By: Rick Hernandez
A few decades back, my parents traveled to Cleveland, OH, to lead a retreat with their missionary A few decades back, my parents traveled to Cleveland, OH, to lead a retreat with their missionary brothers and sisters. They landed at the airport and were met by their hosts, waiting for a few of the retreat participants arriving on a different flight. Weather problems were affecting the airport, and a few flights were canceled. Talking amongst themselves, they wondered whether the people in transit would make it in at all.
After a while, the flights did get canceled, they got together to discuss what to do. In a corner away from them was a young man lying on the floor and reeking of alcohol. He had been listening intently to their conversation; he reached out his hand and with a desperate voice said: “If they cannot make it, take me instead. I will go.”
Now, let us imagine ourselves in that situation… this is a group of Catholic missionaries that now had two openings for the retreat, and a man, intoxicated, down on his luck, asking them to let him go with them. Let us think deeply about this. What would we have done?
Through the virtue of Prudence, the Holy Spirit begets the gift of Counsel, allowing us to judge a situation promptly and rightly. Taking counsel from the Holy Spirit, our merciful missionaries reached out and grasped the young man’s hand. They invited him to come with them.
During the retreat, they provided for him, listened to his story, taught him of the love of Christ, and put him in contact with a group from the local parish. That retreat changed his life. The local parish group cared for him, helped him get back on his feet, and get back to the dignity of a well-lived life. He discovered Christ acting in his life through the actions of others.
Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes. You are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.
- St Teresa of Avila
That young man is now a not-so-young man, a leader of his community of faith, a solid member of society, and a loving reminder of the Mercy of God. He is today the one that reaches out his hand to help others in need.
“…We must celebrate and rejoice because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found” (Lk 15:32).
We have recovered our brother by our willingness to allow God’s love to act through us, His Body.
When we are all together at the Eucharistic banquet, sharing of the love of our Lord with our brothers and sisters, I am reminded that some are not present, and we ache for them. I think about this often. How many people went through that airport that day? How many of them spared a look towards that young man? How many exchanged a word or two with him? How many smiled? How many offered to share a part of a meal? How many listened to his story? How many spent a minute or so thinking about a loved one because of him? How many wondered what would Jesus do? What would I have done?
It only takes one merciful soul to reach out to another and acknowledge Christ in them. Would that merciful soul have been mine? What would keep me from doing so?
There are so many in need, yet the enemy is constantly conspiring against us, always attempting to cast us one against the other. We must not let the enemy discourage us from helping our brethren. We must hold fast to charity and nurture it in our hearts, for it is the most important of the virtues that the Holy Spirit imparts on us. Let us love one another. Let us care. Let us fight the apathy that the enemy uses. Christ has no body now on earth but ours. Can we help a soul find its way home? Can we help all our souls find their way home?
“The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand…, without cost you have received; without cost, you are to give… As you enter a house, wish it peace. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you” (Mt 10:7-8,11-12).
Let us both be good and do good; let us reach out our hands to the neglected ones without being discouraged. Let us also accept the hand that is offered to us in the peace and mercy of Christ, that we may all work together towards the goal of Heaven, for I just cannot imagine Heaven without all of us there.
May our Good Lord bless us abundantly with Love, Mercy, Prudence, and Right Judgement. Amen.