What surprises me about people we might call tramps, bagladies, hobos and other terms is how much stuff they carry around. Dispensing with the commitments of family, jobs, mortgages ( or maybe having had these taken away ) they still toke around large burdens. I suppose we are defined to a certain extent by the things we have built up and the familiar possessions.
The other night I went to the South Bank to see a concert. I was surrounded by the well fed and well dressed. Tickets to concerts are not cheap. The eateries were filled with diners. In amongst the rich and cultured were little piles of clothes and humanity begging. Though I am not naive about those who beg, some chose it as a career option, I am also aware how easy it is to fall off the 'cliff of comfort.' We are all so fragile. A period of illness, the death of one we were dependent on, the end of a job, a marriage break up can suddenly wrench us from our comfort zone. I know because I have been there. One minute I was going along nicely thank you and then a string of unforeseen events changed my situation totally.
In the excellent film, The Game, the friends of Nicholas Van Orton, played by Michael Douglas, a cold and ruthless financier, decide it would good for him to be humbled and contrive to take away all his props: job, money, possessions and status to see if it will change him into a better human being. The ease with which these things are taken away is disquieting.
What I have always liked about Catholics is that they stress the idea of seeing Christ in everyone. When we look at even the most miserable wretch we should still see Christ. It is a biblical truth. Spend some time with Matthew 25 31- 46. See how the King, Jesus, is enshrined in the hungry, the thirsty and the stranger. Perhaps when we see someone in reduced circumstances we should see them as the king who will return to sit on a glorious throne to judge us. The role reversal in this passage is arresting.
Perhaps the bags this man is carrying contains a list of those he has encountered and how they have treated him. Maybe he will pass this list on to our King.