In 1943, a laywoman named Chiara Lubich, along with a few friends, began what has become known as the Focolare Movement. Emphasizing the path of personal holiness by service to others, the followers have a great devotion to Jesus Christ crucified. One member, Bishop Klaus Hemmerle, the former bishop of Aachen in Germany who died in the mid-1980s, wrote of his personal daily four-step devotion to Jesus forsaken.
During this month of January, as we emphasize the dignity of the human person in the unborn child, in the migrant family, and in human persons of all races, creeds, and nationalities, this daily practice of greeting Jesus forsaken is one that I have begun to make my own.
The process is simple. The first step upon awakening each morning is to ask in prayer that Jesus forsaken might reveal Himself to me this day. As Jesus hung on the cross, all of His followers and even all but one of the original Twelve Apostles abandoned Him.
Scripture tells us that his mother Mary, Saint John the Beloved and two women followers were the only ones who stayed at the foot of the cross. Some even interpret his praying Psalm 22, “My God, My God why have you abandoned me?” as a deeper indication of that experience of being forsaken.
Of course this psalm turns to great hope and trust, as seen in verse 24: “For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; and he has not hid his face from him, but has heard, when he has cried to him.”
Recalling the suffering of Jesus on the cross, we remember that Jesus told us we would meet him in the least of our brothers and sisters
— in other words in those who are forsaken.
So, the first step of this practice of greeting Jesus forsaken each day is to pray for the grace to recognize Jesus on my path as I go about my day.
The second step is to scan the horizon throughout the day to recognize Jesus forsaken, perhaps in the stranger who passes me by, in the child being carried by a mother in the womb, or in the sense of desperation that a pregnant mother might feel. Wherever there is a sense of being forsaken in this world, the followers of Jesus recognize Him immediately each day.
The third step in this daily practice is to greet Jesus forsaken in the person we meet. We give dignity to that person who often goes unnoticed by looking that person in the eye and greeting her as you would greet Jesus Himself. You might say that it is difficult to greet a child in the womb, and yet the practice of blessing the child in the womb is a profound way of greeting Jesus forsaken.
The fourth and final step comes at the end of the day before going to bed. It is the simple act of celebrating and thanking Jesus for revealing Himself to me that day.
As the month of January ends, I reflect on the richness of the experiences that have been ours as we celebrated the dignity of the human person during National Migration Week, defended the unborn child during the March for Life, and honored the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. throughout our nation.
May the grace of Jesus Christ forsaken touch our hearts each day as we seek to recognize and greet him in the least of our brothers and sisters.