I was visiting some relatives in St. Augustine, Florida and was driving down the highway back to where I was staying. I had just bought some food and was driving up to a stoplight. There was a middle-aged man next to it holding a cardboard sign—“will work for food.” As I drove up to the light we locked eyes, and his sad eyes held my gaze for what seemed like minutes, till I had to bring my mind back to what I was doing and drove past him. In that brief moment so much happened that I cannot put it into words. I had this inner conviction and call to turn around and offer him the food that I had just bought. I also experienced great compassion and a knowledge that this was my Lord Jesus clothed in a distressing disguise. It was a profound experience.
But then, as quickly as the graces and knowledge came, so did the doubts: “You’re being fanatical”, “You have to get home”, “You’re being scrupulous.” Needless to say, I was confused. I came up with justifications why I should not turn back. I came up with reasons why I should. I never did go back that day to offer that man my food and a kind word. The guilt and shame I felt at being so weak were profound. By the same token, the grace I gained through coming to our Jesus with a humble and contrite heart was a deeper resolve to help Him the next time I encounter Him in one of His many distressing disguises; to give Him whatever I have at that moment that I can give. And if I have nothing physical, than to go and show Him that someone cares and that someone loves Him. I felt a desire to alleviate His pain, sadness, and loss.
As summer turned to fall and winter to spring the image of those eyes and the sadness that I read in them came back to me over and over again and changed me and the way I would pray. At prayer it seemed that I began to experience a significant switch take place. As those sad eyes would present themselves before my soul I would begin to see the rest of the face and it was the bruised and beaten face of my Lord—crowned with thorns, bleeding, and disfigured. His eyes would search me and seem to cry out, to long, to thirst for someone or something . . . but whom or what? I would grope within myself to find an answer, but none seemed to come. So I would sit beneath His gaze and wait. As time went on it slowly came to me, in the gentle way that He speaks, He was thirsting for love, for my love. It seemed as if He was saying, “O how I long to be loved . . . will you love Me?”
—By Br. James of the Holy Spirit, OSIHJM