My wife Nancy likes to travel, I think she inherited the “travel gene” from her Mom. So subsequently, we’ve traveled a fair amount, from across the country to overseas. And no matter where we’ve been, no matter what the language being spoken at the Mass was, just as the disciples in the Gospel reading “recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread”, we too recognized Jesus during any Mass.
Where else have you encountered and recognized Jesus? Most of us would probably say we’ve recognized Jesus when we encountered him in prayer or reading scriptures. We recognize Jesus in the sacraments of Baptism, Reconciliation, Eucharist and Confirmation. But do you recognize Jesus when you encounter a homeless person on the street? Or is our reaction more like the disciples when Jesus appeared to them and “they were startled and terrified” and we react like we “were seeing a ghost”?
Pope Francis, in an April 19, 2016 video message sent to Centro Astalli, said, “Each one of you, the refugees who knock at our doors, bears the face of God, is the flesh of Christ.” By helping those in need around us, we are given the opportunity to respond to Jesus’ call to “Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see”.
Most of us rarely see those in need around us. We travel the same paths to and from work, school or shopping. Even when we do see someone who appears to be suffering or in need, we don’t recognize Jesus in that person. So ask the Holy Spirit to help awaken our eyes so we start noticing those in need. Give the Holy Spirit the permission to tug at your heart whenever you encounter someone suffering, to help you recognize “the flesh of Christ” in that person. Actually reach out to them with at least a smile and friendly hello, which might be their only encounter with Jesus that day.
Children are great role models for us. They will often smile at anyone, perhaps because they recognize Jesus in the other person. But we are called to do more, to actually help those in need. Most of us have been blessed abundantly by God. As a disciple of Christ, we need to be good stewards and recognize everything we have as a gift from God, and in gratitude, give back to God. We can do that by have a “stash” of cash in our wallets or purse earmarked for and given to those we encounter. We can regularly contribute to the Food Pantry and St. Vincent de Paul Society to help them carry out the work of Jesus. We might even venture out of or regular routine, taking a different route, to seek out those who are in need.
Do something. Seek out and help those in need. By actively helping others, we will recognize Jesus in those in need, just like we recognize Jesus during Mass in the breaking of the bread.