Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The Resemblance


Parking downtown to go to an early morning church service, I had just gotten out of my vehicle to put quarters in the parking meter when I heard a voice calling to me.  

“Will you help us?” he pleaded.  When I looked, I saw two homeless people, a man and a woman, standing nearby. 

“Will you please help?” she asked. 

“What do you need?” I replied, stopping to listen.  

“We’re hungry.  Could you spare something so we could eat?” 

“We could get pancakes for $2.00 around the corner,” she added hopefully.

I’m well aware of the probability of this money being used for other reasons.  I know that giving cash to the homeless is not always the best thing for them.  But I concluded that the chance that they really needed to eat was more important than turning my back on them.  I went over to my car to get a few dollars.

 When I did, a couple of pedestrians scoffed me for wanting to help the untidy pair.  “You shouldn’t do that,” they said, disgustedly.  “They won’t use that for food…” They hurried past us, appalled.  Their disregard for the needy was grounded in the belief that the indigents would misuse the gift I was about to give them.

 In the confusion, I paused to let them pass.  Then, for just a moment, our gaze connected.  Me and the homeless man.  As I looked into his eyes, I could see his poverty.  He knew he was powerless over what I would do next; he knew that I may possibly change my mind and decide not to help them.  He realized the bystanders were right.  He understood he was a helpless, lost soul, who deserved nothing.  I saw it all in one private look.

Most of us do not identify with the likes of the homeless couple.  In the eyes of the world, we are doing everything right.  But perhaps many of us closely resemble them.

God freely gives us the gift of speech—how often have we squandered this for moments of unkindness? God freely gives us talents and abilities.  Eager to succeed in life, we glorify ourselves with our possessions and pride, often forgetting the very source of our aptitude.  We have been given a heart to love ourselves and others.  Yet many of us fall far short of loving either entity.  Should God stop giving these gifts because we may exploit them?

Not that indigents are right in their lifestyle.  But we’re not so perfect in ours either.  We all need the grace of God to get by.  And once we realize our own powerlessness, our own need for God’s great gifts and grace, we feel His strength in us.  We recognize the outpouring of love freely given us each day.  We know we are not worthy of it, any more than the needy couple.  But we pray, as they did, that in spite of our own unworthiness, He doesn’t scoff our requests, but rather, gives generously and unconditionally.

Slowly, deliberately, I approached the shabby twosome.  Without a second thought, I handed over the money.  It was just enough to get a couple of servings of pancakes.  But perhaps enough to change a few souls—theirs and mine.




Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Is Jesus really present in the Blessed Sacrament? What's your vote?

With a recent Pew Research survey indicating many Catholics don’t believe the church’s core teaching of the Eucharist, I’ve got a story to tell.

Years ago, I was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer. My medical team suggested we ‘watch and wait’, delaying treatment until absolutely necessary.
We have one bullet to shoot this with,” my oncologist said. “We don’t want to use it too soon. If we do, when the cancer returns, as it always does, there’s nothing we can do for you.”

Months later, my health weakened. My bones ached. My head hurt. Fatigue reigned. My medical team watched closely.

Back then, our oldest daughter was graduating from eighth grade at our parish school. The registration deadline for the Catholic high school, our school of choice, was fast approaching. However, the fear of cancer raised doubts.

What if medical bills consumed our finances? What if I was too sick to function? What if I was too weak to drive her to school?   

So, one particular weekday, struggling with those uncertainties, a nagging inner voice insisted I attend Mass. I resisted, but finally grabbed the car keys.

Why am I doing this?  A strange force seemed to propel me. By the time I get there, I will have missed my (then) favorite part, the homily.

Finally, arriving at church, I parked my car and raced inside.  The click of the heavy door closing behind me was the only audible sound in the hushed sanctuary.

I stood in the back, somewhat removed from the tiny congregation. Yep, I missed the sermon. The priest was on the altar. I watched in silence as he washed his hands, whispered prayers, and elevated the host.

Then it happened. 

A mysterious presence surrounded me. Someone was there, beside me. I sensed it, just like, even with your eyes closed, you can feel someone hovering close to you. It was a definitive energy; a distinct presence.

Almost instinctively, I placed my burdens into the hands of my unseen Visitor.

Later, I left Mass humming and with a spring in my step. I didn’t tell anyone about the encounter because it sounded too crazy.

Days later, at another Mass, the last line of the Gospel made my head spin: “All who saw Him were healed.” 

What? Had I seen Him?  Was I healed?

It took a leap of faith, but we enrolled our daughter in the Catholic high school. Inexplicably, my health improved. I drove her to classes, attended the games she cheered, celebrated her graduation, and sent her to college. Later, she married and started a family.  I didn’t miss one moment of her life—or my own. 

In August, 2015, twenty years after diagnosis, the cancer roared. Chemotherapy worked, and now researchers have developed ongoing treatments that keep the cancer at bay. 

Healed? I’d say so.

Had I seen him? I’d say so.

That experience during the consecration remains vivid. I’ve tried to imitate, duplicate, or re-create it, but nothing comes close to what happened to me that day.

Is Jesus really present in the Blessed Sacrament?  

From the core of my being, I cast my vote.


From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that he had to go to Jerusalem , and he told them what would happen to him there. He ...