in trouble.”

And, of course, it’s true. When the siren of an emergency vehicle sounds, someone is in trouble — because of a fire, a crime, or a health emergency taking place. We all know that, but my mom’s response was pretty unique.

The ability to be sensitive to someone else’s problem is a beautiful Christ-like virtue. Jesus showed that all the time. He was constantly aware of and responsive to the sick, the blind, the deaf, the mourning, the possessed, the outcast and the sinner. I can almost hear Jesus saying, “Oh-oh, someone’s in trouble.”

The Gospel illustrates how Jesus responded, for example, when he saw the vast crowd: “He had compassion on them, because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mt 9:36) And again, when Jesus recognized the hunger of those who had followed him, he said: “My heart is moved with pity, for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, for fear they may collapse on the way.” (Mt 15:32)

But what about us? Do we, first of all, even notice other people’s problems, or are we completely oblivious as we go about our merry way? And if we do notice, how do we react? Are we harsh and judgmental, holier than thou? Or do we try to look into the hearts and minds of our neighbors to understand what they’re going through, and how they got there?

That’s a real challenge for us, something to work on. To grow in holiness, we need the eyes of Jesus to see, the ears of Jesus to hear, and the heart of Jesus to respond with mercy and compassion.

Something to think about: On a scale of 1 – 10, how sensitive are you to the needs of others?