“I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.” Dorothy Day
“And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.” Matthew 9:10
I have been pondering lately the words of Jesus–that whatever we do for the least of these His brothers, we do for Him. It’s a challenge, isn’t it? To see Jesus in the average man on the street. To recognize and identify with the inherent dignity in every human person–created in the image of God. It can be the greatest of Christian challenges. When we do take up the challenge, when we do look another in the eye and see Jesus, we are radically confronted with our own unworthiness. All of a sudden we feel like the Psalmist–I am a worm and no man!
“The Gospel takes away our right forever, to discriminate between the deserving and the undeserving poor.” Dorothy Day
Several years ago my husband and I had a romantic picnic on the Seine in Paris. And we encountered Jesus.
We feasted on bread, fruit, cheese, sausage and a bottle of Champagne. We were relaxing and enjoying each other in our own little universe. Apart. Then Jesus stood at the door and knocked, so to speak.
A homeless man who was collecting bottles for recycling asked us if we were finished with our bottle. No, in fact, we weren’t. We still had wine to drink. Out of no where the words came out of my husband’s mouth, “Would you like to have a glass of Champagne with us?” The man looked pleasantly surprised! Oui monsieur. Introductions were made and glasses were poured.
As we toasted one another, À la vôtre!, it was a moment of true equality. It was a moment of acknowledging the humanity of another. You may not only have the empty bottle, you may share the wine with us.
C`est bien said our new friend and handed back our glass. My husband asked him if he knew of a place nearby where we could purchase a cigar. Cigare? Naturellement! And out he pulled a cigar from the inner pocket of his jacket. My husband offered to pay for it and the man looked almost offended. Well, we may as well sit a spell. My husband and the homeless man had a little visit over their cigars. The man then gave us a lecture (through charades and French, which we did not understand through words, but through intonation) about taking care of one another, loving and appreciating each other.
What would have been a 5 second interaction (“May I have the bottle?” “No, we aren’t finished.” The End.) became something much longer and much more significant. A highlight of our European trip that still feeds our spirits to this day.
Then these Christian tourists will reply, `Lord, when did we ever see you looking for bottles to turn into spare change and give ours to you? Or thirsty and share with you our best? When did we see you a stranger and invite you into our circle of friendship, or needing connection and connect with you? When did we ever see you when you thought you were invisible?’ And the Lord will tell them, `I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ (Matthew 25:37-40 Provision Room Paraphrase)
Jesus, give us eyes to see You this week. May we serve You in our families, our loved ones, strangers we encounter in the market and at the office and on the street. May we leave the judgment of deserving and undeserving to You as we acknowledge and bless those You created in Your image for the intention of relationship and connection. Amen.