To see the face of God in a stranger can, at times, be the most challenging part of being a Christian. That’s particularly true when we are afraid the stranger will make our lives uncomfortable or more difficult.
During the Mass for Life on Jan. 22, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz said that recognizing God in the stranger is central to standing for life.
He related the story of his big brother, whom he lovingly calls Georgie. The late George Kurtz was born with Down syndrome. Despite or because of the unique challenges presented by this syndrome, George was the light of Archbishop Kurtz’s life. After their parents died, the brothers lived together, even as the archbishop led the Diocese of Knoxville.
But today, many people like George Kurtz aren’t given the chance to bless our lives. According to CBS, somewhere around 65 percent of babies screened in utero for Down syndrome are aborted in the United States. A 2017 report from CBS revealed that terminations in Iceland had all but eliminated Down syndrome from the country, with just two or three such births a year.
These children will remain strangers to us. But their brothers and sisters here with us can help change that for the future if we give them our attention and look for the image of God in their faces.
Immaculata Classical Academy does that every day. The school has managed to integrate children with special needs, particularly those with Down syndrome, into classrooms of students with typical abilities. The students learn side-by-side, appreciating their varied God-given gifts.
Such an experience is a blessing.
“I was blessed with being able to put a face on human life,” the archbishop noted in his homily. “As long as human life remains abstract, as long as you don’t look into the eyes of a person, we can ignore them. But once we look into the eyes of a person whose life might be threatened” that is no longer the case.
Let’s keep our eyes — and hearts — open to all those around us whose lives may be threatened and ask God to help us see his face in theirs.