It’s so difficult to see Christ in ‘them’

| November 20, 2014 | 0 Comments

A teaching Catholics learn early on, one that tends to prod guilty consciences when one hears it later in life, is that we are supposed to see Christ in every person we meet.

When was the last time you did that?

Yeah. Me, too.

As difficult as it is, seeing Christ in others is, of course, a teaching straight from the Gospel.

Jesus tells his disciples that when they fail to come to the aid of the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the ailing and the imprisoned, it is he whom they fail to aid.

It’s in Matthew, at the end of Chapter 25. You can look it up.

And, while we good followers of Jesus Christ are generous in giving to organizations like Catholic Charities and Sharing and Caring Hands, and while we readily sign up to pull a shift at Loaves and Fishes or Feed My Starving Children, here’s a wager that you don’t see Jesus in the people helped by those charitable entities.

Me neither.

But why not?

Is it because in our competitive world we come in contact with so many people whose actions are anything but Christ-like?

Should we blame the media because the news is so often about senseless killers, heartless terrorists, bullying dictators, greedy business executives and unethical politicians?

Or, does it have to do more with us?

Self-defining superiority

We humans seem to be hard-wired to define ourselves as not like “them.”

Every once in a while you’ll hear of some member of the elite talk about “the little people” — meaning most of us.

That’s a definition even more offensive than the liberal or conservative label that gets stuck on some of us — or that we misguidedly label ourselves.

It might be human nature that we have to see ourselves as superior to others, but isn’t it just like Jesus to go against the grain?

Putting ourselves above those who aren’t like us — because of the land of their birth, the tint of their skin, the cut of their clothes — is really just the tip of the iceberg of our ego-driven differentiating.

We also assess others as less than us because of their politics, because of where they live, what kind of car they drive, even what kind of hymns they prefer at Mass — it goes on ad infinitum.

And that’s even before we talk about the people at the end of the highway ramps with the cardboard signs that read “Homeless — Anything will help.”

How do we see Christ in the ones we sing about as “the least of my brothers” when we’re failing to see Christ in so many others: the woman in the burqa and hijab, the guy with the bumper sticker for a candidate we wouldn’t vote for, the co-worker with the annoying habit.

Can we see past the little we know about an individual and assume that God has given that person gifts, and that they deserve the value and respect that as Christians we would give Christ?

Start seeing gifts

Remember hearing Susan Boyle sing?

Who would have thought that this frumpy, dowdy looking woman would have the voice of an angel?

For those whose lives closely intersect our own, perhaps a way to start seeing Christ in them is to value them for the gifts they have.

Listen to them, learn about them. You might find you don’t have to dig too deeply to discover reasons to see Jesus in them.

For those on the periphery of our worlds, those we don’t know at all but, like books, we judge by their covers, maybe we should use the answer Pope Francis might suggest: Who am I to judge?

It’s a pretty good chance we won’t go wrong assuming that God loves that person.

The sooner we stop defining ourselves with a dictionary of differences, the sooner we switch to a vocabulary that values differences. And that’s when we’ll begin to see Christ in others.

Zyskowski, former editor and associate publisher of The Catholic Spirit, can be reached at zyskowskiR@archspm.org.

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