Saturday, May 17, 2008

Might We Have Encountered Jesus?

One never knows when one might meet Jesus in the streets or in our own little church!
by Charlie Leck

"When Jesus entered Peter's house, he saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever; he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him. That evening they brought to him many who were possessed with demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and cured all who were sick. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah, 'He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.'" [Matthew 8:14-17]

Here is the scene! On a dark, quiet evening, Jimmy Breslin, the famous newspaper columnist, and his wife were walking down a street in Manhattan. They were confronted by a poor beggar, seeking funds. Breslin took his wife's arm and hurried her by the man. Suddenly they paused. His wife was speaking sternly to Breslin. Meekly, Breslin returned to the homeless man and handed him a fiver. Breslin smiled at the fellow, bowed his head to him slightly and then turned and returned to his wife.

What was it that Mrs. Breslin said?

"Jimmy, that might be Jesus. Go back and be kind to him."

Indeed, Jesus told us that when we are kind to "the least of these, our brethren" we are being kind to him.

The front page of this morning's Minneapolis Star-Tribune has an account of a young autistic boy who has been barred from attending church by the parish priest. He's too disruptive and he may be a danger to people because he is such a big boy (6 feet and over 225 pounds). The parents, of course, in disbelief kept going to mass. The priest took out a legal restraining order, to keep the boy away. It's an interesting story. Read it for yourself. It leaves me a bit stupefied and I wish the priest had the common sense of Mrs. Breslin.

"Father, that may be Jesus! You'll meet him, you know, in the very strangest places."

One never knows. We know, from the gospel accounts, that Jesus would not have turned the boy away – ever! He gathered these, the least of these, snuggly around him and he poured out his love on them. Jesus was at home when he was with the suffering and those who had been slighted by life's unfairness.

What a lovely portrait photo of handsome Adam Race! When I look deeply into his eyes I think I see – well, don't laugh at me now, because I mean it – I think I see Jesus. Just perhaps, you know, it might be this man of boundless love.

Father, that may be Jesus!

Oh, my goodness, if my wonderful sister, Jean of blessed memory, were still alive, her heart would be broken! It was for these children of God, those like Adam Race, that she lived her life.

Now, Father, go on over to the home of Adam Race and look deeply into his eyes! Apologize to our Lord, embrace him and invite him home again, into his own house. Father, up there near your chancel, I believe I see a tear in the eye of the blessed, virgin mother.


  1. Let's be real here.

    “….Adam struck a child during mass, nearly knocks elderly parishioners over…, spits and sometimes urinates in church and fights when he is being restrained. He also… assaulted a girl by pulling her onto his lap and….There were people… who could have been injured or killed…”

    The child’s parents call his banning from the church “discriminatory”. You bet it is. There’s such a thing as RATIONAL discrimination.

    Of course, "Some disability advocates are getting behind the Races,” just going to show that there’s no end to Political Correctness, all public safety and common sense be damned.

    Generalized sentiments of Jesus' love are all fine and well, but what would Jesus have actually done in this situation? He probably would have affected a miracle cure of Adam by "driving out his demons."

    Unless this church can affect such a miracle cure, is it unreasonable to ask Adam's parents to accomodate the rights of public safety and undisrupted worship of all the other people?

  2. Thanks, "Redtown" for commenting. I both appreciate and understand your concern; yet, this is the Christian community and Jesus really is the central focus of all that we do.

    Ask yourself: Is there a chance that Adam Race may have been Jesus come to challenge us?

    Worship is unimportant! Mercy and service to the needy and disabled is vital.

    Please! Think about the gospels. Think about the man Jesus! Would he have sent Adam Race away? Of course not!

    Should we send him away? Of course not!

  3. “….Adam struck a child during mass, nearly knocks elderly parishioners over…, spits and sometimes urinates in church and fights when he is being restrained. He also… assaulted a girl by pulling her onto his lap and….There were people… who could have been injured or killed…”

    His mother has a different perspective on these accusations. She denies he has ever knocked anyone over or spit, claims the "urinating" is no different than the incontience the elderly experience, and denies he assaulted the girl. Autistics often need "deep pressure" to calm them, and apparently putting the girl on his lap was a way for him to get that sensory stimluation. His parents say they sit on his lap for this reason.

    This is why his mother says he is not understood.

  4. JBL, Winthrop, MaineMay 19, 2008 at 12:28 PM

    Charles, no doubt you are sincere and compassionate. Please try showing the same compassion for the child he struck, the girl he grabbed, the elderly parishioners he nearly knocked over, and everyone attending church who have had to deal with an out-of-control 200-pound six-footer spitting and urinating during holy communion.

    You say, "Worship is unimportant!" I have two responses to that.

    First, I agree: our relationship with God is not based on regular church attendance church. Neither is Adam's. There are plenty of disabled people who have not received communion in church in many years. (I know, because I have brought it to many of them, either at home, in hospitals, or nursing homes.) When Adam grew too large for his parents to effectively restrain him during church, at that point it might have been advisable for home communions to begin.

