April 10, 2015

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Is Jesus in there somewhere? Easter people say ‘Yes!’

Cynthia DewesMeeting Jesus isn’t always easy. That is, recognizing Jesus when we see him. Think of the men on the road to Emmaus, or doubting Thomas, or those who saw Jesus immediately after the Resurrection. They couldn’t, or wouldn’t, believe their eyes.

We have the same problem. A Lenten reflection I read described Blessed Teresa of Calcutta as one of the rare people who did recognize Christ in everyone. And she taught her sisters and admirers to do the same, saying we must ignore the scent of death or any other distraction when we encounter another.

Frankly, I find that I can relate better to people who are poverty-stricken or socially unacceptable, or prisoners of addiction than I can to some others. I find it easier to empathize, or at least sympathize, with folks whom I see as pathetic. They stir my heart, and I can easily see Jesus in them.

I can even relate to stupid people, and by that I don’t mean uneducated people. It’s the mean and stupid, the willfully stupid ones who are hard to figure. The criminals on the nightly news come to mind, those who mindlessly shoot people dead, rape them, burn their houses down, and you name it, all for a few dollars or drugs. Where is Jesus in such people?

Or how about the losers we see displayed daily on Dr. Phil’s TV show. Most of them are not poor, or even stupid, but they appear to have no common or moral sense. Thus, their plights seem to be justified, rather than pitiful. Again, we wonder if Jesus could be in them somewhere.

Others who don’t seem to fit our idea of Jesus are the public intellectuals who always know better than the rest of us do about anything. They appear to be idealists who know how extremely intelligent they are, which in turn makes them feel entitled to tell everyone else what’s what.

They proclaim that they’re in favor of the biggies like world peace and an end to hunger, as if the rest of us are unaware of such things. They’ve researched the subject, they’ve made their own superior analysis, and they’ve decided that their opinion must prevail regardless of human or physical realities.

But guess what? Hard as it is, we need to pretend we are Blessed Teresa and look for Jesus in all these folks. As for me, I need to dump my prejudices about careless criminals or obnoxious know-it-alls. And we all need to get off our high judgmental horse, and realize that such people are also pathetic in another way. They’ve forgotten God in the flurry of everyday life.

They’ve forgotten that a truly satisfying life can only result from doing God’s will. They’ve forgotten that it is God, not they, who is in charge. They’ve forgotten to ask for God’s help, and be grateful for the grace that God bestows so generously upon us.

Unfortunately, such attitudes don’t seem to be passing down from generation to generation these days. The murder rate rises everywhere, and abuse of every kind increases. Fractured family structures make good parenting almost impossible, and the decline of committed marriages threatens the stability of our entire society.

It seems to me that our job then is to look harder for Jesus in others, and to help our children do the same. If we’re really an Easter people, that should be clear.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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