This week’s post comes from a friend of mine, Jennifer, who had an experience just last week. I asked if her story could be shared here and with her permission, it is written below.
After Ash Wednesday Noon Service I had the privilege to have lunch with a friend. As I was leaving the restaurant; after over indulging in a huge burrito bowl, a young man approached me. As I was getting into my mommy van this young man timidly approached me, too cautious to come too close, nervous to ask, and with fear in his voice asked;
“Excuse me miss, can you buy me lunch at Chipotle?”
And before I could even think about it I answered “Sorry I don’t have any cash.”
That’s my go to out. That’s how I avoid getting involved. That’s what I say so I don’t have to step outside my comfort zone and confront real need.
I quickly made judgements based on his appearance. He was clean, well dressed, possibly skipped school. He didn’t look hungry. I excused myself from accepting this opportunity. I allowed myself to make excuses on why this young man didn’t deserve to receive mercy.
I climbed in the van, sat in my seat, adjusted my mirror, and looking straight right back at me were the ashes. There Jesus was — looking right back at me. The repentance expressed visible on my forehead. The mercy I had just received from the Sacrament — still in my belly. Confronted. Accused. Guilty. I sat there – staring at my reflection — the cross of Jesus so profoundly marked on my forehead– staring back at me.
Every Bible verse I’ve quoted, tweeted, and shared about helping the least of these; every refugee status I liked; every scripture I’ve meditated …. E V E R Y Word from God poured into me was unleashed and hit me like a tidal wave. There I sat soaking wet in my rebellion. And then God came down. God reached down and shattered my petrified heart.
“And Jesus said.. I was hungry and you did not feed me.” (paraphrased from Matthew 25:42)
I turned from my mirror to see the young man sitting a few yards away sitting on a bench quietly crying. I rolled down my window and asked him to meet me in Chipotle. I think he may have ran there because he was there before I drove back up and parked. We stood in line. We didn’t talk much. He thanked me repeatedly. After the meal was paid for I asked for his name and if I could pray for him. Samuel, and yes I could. He thanked me again and walked away.
Don’t think I am good because I am not. If Jesus hadn’t shown up on that cross I would have happily driven away and never thought again about Samuel. If Christ’s Body and Blood had not been supplied to my malnourished, empty soul, it would have turned its back and carried on. But Jesus showed up. He always shows up. God comes down and works these unseen miracles every day in His church, in the lives of His people. Every day He takes this worthless lump of clay and uses it to His glory – sometimes I am blessed to see the miracle – often times I overlook it. How gracious and merciful is our Lord to give me a second, third, a millionth chance to join Him on His Mission.
“Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love” Joel 2:13
What second chances is Jesus offering you?
How do you ‘excuse’ yourself from fully Joining Jesus on his Mission?
Lord, have mercy on our hearts of stone. Forgive us when we choose convenience over compassion, excuses over engagement, and ME over mercy. Turn us towards you so that we may be your people of mercy, compassion, grace, and justice in this world. Empower us daily to seek your kingdom and to join you on your Mission of restoration. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.