Encountering the Face of Christ


‘Vita Consecrata’ series part 9 of 12

from Vita Consecrata #72-83

I was walking through the streets of New York City thinking about all the things I needed to do this week-the work that sat waiting on to-do lists and in mounds on my desk. Needless to say, my mind was rather preoccupied when David, a homeless man, stopped me. His hair looked like it hadn’t been combed for weeks, his face was dirty and his clothes had holes in them. “Would you please pray for me Sister? I’m in a lot of trouble and I really need a lot of prayer especially this week. Please, would you pray for me?” There was desperation in his voice. David wasn’t asking for money or for any material things. He knew those things couldn’t help him right now. What he needed was a miracle and so he asked for prayers. It was one of the most sincere prayer requests I have ever heard. All thoughts of the things I needed to do seemed to evaporate as I looked at David’s face. Blessed John Paul II in Vita Consecrata # 75 writes, “The quest for divine beauty impels consecrated persons to care for the deformed image of God on the faces of their brothers and sisters, faces disfigured by hunger, faces disillusioned by political promises, faces humiliated by seeing their culture despised, faces frightened by constant and indiscriminate violence, the anguished faces of minors, the hurt and humiliated faces of women, the tired faces of migrants who are not given a warm welcome, the faces of the elderly who are without even the minimum conditions for a dignified life. The consecrated life thus shows, with the eloquence of works, that divine charity is the foundation and stimulus of freely given and active love.”

I pulled out a holy card of the Divine Mercy and pointed to the rays coming out of Jesus’ Heart. “These are rays of mercy and healing pouring out on you right now from the Heart of Jesus. From the depths of your heart pray these words, ‘Jesus I Trust in You.’ He will help you.” Right there, on the corner of Broadway and 51st Street, we prayed together asking Jesus to be with him this week. David walked away looking at the holy card of Jesus and saying, “Jesus I Trust in You.”

So many times we can go about our day so busy with the things we need to get done that we can miss the people right in front of us, desperate for a smiling face, a kind voice, a listening ear, a lifeline to God. Pope Francis, in speaking to priests, Consecrated Religious, and seminarians at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro said, “In many places, generally speaking, due to the economic humanism that has been imposed in the world, the culture of exclusion, of rejection, is spreading. There is no place for the elderly or for the unwanted child; there is no time for that poor person in the street. At times, it seems that for some people, human relations are regulated by two modern “dogmas”: efficiency and pragmatism… [H]ave the courage to go against the tide of this culture. Be courageous!…Have the courage to go against the tide of this culture of efficiency, this culture of waste. Encountering and welcoming everyone, solidarity – a word that is being hidden by this culture, as if it were a bad word – solidarity and fraternity: these are what make our society truly human.”

By the living of their religious lives, Consecrated Religious are called primarily to be conformed to Christ. “Indeed, more than in external works, the mission consists in making Christ present to the world through personal witness. This is the challenge, this is the primary task of the consecrated life!” (VC #72). Blessed John Paul II continues, “Consecrated persons make visible, in their consecration and total dedication, the loving and saving presence of Christ, the one consecrated by the Father, sent in mission. Allowing themselves to be won over by him, they prepare to become, in a certain way, a prolongation of his humanity.” (VC #76.)

Let us thank God and pray for all the “Davids” of our world who remind us of what is truly important in life. May the Lord fill us all with His hope and peace.

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This meditation is part 9 of 12 in our series on Blessed John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata.  You can download a copy of this document from the Vatican’s website: www.vatican.va