During Advent, as we prepare our hearts to receive the coming Christ, we are mindful also to prepare our hearts for the Christ who comes to us as strangers.
At Catholic Charities we need not stretch our imaginations to find the parallels between the families we accompany and that of Joseph and Mary on their journey to Bethlehem. They were tired, far from home with few resources and dependent on the care of others for even their most basic needs.
But occasionally, the Lord likes to make sure we hear him loud and clear. Here’s one of my favorites of our many client stories from the past year:
Last spring, Deacon Andy Heinsohn was busy on the first day the Father Jack Jones food pantry opened. He had more volunteers to corral than clients, but nevertheless he moved from station to station. Were the volunteers busy? Did they feel appreciated? Was that our first client?
Over those first three hours, Deacon Andy interacted with nearly a dozen volunteers, seven clients, four reporters from local television stations and a handful of staff who dropped by to see how it was going.
When everyone else had left, he checked the shelves, put away the last table and locked the door before he returned to his office.
All in all, it had been a good day. Now he spent some moments in prayer and contemplation. Mother Teresa was known for having said that she looked for the face of Jesus in all she served. Deacon Andy always looked for the same. Had he seen him today?
He was grateful for the volunteers. Grateful for the opportunity. Pleased with the turnout. Happy that all went smoothly. He had, indeed, seen the face of Jesus. He understood. Now, he wondered: In how many ways had he seen Jesus?
Jesus as a servant to those in need? Jesus as a leader to those helping? Jesus as a hungry woman? Jesus as a storyteller?
Deacon Andy sat in silence a few more moments and then he turned to the task of sorting paperwork and making notes from the day. He flipped open the intake book that listed the names of those who had been served. The very first name? Jesus. Jesus Hernandez.
Yes, Lord, we see you.
At Catholic Charities of Louisville, we look for and find the face of Jesus daily in the faces of those we walk alongside. We see him in children learning English, urban farmers bringing life from the land and nursing home residents longing for a visit. We find him in survivors of human trafficking, families without food and individuals learning job skills.
As you prepare for the coming Christ in these next weeks, we invite you to join us in looking for Christ in the people around you: those you serve, those who serve you and those who serve beside you. He is there.
Sometimes he’s not even subtle.
Lisa DeJaco Crutcher is the CEO of Catholic Charities of Louisville.