Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta used to say that she saw the face of Christ in all to whom she ministered to. The thought of her ability to actually see Jesus in everybody sometimes overwhelms me, I mean, I can understand the poor and marginalized, but she saw Jesus in the rich and important too. She saw Jesus in the 99% and the 1% also.
This past weekend, my wife and I traveled to Loveland, Colorado to witness the grand opening of her family's restaurant and to give the business and the workers a blessing with word and holy water. On Sunday evening, we were sitting around the bar, waiting for the final work to be done in order to pray and bless the business and workers, when I found myself engaged in conversation with the last customer of the night who came in to get a "to go" order.
It was obvious to all, even the customer, that he had one too many before he even came in to our place (he did not have any drinks while waiting for his order). He looks at me over the corner of the bar and starts off the conversation by making a comment about my crucifix that I wear around my neck on the outside of my shirt. Now mind you, I get a lot of comments on my crucifix, the majority of them positive, and I tell them that Martha had purchased it in Jerusalem a few years ago and that it is the same crucifix that the Catholic deacons in Jerusalem wear to identify themselves as deacons.
He tells me that he has a "cross" like mine at his house, but he doesn't wear it because he no longer believes. And so it begins: the "evangelization" of Anthony. He shares with me certain aspects of his life, but nothing "deep". He actually told me that I was "judging" him because he is a ""bad" person and has no heart. I assured him I was not, and I wasn't. The more he shared with me about his life, the more I could see that he had been deeply hurt in his youth. It doesn't take a psychology degree to see the layers of protection that someone wraps themselves up in order to not feel that hurt. And because of that hurt, comes the low self esteem, the violent lashing out at anyone who might see through the rough exterior (I never felt in danger at any time).
The longer we talked, which was close to an hour, the more I saw in him a man who not only wanted to do good, but actually DID do good. He recalled to me how he went about collecting coats for those who had none so they would be warmer in the brutal winters of Northern Colorado, because he to had been homeless and living on the streets at one time. He would admit he had compassion, but insisted he had no heart, because his heart had been ripped out and trampled on too many times in the past, beginning with his abusive father. The more we talked, the more he opened up. He knew what the source of his hurt and anger was, but would not reveal that to me. He told me in very colorful language that it was none of my ******* business. By then, I was confident enough that I could tell him the plain truth without being on the receiving end of a right hook, and told him that until he was ready to share his deepest hurt, the source of his hurt and anger, that he would NEVER become the man that God had called him to become! To be able to share the love that God has poured out to all of us is a wonderful gift of God's grace in one's life.
So, I started out with a story from the life of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. So I end with this observation: The more I talked with Anthony, the more I saw Jesus in him. Through the liquor baited breath, the profanity laced vocabulary, the sheer human pain of being on the outside looking in, I saw Jesus.
Jesus, who calls us to walk with him through the dirty side streets of Calcutta, India to hold in your arms a person who is dying from some disease that is so contagious that no one would help, to hold that person and let them know that, yes, someone DOES care and loves them, even if you know that they will die right there in your arms.
Jesus, who calls us to walk with the migrant in a land that they know not, where no one wants them because of the xenophobia that always seems to grip humanity when faced with something unknown. Jesus, who calls us to love all people, because they are made in the image and likeness of God himself and are deserving of love for no other reason besides that.
Jesus, who did not consider equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself out and took on our humanity in order to be with us, in our struggles, our infirmaries, our inability to love, in short, our sin.
Yeah, I saw that Jesus.