In one of my contemplations on my annual spiritual guided retreat on 28 June to 4 July 2020, my imagination led me to certain places where I could find Jesus. I share the following reflections and images with you today as an encouragement and for you to take a moment for your own contemplation during this COVID-19 pandemic.
I imagine that I am on the top of the mountain that is overlooking a vast city. It is twilight, the sun has just set, and as I sit here on a bench, I notice the lights coming on in the great city. The darkness starts to envelop the coolness of the evening. I hear sounds of the different insects surrounding me – they make music in my ears. I am sitting alone, gazing at this spectacular scenery. I feel relaxed and deeply at peace within.
After a while I hear footsteps behind me. They are the footsteps of a holy man who lives nearby, a hermit. He approaches me. He looks at me gently and says, “If you go down to the city tonight you will find God.” Having said this, he turns around and walks away. No explanation, no time to question him…
I am convinced that this man knows what he is talking about. I do not feel like going into the city. I would rather stay and enjoy the beautiful ambiance of the night. But I am also feeling challenged within to go down – and I wish to meet Jesus. So I walk down to the street which is not far from where I am.
I take the bus. As it is the rush hour, the bus is quite full. Some passengers are busy with their mobile phones, others are sleeping. Perhaps some are happy to go home after a long day.
When the bus stops I see a young man helping an old man with a cane disembark from the bus. I also notice a passenger give his seat to a lady who is pregnant. As the bus starts to drive on, I see another woman carrying a bag of food, saying to her friend that she is bringing it for her family… then I recognise Jesus there. He is present in the good gestures of all the people who are kind to others. By and by the bus stops and I step down.
Looking around, I see a church. I feel called to pay a visit and immediately go inside. It is so quiet. A few people are attending Eucharistic Adoration. The blessed Sacrament is exposed, and the priest in front is venerating Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. People here are observing the required distancing, one person per pew. It is easy to notice the presence of God in these images: the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, the priest and the people. I stay for a while and I think of my meeting Jesus there. I then leave the church quietly.
I go outside and I see some homeless people. In the side street there are two more already asleep. Further on the right corner, two intoxicated people continue drinking alcohol. I remain there awhile and see passersby give food to a woman who is among them. She is so grateful to receive the food. I see a man sitting alone on the street corner. In my thoughts I say “who knows, that may be Jesus in amongst these people” and “the one who is giving, is food for me, He is Jesus.” So again I see Jesus here.
I cross the street and enter a big department store. I go to the women’s garments section. I try to look for a winter jacket. I observe the sales ladies and gentlemen attending to the needs of the customers. They offer good service to the people. I feel how they bear their tiredness, having to stand on the shop floor all day. I see a man who is serving a customer with a smile. I recognise Jesus in Him in his way of being courteous and hospitable.
I take the jacket that I like off the rack and I approach him. I ask him its price and find that it is $300. It is beautiful but really expensive. He says to me, “Do you think you really need this?” The question makes me rethink my need for the jacket. I return it to its rack. In this moment, seeing these people, I am aware that I have met Jesus. Tick: Jesus is among them.
I walk out from that store and proceed to the next destination. I now see the cinema. I walk in, thinking “will I find Jesus here?” The cinema is almost packed with people of different ages – so I realise that maybe the movie is for general patronage. I see a man standing there in the corner. I think that he is on duty, a guard keeping the people there safe.
I decide to seek out the restroom and finding it I see the cleaner on duty who is maintaining the spotlessness of this place. She is approachable and does her job well. She attends to people if they need help. Tick: I see Jesus again here.
I go out of the cinema, walk on and then see a nightclub. I am hesitant to enter it but my feet drag me through its doors to see if I can find Jesus there. When I go inside I see women wearing two-piece outfits dancing on the stage. The tables are occupied by people drinking, talking and laughing. One table, with a man sitting there, catches my attention. I approach the man and I recognise Him. It is Jesus. I ask Him, “Jesus why are You here?” He answers, “I am waiting.” Then one of the club receptionists comes to entertain us. Jesus turns to her and asks, “Are you happy with this kind of life?” There is a long silence. Again, I have met Jesus here, waiting for their hearts to be converted. I say goodbye and off I go to the next place.
