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I Saw the Face of Jesus Today

It was 38 degrees F today -- near freezing. But my wife and I braved the cold to drive to St. Mary’s Basilica in Alexandria for the noon Mass. We were on time but the only available space was at the last pew. Every other pew was blocked off because of the social distancing restrictions. Right in front of us sat a familiar homeless man. Beside him was a large backpack containing all his belongings. Everyone attending the daily noon Mass at St. Mary’s always sees him sitting in that pew beside his bag. He always wore his familiar hat and a reserved but genuine smile. But since we always chose one of the front pews, we did not see what he did during Mass.

This afternoon, we saw him asleep during the entire Mass. His body intermittently fell to one side and went back up like a slow-moving clock pendulum. After Communion time he woke up and started fixing his backpack. I shoved him a 5-dollar bill. I did not know where he went later.

We stayed for adoration after Mass. Kneeling before the monstrance, I knew the Lord was there, truly and really present. He was there under the appearance of bread. And I adored Him there, in that majestic-looking golden monstrance. There I could see Jesus, but only with eyes of faith.

After adoration, we saw at the front steps of the church two people standing in the cold. Jane and Joe are beggars who were there almost every day even before the pandemic. I always had a dollar ready in my pocket for Jane. This time, Joe pulled his coat around him and muttered, “Can you help me?” I also had a dollar ready for him.

When we reached home, I saw a video message forwarded by a sister-in-law in California. It is about a man who went to a magnificent church and sat in the front row. He looked like a homeless man. An usher instructed him to move to the back. Many stared at him as he inched his way down the aisle. Moments later, the assistant priest introduced their new pastor. The homeless-looking man stood and went up to the front of the altar. He was their new pastor! When he started speaking, those who had looked at him condescendingly bowed their heads and covered their faces in guilt and shame.

That video was a moment of grace for me. It struck me that I had an encounter with Jesus in three people in the church that afternoon. Yet, I only saw them as the homeless man who slept through the Mass, and as Jane and Joe who stayed out in the cold of winter waiting for alms. I did not see in them the face of Christ.

I realized our Lord Jesus does not show His face when He comes to us after the Consecration at Mass. Neither does He show His face while in the monstrance for adoration. But He shows His face in the poor, in those who do not have a home, in those who beg for a pittance in the cold of winter and the heat of summer, in those suffering from want. The Gospel a couple of weeks ago rang in my ears: “Whatever you did to the least of My brothers and sisters you did it to Me.”

Today, I saw the living face of Jesus and I thanked Him for it. He has a living face. That face we can surely recognize, if we only open our eyes, and our hearts, and look! #


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