How many people do I pass everyday and I look right through them. I, of course, perceive them –I’m not blind– but, I don’t really see them at all.
Three days after the death of Jesus, Cleopus and the other disciple are determined to get home from Jerusalem by nightfall. A stranger joins the two and they begin talking about the crucified Jesus.
The stranger doesn’t seem to know anything about the events surrounding the death of the supposed messiah. What he does know is that Isaiah spoke of the suffering of the “servant” who was to come and save the chosen people. The messiah was described by Isaiah as a man with such love for humanity that he took the abuse that should have been laid on us because of our sins:
“Yet on himself he bore our sufferings, our torments he endured….he was pierced for our transgressions and tortured for our iniquities….The Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all.” (Is. 53; 1-6.)
Hope rises in the hearts of the two disciples. The stranger breaks bread with them and is revealed as the risen Jesus. In the dark, they rush the seven miles back to Jerusalem to join their story with the experiences of Peter, the tomb women, and the other disciples.
I’ve met a lot of strangers and looked right through thousands more. The elevator pilgrims with me today at the hospital, for example. We were being being lifted up to floors to continue whatever our tasks were but we didn’t talk, each of us exiting at our selected floor. My mind was on my journey, minding my own business. They, too, were focused somewhere else.
Some of my most memorable experiences, though, have come from chance enounters with people whose names I will never know. These I took a moment to actually see and listen to. I know that some of them also saw and listened to me.
One 50-something man was tending to his elderly mother who was in a wheelchair and groaning.
Without one other word of introduction, he looked at me, the priest, collarless andjust another guy sitting with him in the dingy saddness of an emergency waiting room, and he said:”I wonder if God will ever make a human being who cannot suffer.” I mumbled something about understanding his feeling and not another word was said.
Who was he? Why did he ask me that incredible question?
Or, the young songwriter stopping by my bench below a Maple tree one Monday morning at sunrise who looked toward the glowing dawn and sang a ballad named for me (He’d asked my name.) which he spontaneously created on the spot. It was a song of hope, a kind of prayer for the senior who was reading his bible there alone. He sang the song and off he went. I think he was an angel.
And, there have been many, many more who I have listened to in planes, in taxis, while sitting on a park bench, or walking down a path in a park. They each entered my life for a moment and left their footprints lightly on my heart. Was it He, each time?
We ought to take time to meet and greet strangers along the way, don’t you think?