Wiping the Face of Christ 

This weekend’s Gospel will feature Jesus sending out the disciples two-by-two (Mk 6: 7-13). Earlier in the week the Gospel reading was Jesus’ words: “Do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Mt 10: 19-20). The first image that came to my mind combining these two readings was someone speaking authoritatively to a large crowd. I smiled as this picture was immediately updated with images of immense audiences instantaneously reached by various social media. I finally rejected those images as the words of Dominican priest Father Pierre E. LaChance came to mind. He said, “Always remember, you evangelize one person at a time.” 

The fine print, so to speak, of Jesus’ directions to those disciples was that they were to remain with one family for the entire visit. There was to be substantial interaction and time being together in the presence of God. Those important characteristics broaden our understanding of people and situations where today we each are called to allow the Father to speak through our words and/or actions. That personal interaction to bring Jesus to another is called the Ministry of Presence. Qualities such as being open, accepting, respecting, and sharing are important in this. This Ministry of Presence is an important one for lay people. It is essentially sharing by word and example the love of God. 

With that understanding, I now had a strikingly different image of someone present to the world who truly remains open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and who evangelizes one person at a time. One example I found from my life experiences is a colleague who works in the office at our elementary/middle school. I was a new teacher at the school so this year I spent a significant amount of time in the office finding my way. Each time a child or parent would visit, it was an opportunity for me to observe and learn. Her calm “what brings you here today?” accompanied by her welcoming smile allowed any hurt child to immediately open up and share his/her trouble. Whether the remedy was a Band-Aid, Kleenex, an ice pack, or a brief chat, her words of encouragement and bright smile assured each child he/she had been heard and that things would soon be better. Her ability to diffuse angry parents and calmly get them to refocus their energy on addressing the issue with which their child was struggling has aided many a child and educator. 

Though all the ramifications and differences such actions make in the life of another are truly known only to God, there are instances where the ripples of change due to one small kindness are still happening hundreds of years later. 

One example of this is Veronica wiping the face of Christ during His Passion. In 2006 Pope Benedict XVI visited the Veil of Veronica (http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/pope_visits_veronicas_veil_tells_crowd_to_search_for_the_face_of_christ_in_their_lives/). “The Way of The Cross for Young Christians” by Reverend William J. McLaughlin provides a moving image for a follower of Jesus open to promptings of the Holy Spirit. His prayer for children states, “O God, teach me to give a little of myself to someone who needs me. Teach me to go out of my way to help even when I’m not asked. It takes a lot of strength to be like Veronica — to offer help when you will be laughed at by the others in the crowd. But help me to be like her — that is what it means to be a Christian.” 

My colleague from school has walked with the Holy Spirit for so long that her extraordinary gift of presence for others just seems to her to be simply the way to live. Where and how do the rest of us make a start with this? Amazingly it seems it is as simple as handing something over to the Holy Spirit and awaiting the answer. 

Many years ago I was a volunteer with teen-agers. My readings that week said to turn things over to the Lord. God sent a challenge my way as one day I had no answer for a child. I told God that this one was His. Immediately, I had an answer. The part that amazed me was the fact that although I later did much research, utilizing all the intellectual gifts God had given me, I did not find anything to add to that initial answer. The second I had asked, the Holy Spirit had whispered the truth to my heart. 

Have you ever known the peace of being given the idea for what to say or do? If so, continue that walk. If not, perhaps this week is time to begin your walk with the Holy Spirit. 

Anchor columnist Helen Flavin is a Catholic scientist, educator and writer. biochemwz@hotmail.com.

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