Imagine you were on your way to work and the announcer from the radio and TV said that Jesus Christ was sighted downtown sitting on a bench waiting for a bus!
What would you do? In the world of internet, Facebook, iPads and cameras on phones, what would any of us do? Would you want the opportunity to talk to Him? If you somehow had the opportunity to talk to Him, what would you say?
So you decide, I’m going downtown and see if this is true. Perhaps you would ride the train or the bus to fight crowds to see Him for yourself. Lo and behold, there He is sitting on the bench just as was reported, with hundreds of people standing around. Would you find the courage to break through the crowd and sit next to Him? If you did this, what do you think He would say to you?
Hmm, do you think you would recognize Jesus if He were sitting next to you? Maybe you would recognize Him after watching Him perform a miracle? What about if you witnessed Him curing someone’s cancer, or everyone who was carrying a water bottle in the crowd, suddenly you would see Him turn the water into wine; or better yet, if He sat next to a homeless man whose clothes were covered in urine and smelled of vomit and alcohol and was patting his hand? How would you feel if you saw this? Remember, this isn’t a celebrity; this is Jesus you’re seeing.
When my mother had her near-death experience, I remember how disappointed she was that diligent efforts were made to bring her back to life. Her rationale was simple: she felt this amazing peace that was almost indescribable to her. She shared what it was like to see her parents again. But mostly she saw Jesus and His mother, Mary. In her words, “Imagine how you would feel being in the presence of perfect love and imagine what you would say and do.” She talked about her experience until she died. A year later when she actually faced death for real, she did not have fear. She truly “let go and let God.”
Is Jesus present in our lives now — and you don’t recognize Him? How many times have you heard about someone’s good news that the doctor came back and caught all the cancer or that someone’s breast cancer made it to the five-year mark and is now cured? Do we witness miracles every day and take them for granted? Do we ignore that Jesus is here every day?
As Catholics we are aware that Jesus is with us. We believe that we witness his miracles daily. We also believe that He does change the water into wine at the hand of the priest during the Eucharist. What about His reaching out to the homeless man? In the temple during His final week prior to His crucifixion, Jesus responded to the question of the Pharisees: what is the most important Commandment?
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind, this is the first and greatest commandment, and the second is like it; Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39
Almost at every streetlight near the freeway entrances today, we see people in need hoping to get a handout. It is so easy to sit in judgement and criticize. You ask yourself, if I help this person is the money I give him going for alcohol or drugs? I remember my daughter’s friend in high school telling us about her father buying food gift cards, and on Christmas Eve as a family they would pass them out to homeless or needy people. It was their family’s way of bringing Christ into Christmas. Another friend told me she and her family like to pass out hats and gloves to the homeless. This is their way of giving back during the holidays.
Should we find a way here to obey Jesus’ commandment not just during the holidays but all year? Would this make us realize that Jesus was here all the time?
Every year during Christmas we acknowledge that Jesus Christ is born and we have the opportunity to rejoice in that. I think if I were sitting next to Jesus on that bench, I would be tempted to say, “I’m sorry I’m not a better person but I want to be the best example of your love that I can be.”
I think maybe he would just nod and say, “I love you and I forgive you!”
Copyright 2017 Catherine Mendenhall-Baugh