Recognizing Jesus in the needy

The story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus that we read during the Easter season is one of my favorites. I often wonder if I would have recognized the Lord walking the path with me. Hopefully I would, but like the disciples, I may have not.

During these Sundays after Easter the Scripture readings tell of several appearances Jesus made to the disciples after his resurrection and how the faith of his followers (like Thomas) was challenged and deepened.

Today the resurrected Jesus is all around us in our daily lives. He is present in the persons we encounter. It is up to us to recognize him.

Usually it is not too hard to see Christ in those we like and who attract us. We can easily recognize him in those kind, compassionate, likeable people who touch our lives. It is more difficult to see the Lord in the less attractive or unpleasant people we meet. Many times we consciously or unconsciously ignore Christ’s presence in the street people, in the addicted and those who don’t live up to how we think a good person should act.

A still vivid example in my life happened recently. I was with a group of very good, wonderful Catholics when a poor person who had been drinking wandered into the room where we were meeting. It was a cold, bitter night and he was obviously walking. He asked for directions so he could find a newspaper to check out the job openings.

After we sent him back into the cold, several people made jokes and other unkind remarks about him.

I still feel bad that I did not do something concrete for him. Ironically, the talk that night was about Jesus’ unconditional love for each person.

Somehow we seemed to forget that his love included that man as well.

In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus preaches about the last judgment when he tells us that whatever we do for the least of our brothers and sisters we do for him. And it works the other way too. When we ignore any of our brothers and sisters, we also ignore him.

When I drive around the city and see people with signs that read, “Will work for food,” I feel very guilty when I don’t stop or try to help them.

It is so easy to be swayed by those who say things like, “There are a lot of con artists out there,” or “It is too dangerous, you may get robbed or hurt.”

I can rationalize, but down deep it causes a dilemma for me and I can hear the words of the Lord saying, “I was hungry and you did not feed me.”

Recognizing Jesus in the poor and needy is crucial, but we are also challenged to see him in the people in our everyday lives: in the fellow student it seems nobody likes; in the co-worker who never stops complaining; or in the neighbor who keeps loud music on late into the night.

It seems to me that a good practice during this Easter season is to try to really see Jesus in those we encounter and to treat everyone with the same respect we would give Jesus if we saw him in person, and remind ourselves that Christ loves them just as much as he loves us. Imagine what the world would be like if each one of us would really do this.

Sister Margie Lavonis is a Sister of the Holy Cross from Notre Dame, Ind., and writes “The Cutting Edge.” Contact her at