Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Christ Disguised, Christ Beautiful

The past few weeks have been unexpectedly busy with more time outside of the poustinia [hermitage] than usual.

However as the Servant of God Catherine Doherty in her classic work POUSTINIA, notes: “He was available…..” . [ Poustinia by Catherine Doherty: see  ]  thus service outside of solitude is part of the vocation.

This has meant several days helping at the soup kitchen where I volunteer, with my family, where a new child is due to be born any day now and other situations where I was needed.

Writing this blog and other writings also had to wait, for when Christ comes knocking in whatever disguise He chooses are we not all compelled by love to serve Him in our brothers and sisters?

Being without a car since the accident almost two months ago [ but recovered almost completely, thanks be to God ] has allowed me to encounter and see Christ in more of His disguises, up close as it were.

He appeared one day in the guise of a short, very heavy set woman, with a grocery cart bulging with laundry, and a loud little-girl voice announcing, when the bus doors opened at the stop where she was waiting in the deep snow: “ Who will help me? This is heavy? I need help!”

The bus driver immediately assisted her and when she was finally seated I noted a certain disdain on the faces of some, and an odd expression of fear in the eyes of a few, and only one or two elderly passengers seemed to express kindness.

I tried to pray for her as she uttered disconnected phrases in her loud little girl voice, most often asking no one in particular, everyone in general: “ Am I bothering you? I hope not. My laundry is heavy. There is so much snow I couldn’t get out before. Am I bothering you?”

Jesus Christ does not always come to us in disguises that are comfortable for us to encounter, indeed sometimes He may even choose a disguise that is repulsive, such as many of those whom come to the soup kitchen with both clothes and body dirty to the extreme, of a mental state downright out of control and dangerous either due to illness or the ravages of drugs and alcohol.

The truly ground down and beaten down and totally wearied poor are often, frankly, angry, demanding, indeed so frustrated, powerless, frightened that they will start fights even in the place where they have been welcomed and provided with food and clothing.

The soup kitchen where I volunteer is staffed by a dedicated group of consecrated lay apostles who live there 24/7, serve not only the street people but others whose poverty is perhaps less visible but just as real, the wounds just as deep, if perhaps hidden by nice clothes etc.

Yes, Jesus has countless disguises.

Sometimes He is disguised as a little two year old girl, a family member, who had the stomach flu yesterday when I was with my family for supper. Her parents are expecting their newest child to be born any day now and knowing they needed some time together I took the restless and sick child in my arms and sat in a chair and rocked gently the Christ Child.

The most important act of love often is the simplest.

Each person reveals another aspect of the Beautiful Face of Christ.

Sometimes His face is of loneliness, pain, poverty, fear, or of a child-adult dragging a heavy burden of laundry and a heavier burden of non-acceptance by the rest of us who are, in truth, her brothers and sisters.

Humanly speaking it is perhaps more comforting and easier to hold and comfort a two year old family member who has stomach flu than to engage in conversation with a middle aged adult-child with an ear piercing voice or a very tall, muscular, drug-crazed-looking-for-a-fight homeless man.

But if we are only willing to love and serve Jesus when He comes in a disguise that comforts us are we truly loving Him?

Perhaps because the Holy Gospels are as they are in written form or when proclaimed during Holy Mass – by that I mean sort of at a safe distance – we don’t really get the sight and smell of the lepers, the sight and smell of the possessed foaming at the mouth, the sight and smell of spit covering His Holy Face – maybe that is why so many people had real trouble with Gibson’s film on the suffering of Christ – the sound was unavoidable, the sight stark.

The nitty-gritty reality of the Gospel lived means encountering Christ not just in the obvious beauty of the Holy Eucharist, but in the raw beauty of every human being, seeing His Beauty in every human face.

The wonder of encountering the heavy set, ear piercing voiced Christ hauling a heavy burden of laundry is in truth He is the one welcoming us.  The comfort of holding the two year old Christ with stomach flu is that we are the ones being held!

God loves us so much that every time we touch each other, with hands or eyes in pure love, true love, we touch Him and are touched by Him – this is the true beauty of life!

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