‘I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ – Matthew 25:36-40
I visited my hometown this weekend, just over a week after a violent tornado tore through it. The destruction was staggering. Homes, trees, businesses, even schools were devastated. Although my parents were within a mile from the tornado’s path, somehow they didn’t lose so much as a tree or hanging basket. It makes no sense, it’s totally unfair, but we’re so, so grateful.
Throughout the aftermath, I’ve watched through social media as the town has pulled together to care for one another, start to clean up the mess, and somehow try to rebuild and heal.
But this weekend was the first time I’ve seen the destruction in person. And let me tell you, no amount of news coverage or photo-sharing can prepare you for the magnitude of loss. It blows your mind, breaks your heart and steals your breath.
To make matters worse, the river is spilling into the downtown area and the flooding is threatening to rise to near-historic levels. There’s a lot to grieve and pray for in my hometown right now, so I wasn’t surprised that calls for help and donations came up during mass this morning.
What did surprise me, however, was the way the priest brought it up. Encouraging generosity as a separate collection plate was passed for relief efforts, the priest billed it as an opportunity for us “to be Jesus for tornado victims.”
Initially, I let it go, figuring he meant that we could be like Jesus.
But he said it again. A few times. Take this opportunity to be Jesus to others. I think I get what he meant, but it really bothered me, even if I couldn’t put a finger on it as to why. And I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
After the two hour drive back home, I think I’m a little closer to figuring it out. First of all, that level of elevation makes me uncomfortable; I’m fairly certain that Jesus can find a higher quality stand-in than me.
Over and over, I thought of the above message in Matthew 25: ‘You did it to me.’ Not ‘you did it as me.’ To me, this says that Jesus is in the need, not in the means to meet it. It’s a completely different mindset. If I’m acting as Jesus, I’m in a higher position. Empowered…holy…pious. If I see the face of Jesus in someone else, I’m more than a little stunned that I get to help…I’m going to do my imperfect best, humbly and gratefully.
So, am I overthinking this? Of course. But that’s what I do and that’s why I blog. The moral of the story? Just help. The helpers, the helped, the ones helping as Jesus, the ones helping for Jesus…what difference does it make. Just help. Help when you can, receive help when you need it. Either way, it’s a transaction that takes place within the confines of Jesus’ family and heart.
The other moral of the story? Please pray for my hometown, if you are inclined to do so. If you’re not a praying person, please send healing thoughts and care. They could sure use it.