“Is He real?” This was the question directed at me from a homeless man on the street in Washington, D.C., not long ago.
Just three words — but such a fundamental question. I approached this man, who seemed to be in his early 30s or so, and said, “Yes, He is real. Jesus is real. I am giving my life to this incredible person.”
The man responded, “I have a little faith, Father, but not a lot. It’s tough sitting here on the sidewalk, watching all these important-looking people walk by me. Most ignore me.”
I asked his name and when he told me, “Shawn,” I said, “Shawn, Jesus loves you so much. He has a special place in His heart for the poor and for those who suffer. Every person is a son or daughter of God, with the same dignity. Let’s pray together right now to Jesus, and ask Him to increase your faith.”
This man and I prayed together, and as we did, his face seemed to look more peaceful.
He had a few sandwiches with him, a cup of coffee and some donations people had tossed into a hat, but his deepest need seemed beyond this material world. He needed to know how much God loved him.
As Fr. Henri de Lubac, SJ, reminds us, “The hidden God, the mysterious God, is not distant and absent. He is always the God who is near.”
During one of my longer spiritual retreats while preparing for the priesthood, when I was struggling, I heard Jesus say to me, “I know your human nature feels resistance. But there are many souls who I want to love through your priesthood. Can you please help me? I would be so grateful.”
“Jesus, help them understand the tremendous gift of Your friendship.”
Jesus is alive and walks with each of us. Are you allowing Him to love others through you? Life is so short. This journey with Jesus is what makes it so meaningful.
Here’s a prayer for all: “Jesus, please make your presence felt in the lives of each person, and especially in those who feel alone and suffer. Accompany them, heal them, console them. Jesus, help them understand the tremendous gift of Your friendship now and for all eternity. Amen.”
Fr. Michael Sliney is a Catholic priest based in the New York City area and an adviser to the Lumen Institute, a professional business group.