It’s the night before a new post goes up, and I just discovered that I forgot to set this one for last week at the top of the list. So for the sake of those who didn’t see it, here it is again this week!
As a teacher, I presented Advent as the season to celebrate three comings of Jesus: in history (at Bethlehem), in majesty (at the end of time), and in mystery (in the Eucharist). Today I would add a fourth coming: in disguise (in human beings). Gerard Manley Hopkins would agree, for in his poem “As Kingfishers Catch Fire” he wrote, “Christ plays in ten thousand places, lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his.” Jesus himself would heartily approve of my addition. In a parable (Matthew 25:31-46) he claimed that whatever we do for other people we do for him: feeding and clothing them, visiting the sick and imprisoned, taking in the stranger.
Today the whole world is wracked with people at odds, hatred, and violence. Consequently many are suffering and in pain. How important it is to be reminded that Christ comes to us in one another! For good reason, the theme of my congregation’s 2022 general chapter is “Renew the Face of the Earth”… Cultivate a Culture of Encounter and Caring.
We SNDs have a history of caring for little ones. St. Julie Billiart, founder of the Sisters of Notre Dame, ministered first to orphans living on the streets after the French Revolution. Then our first Sisters’ work spread to the poor in schools and hospitals. Nowadays we love and serve Christ in the Masai people of Africa, young people who are trafficked, refugees, and victims of COVID-19. Currently my USA province is hosting three refugee families in houses on our property. Our general chapter challenges us to create innovative ways to respond to Christ coming in his (and our) brothers and sisters.
Leo Tolstoy wrote a touching tale about Martin, a shoemaker who heard God say, “Look tomorrow on the street. I am coming.” While waiting for God to appear, Martin helped needy people whom he spotted through his window. That night God revealed that he had come . . . not as expected but in the form of those Martin had served.
My mother taught me to welcome Christ in others. Our door was always open to elderly neighbors who came for a home permanent or a plant clipping. The “convent” where now live is a retirement home for about eighty Sisters and laypeople. I’m called to meet Christ in my neighbors. Jesus comes pushing a walker or riding an electric scooter. He comes in the guise of a man needing drops in his eyes. He comes as a woman locked out of her apartment. He comes as a widow whose children never visit. And he comes in the man who craves someone to listen to stories of his life. Yes, Christ comes to me in these people. Likewise, when I smile, say a kind word, or help, I am Christ “adventing” to them.
• During this Advent to whom can you be Christ in the flesh again?