I was reading Randy Hain's The Catholic Briefcase last night and found myself uncomfortable with a line: "I must learn to always see Christ in [others]."
Why the discomfort? I knew he was right. Instead of just reading on, I stopped and acknowledged my reaction. As I searched my memory I recognized that this sentiment had evoked a twinge of discomfort on other occasions. I myself had voiced Randy's same point in retreat talks; but if I am completely honest with myself, I did so more out of correctness than personal conviction. I know it is part of our Faith, that it is something we are called to do. It's just that . . . I'm pretty bad at it.
No, I take that back. I have no difficulty seeing Christ in people who treat me kindly. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God works through friends and members of my family to love and care for me every day. It's the rude folks that I cannot see Jesus in - the co-worker who perpetually criticizes the performance of another, with never a thought of how to help lighten that person's load; the person who steals my parking place right out from under me; or the relative whose preferred interaction is the argument. After 25 years of trying to be a disciple, it still doesn't even occur to me, when someone offends me, to "see" Jesus in them. After all, Jesus wouldn't act like that!! How can I even make a start at seeing Him in the person who aggravates or hurts me?
And that was where grace intervened last night. Instead of glossing over my inability to see Jesus in those who frustrate me, I had the inclination to pray. "Holy Spirit, please give me wisdom. What does it mean to see Jesus in others, to see Him in those who treat me badly?" And within a few seconds my thoughts began to coalesce around a point: It is a matter of faith. Do I believe that God is at work in that person's life, trying to form him/her in the image of Jesus? Yes, I believe that. Then I can begin to see Jesus in them by reminding myself of this. He is present to, and at work in, imperfect-them just as He is at work in imperfect-me. It's a start. I can do that.