One of the central tenets of our Vincentian spirituality is our call to see the face of Christ in those we serve. It seems so simple, and yet at times we lose our focus and lose sight of Him during our Home Visits. It is easy to allow ourselves to think ahead to the “solution” before we even learn the problem. We let tomorrow blind us to the present.
But we are called to be present – to be both here and now for the neighbors we serve. Listening is not thinking ahead to our own answer, but listening as if to Christ Himself, looking in His eyes and hearing His voice.
On the very day of Christ’s resurrection, two of His followers walked along the road to Emmaus, discussing all that had happened, including the account of the empty tomb, when “Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.”
Christ was right there with them, in the flesh, and they could not recognize His face. They looked but couldn’t see. They walked and listened but did not recognize Him until He broke the bread with them at supper that evening! In speaking about Christ behind them, they were blinded to Christ before them.
This was not the only time the apostles lost sight of Christ’s face. As Bl. Frédéric pointed out, “The fault of many Christians is to hope little…. They are apostles in the boat during the storm: they forget that the Savior is in the midst of them.” [Ramson, Put Your Hands into Hers, 14] Like the apostles in the boat, we also sometimes allow our “troubles of the day” to overwhelm our senses, and to blind us to the true hope – the hope in which we are called to serve.
Saul of Tarsus, feared oppressor of the early Christians, was converted with great drama on the road to Damascus. Struck blind by a flash of great light, he did not see Christ’s face that day, but heard His voice. Only after three days was his sight restored, as he became Paul, Christ’s apostle, who would later teach, “at present, we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face…”
Our moments of conversion tend to be less dramatic than Paul’s, but we, too, are on a journey. Ours may not be the road to Damascus, or even to Emmaus, but Christ awaits us along our Vincentian pathway. We will see Him when we act with patience, when we follow St. Vincent’s admonition to “not tread on the heels of Providence…”
He may not always seem obvious, and we may see Him only indistinctly, but we are called to see and to serve Him, even if we have to squint a little, and even if we have to slow down.
Have I looked past Him, or through Him in my hurry to be someplace else?
Praying with Vincent de Paul – especially 3. Jesus Christ, the Center