I go inside a room in another building and I see a drug session happening. The room is spacious with a few chairs and a table. One person, in the corner, is already high on drugs. Then I see another person injecting drugs. I am so worried for them and I feel pity because they are destroying their lives. My attention, however, is then caught by a young man speaking and trying to pull another man out of this room. I soon realise it is a son, who is only 16 years old, crying out to his father to leave there and go back home. My heart is moved seeing this. I feel such pity for the families who are destroyed because of drugs. That young man is the image of Jesus. He cares and so much wants his father to stop using drugs. Jesus, I see that you are here again.
I then proceed to a prison. In one of the cells I see a prisoner who is crying because she misses her family and she has repented of what she did wrong. Then in another room, I see a priest who is amongst a few of the prisoners in a bible study group there. The priest is preaching the Good News and they are listening intently. I leave the room and go to another place where I smell food. As I follow this good aroma, I am led into the kitchen. Two chefs are preparing the food for the prisoners. In here I recognise the image of Jesus. Tick: Jesus is here in this place where they are happily bringing people closer to God through their good service feeding others. A job well done in Jesus’ name.
I am now heading towards a big hospital. My desire leads me to walk inside. I see so many nurses who are busily attending to the countless patients who have been admitted there. I realise that this part of the hospital cares for those who are infected with the COVID-19 virus. The medical staff are wearing full personal protective equipment to minimise the risk of their getting infected by this virus.
I go nearer to one patient. I find out she is terminally ill. In her face is a sense of great peace and acceptance. She is serenely surrendering her life. So, in this place it is not hard to find Jesus. Jesus is here with them all.
I leave the hospital and I find myself going into a family home. In the living room the husband and wife are arguing with each other because of the lock down resulting in no work, and no income. They already have a hard life and it seems that money matters are one of the problems they. They are unable to pay their bills. Suddenly, I notice their three-year-old child looking at them, wanting to know what is going on with her parents. The couple soon calm down and begin to have a better dialogue. The image of Jesus here is the little child who has reminded them to be calm so they can speak with, rather than shout at, each other.
As I go out of the house I see the garbage collectors on the street. It is already getting late in the day and they are still working hard. One by one, the collectors take the garbage bins and return them properly to where they got them. Tick: Jesus is here again with them as they do their job well, keeping where we live clean and safe.
It is time for me to go back to the mountain. I have done the things that the holy man asked me. I visited the many places where I found the image of Jesus. I make it in time to take the bus back. I step inside and the bus driver greets me with his big smile, he welcomes all the passengers in the same way, allowing us to sit in our seats before driving off and making sure we are safe. Then, I recognise in him another image of Jesus who takes care of His passengers. Jesus brings us home safe. When it is my turn to disembark from the bus, the bus driver again smiles and wishes me a good night.
I walk up to the mountain and in a few more steps I arrive at the place where, only a few hours ago, I was observing the cityscape below. I sit upon the bench and suddenly I hear familiar steps coming nearer to me. It is the holy man who had challenged me to find Jesus in the city. He asked me about my experience. I told him it was good and that I did not regret accepting his challenge, even though at the time I did not really feel like going there. The mission had been fulfilled because I had met Jesus in different guises. I told him that under the beautiful glittering lights of the city I had seen, met and spoken to Him. I had seen how Jesus had never got tired of patiently caring and paying attention to people’s needs. That He was and still is in every place and person. Visiting these places and seeing these people, I had realised how much Jesus was touching their lives. It made my heart melt upon seeing our brothers and sisters there. I was also aware that Jesus was in the holy man standing before me. This journey had only given me a glimpse but it was enough for me to know that Jesus was in each person’s heart. And He is still within each one of us today.
This was the real and beautiful experience that I had during my retreat. Jesus’ love does live in our hearts. It is up to us to choose to follow Jesus’ way, to become the image of Jesus to others. I, too, am challenged to meet Jesus every day in my life journey. Jesus walks with me and you every day and in every way. We may not recognise Him because we are too busy in our thoughts and activities, too busy caught up in unnecessary conversations, too busy working without much dedication, too busy to see what is truly inside our hearts and to see the negative life matters that are bringing us so much disquiet and distress. We are too busy listening to the noises of the world. We need to step back for a while, to learn to be silent and still so we can hear the tiny voice of God who is always speaking to us.
Let us gather and bring all the distractions that prevent us from fully accepting God’s outreached hand and offer these to Him. Let us be at peace so we can find Jesus in all things, to recognise that He is always patiently waiting for us.