“My question for you this morning, is do you recognize Jesus in other people? In his book, The Wounded Healer, Henri J.M. Nouwen’s book tells the story of a young fugitive who is trying to hide himself from the enemy. He enters a small village where he receives kindness and shelter from the people. However, when the soldiers who are searching for him ask where he is hiding, the people are afraid. The soldiers threaten to burn the village and kill all the men unless they hand over the young fugitive. The people go to the minister and ask him what to do. Faced with an impossible decision to either hand the young man over to the enemy or have his people killed, the minister went to his room and picking up his Bible, he hoped to find the answer before dawn.
“His eyes fell on the words, ‘It is better that one man dies than that the whole people be lost.’ He closed the Bible, called the soldiers and told them where the young man was. After the soldiers led him away to be killed, there was a feast in the village. The people were celebrating because the minister had saved their lives. What was one man’s life compared to many? The minister didn’t celebrate, though. He was overcome with great sadness and stayed in his room. That night an angel spoke to him. He asked him what he had done. He said he handed over the fugitive to the enemy. The angel said to him, ‘But don’t you know that you have handed over the Messiah? The minister asked, ‘How could I know?‘ The angel said to him, If, instead of reading your Bible, you had visited this young man just once and looked into his eyes, you would have known.‘
“Do you think that if that minister had gone and visited the boy instead of reading his Bible, that the outcome would have been different? Would he have handed him over? Would he have risked the lives of many, including his own to save one life? What would you have done if you were in his place? This story was about recognizing or seeing Jesus in people and circumstances. If this minister had seen Jesus in the young man, he might have not have handed him over. In handing him over, he was in essence handing Jesus over. He was betraying Jesus. He was betraying Him to His enemies. Remember, in Matthew 25:40, Jesus said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ When we deny or turn our backs on those who need our help, we are essentially denying and turning our backs on our Lord.
“I want you to think about the homeless person you walk by or drive by. If you were to look at him, would you see Jesus? Would you see Him in the neighbor you don’t get along with? Or in the person who is of different race or culture? Are you so busy reading your Bible that you don’t have time to apply its teachings? When was the last time you visited the sick, the lonely and those in nursing homes or even prison? If you were to do that, you would see Jesus in each of these poor souls.”
The sermon lasted little over an hour. He had spent hours on it last night. This morning he was tired but now he was energized.
“That was a very powerful message, Father Kowalski. That minister had a tough decision to make.”
“Thank you, Mr. Lowe and yes, he did.”
“Father, it would be a great honor if you would have tea with us this afternoon.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Lowe, but, I’m afraid I will have to decline your kind invitation. Mrs. Siri has already asked me to have tea with her this afternoon. Perhaps another time?”
Mrs. Lowe’s expression changed. “Do you think it’s wise for you to associate with her?”
His eyebrows rose. “Is there a reason why I shouldn’t?”
“She’s not a Catholic for one and for another, her shop is open on Sundays.”
“Not all of God’s children are Catholics, Mrs. Lowe. And perhaps, it’s necessary for her to do business on Sundays. It’s her source of income.”
“There are many people in this church who have businesses but they don’t have them open on Sundays. They need the income too but God will bless them because they keep His day holy like the Good Book says.”
“It isn’t for us to judge others. Only God knows the heart.”
“Yes, Father, but–“
“Come, my Dear, there are other people waiting to have a word with the good Father.” He hustled her away.
“I guess your message was lost on her and some other people, Father Kowalski.” Sister Francesca told him when he later mentioned to her what Mrs. Lowe had said. “Fear isn’t the only enemy which prevents us from recognizing Jesus in others but ignorance and prejudice too. I don’t know what some of them have against Mrs. Siri. She’s one of the sweetest people I know.”
“She does so much for the community, especially the orphanage.”
“Just recently there was a little write-up about her in the Harmony Circuit. I left a copy on your desk in case you wanted to read it.”
“I will definitely read it. Right now, though, I have a few things I need to do before I go for my afternoon tea with Mrs. Siri. I’m really looking forward to that.”