Say Hello to Jesus
I have a confession to make: I’ve always secretly kind of loved those mosaics of the face of Jesus that are composed of pictures of parishioners from the parish directory. And I think it has something to do with an experience I once had – and which I dream of having more often.
During my first visit to one of the Catholic schools here in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that everyone who I walked past in the hallways – staff members and students alike – looked me directly in the eyes, smiled, and said hello. What was even more stunning was the realization that such a thing had never happened to me before, even though I’ve visited countless Catholic institutions.
At the end of that particular retreat day, while we on the team were processing the day with the school’s principal, we mentioned to her how blessed we all were by the warmth and kindness of everyone we encountered. Her response was simple, yet profound:
“I regularly remind my students and faculty that Jesus is present in everyone we meet, and that if any one of us ever passed by Jesus in the hallway, I would hope that we would look him in the eyes, smile, and say hello.”
I’m going to be brutally honest with you – if I ever noticed that Jesus was walking past me anywhere, I’d do a lot more than just smile and say hello. I would either fall on my face in worship or give Him the biggest bear hug imaginable. Or both. Don’t worry, though – I won’t do either of those things to you the next time I see you, especially if I don’t know you, since I really do try to maintain appropriate social boundaries.
I do believe that the advice of that particular principal to her students and faculty is worth taking to heart, especially for those of us who call ourselves Christians.
Archbishop Carlson, in a recent message to some leaders here in St. Louis, said, “We must all be committed to a culture of joyful service. We will meet all we serve with a smile…” And all of us are leaders in some way, right?
Pope Francis has encouraged all believers to practice ‘radical hospitality’ as we strive to live the joy of the Gospel. Lots of people have fallen in love with that phrase, since it calls us all to be as welcoming as possible to all people at every moment.
And Jesus said, “…whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
As that principal reminds us, Jesus is present in everyone we meet.
So let’s look people in the eyes, say hello, and smile more often.
As those marvelous mosaics remind us, we are the face of Jesus. And that’s pretty awesome.