    Second, it is all very well and good for you or me to say that "worship is unimportant" for ourselves, but we do not have the right to say that on behalf of everyone else in the parish. I would venture to say that every Sunday morning there is at least one person in every church who just barely managed to drag themselves in, whether because they are grieving the loss of a loved one, exhausted from working three shifts, or worn out for any number of good reasons. Why are they worth less consideration than Adam?

    You said, "Mercy and service to the needy and disabled is vital." Of course, and apparently the parish had been trying to work with this family to provide just that for three years, during which time Adam grew bigger and stronger.

    Neither of us attends that church, so neither of us knows what kinds of accommodations the church offered or how the parents responded. However, the priest of that church has got to think about all the members, not just one, and based on their endless rationalizations (e.g. weight is comforting, so it's perfectly understandable that he would have pulled a young girl on top of him), Adam's parents are in need of serious and direct intervention, because they are apparently so overwhelmed and sleep-deprived that they do not seem to fully comprehend or appreciate how everyone else in their community is being negatively affected.

    If nothing else, imagine it was your daughter who had been grabbed and molested. In church, no less.

    Peace be with you.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. I was a bit too flip in saying that worship is not important. I tend to think in terms of the manner in which Jesus preferred to praise God -- that is through service to his fellow humans. Though worship is certainly important - it looses such in the grand scheme of things when a human life in need of our love is in front of us.

    Here the main point. I've been there. Wondrous things can be done by churches that wish to do them. Surely some compromise, some settlement, so alternative situation could be set up so that Adam never has to be turned away the house of God.


  7. Charlie,

    I also belong to a (progressive) Christian community and I think of the Gospels all the time. I just don’t think that Jesus’ unconditional love translates into enabling dangerous and disruptive public behavior.

    Most of us have not developed Jesus’ full powers of healing, and we are left with less perfect means to respond to such a situation. I doubt that Jesus would condone our enabling of dangerous behavior -- posing great risks to others and self -- in the name of “acceptance”. This is sloppy agape.

    We should strive for mercy and service, but not every situation can be resolved by good intentions. It’s not the boy’s fault, but apparently his own parents cannot always control his behavior.

    Have you considered that someone can be seriously injured? The pastor has definite moral and legal responsibilities to protect everyone from harm. If the pastor failed to do so, and some child or elderly person were injured, it would be a major moral failure and a major lawsuit.

    In a perfect world, everyone would be welcomed everywhere. But if I had a highly communicable disease, say TB, I’d have no right to mingle in large crowds where I posed a serious threat. And I think Jesus would agree, notwithstanding Matt.25: 35.

  8. "Please try showing the same compassion for the child he struck, the girl he grabbed, the elderly parishioners he nearly knocked over, and everyone attending church who have had to deal with an out-of-control 200-pound six-footer spitting and urinating during holy communion."

    Why is it that nobody is listening to the boy's mother who denies all of this? Do you know more than she does?

    This is the problem beneath the problem; nobody is LISTENING to her. They are allowing their ignorant fear, their self-righteous indignation and belief in their entitlement to attend Church in "peace" (Jesus never allowed His disciples to believe they had any such entitlement) to determine their attitudes, instead of opening their minds and trying to understand.

    Perhaps he is not as dangerous as he appears to be to the priest. I don't know, I have not been there, but it is plausible that his behavior is not dangerous but misunderstood. Why can't anyone suspend judgment until the mother makes her case?

  9. Thanks, Redtown, for your come-back comment. Good comments. I enjoy your polite, considerate style.

    Yes, I've considered that someone might be injured. I'm suggesting, and not in some ideal way either, that there are solutions. A congregation that represents Jesus simply can't turn someone away -- especially someone diseased. I know how congregations operate and if this one had been given serious, attentive leadership, the they could come up with a solution. A special place for Adam -- something he could take great pride in. He would be segregated from people he might injure, but he would be in the house of his Lord, and allowed to worship him.

    Refusing someone entry into a church doesn't sit right with me.

    In a church, along time ago, that I had some major responsibility in, we had a homeless fellow who would just wander in, weave his way down the aisle to the front of the church and look up at the Pastor and give him hell.

    One day I managed to find the fellow out on the street and I had a long, relatively sober conversation with him. I told him I'd like to give him the opportunity to speak to the congregation occasionally, but we'd have to set some rules of behavior. He wanted to know how long he could talk. Twenty-minutes, I told him, twice a year.

    He was so nervous his first time that he gave up after 5 minutes and sat down in a pew and allowed the worship to roll on. He never asked to speak again. He began attending, got to know some people and eventually was talked into going into treatment at a Salvation Army facility. He works for the Army now (or did, the last time I heard) and I know he stayed sober for many, many years.

    Charlie Leck