How much easier to believe,
at a warm Thursday Mass on the first day of spring,
when a stranger takes your hand between his own
and whispers (in a voice that threatens tears)
“the peace and love of Jesus Christ be with you now, my brother”
that Our Lord dwells in the hearts of men.

How much harder to see Him
in the weathered face of the homeless man
who, walking toward you on the sidewalk,
his processional a litany of curses
concluding with “and what are you, twelve?”,
swerves only an inch to avoid knocking you into the street.

How much harder to hear Him
in the anonymity of the call
which turns abusive,
or in the rough voice of the teenager
sitting sentinel on someone else’s fence
who calls “sup, bro!”, who you ignore.

How blinding is the sin of pride!
(“If only they knew who you were.”)
How difficult to see with eyes turned down to a glowing screen,
or inward, ever inward! or to hear,
through a Bluetooth headset,
a voice, in the wilderness, crying out.

All vice is virtue twisted, laughs the serpent.
(“They will have more respect when you wear a Roman collar.”)
So wide the gulf between us, brothers all!
We brothers, tearing at each other’s throats,
or hearts, with words,
or souls, with poison thoughts.

To be Christ to a stranger takes two hands
to reach out and take hold of their own,
two eyes, to meet them where they are,
two lips to call them brother, and to say:
“peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you;
not as the world gives do I give to you.”

To be Christ to a stranger takes one’s presence,
full presence, undivided
by invisible multitudes inside our phones,
real presence, unhidden
by our shields of artificial loneliness
in any company—

to be Christ to another takes Real Presence,
to be bread to the one who calls after you in hunger,
to be light to the one who stumbles toward you in darkness;
and to give peace is to give of one’s own blood, and
to wear the collar, to be a willing servant, and
the crucifix, to commend your spirit on the cross.

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