Where to look to find Jesus?
Perhaps the young reporter in the above photo was surprised or perplexed to see a Franciscan friar carrying a sign at a street demonstration... perhaps, too, she came ready with the question she most wanted answered, "Where to look to find Jesus?"
Perhaps the Franciscan friar began his answer to her question with a ready glib, like, "Well, you better not look for him on FOX news!" But, for the sake of this blog, let's say that he said, "It is precisely in street contemplation that I recognize the Face of Jesus. The street is one very special place. It's where I can most be myself. I can simply be honest. I can hold a sign such as this one, and witness to the Jesus of the Gospels who enjoined his followers to love the stranger in their midst. I can repeat to whomever asks the politics of Jesus: "Whatsoever you do to the least person among you, you do the same to me."
So, according to the Franciscan friar, the Face of Jesus is the face of the young woman lying dead on the ground -- shot by a Border Patrol agent (but let's be honest: she was shot by each one of us: we paid for his gun, his bullets, his supposed training, and his salary). The Face of Jesus is the Face of Every Immigrant reviled by the voices of white privilege and power! The Face of Jesus is the Face of Every African-American beaten, choked, or shot by police. The Face of Jesus is the Face of Every American Farmer who has committed suicide in the face of staggering debt. The Face of Jesus is the Face of Every Child who is hungry or youth who is homeless. The Face of Jesus is the Face of Every Woman who is not treated as equal to men, who is harmed, beaten, raped, exploited, or murdered by men. Jesus means diddly-squat to Americans if we think "I was hungry and you fed me" is anywhere reflected in the cowardice of both churches and politicians...
Street contemplation is the raw Gospel complete without the theological and cultural justifications for oppression and suffering. Love is either an action or it is a excuse -- in which case, it has ceased to be love at all. Love is action implemented as practice and policy! Love is Loud and Clear: every human being is the Face of Jesus: that Black Muslim is Jesus in disguise so you better damn well create the conditions necessary for him to thrive. That Honduran Immigrant is Jesus in disguise so you better damn well create the conditions for her to be safe and thrive. That Baptist Farmer is Jesus in disguise so you better damn well create the conditions for him to thrive. And so on!
Street contemplation is the reception of the Gospel, open and raw, within one's awakening heart. Everything is connected to everything else. We simply cannot pretend that "going to Church on Sunday" has any practical purpose at all if on Monday through Friday we live as if there are not consequences to the deserts we have made of our hearts. Those wastelands of self and cultural deceit are the crosses we have to carry into our own transformation: we have been made for Bliss and we extol Bull. Enough! So go sit on a city sidewalk somewhere and let yourself bleed through the cuts of cultural delusion until you are empty enough for some radical grace to enter and renew your mind. You have within the makings of a very holy being. For reals...
Robert Daniel Smith was privileged to serve the homeless and marginalized for 30 years in Salinas, California. Together with his wife, Michelle, they founded an intentional community called the 'Companions of the Way', also in Salinas. Robert and Michelle are community organizers, Catholic Worker renegades, sacred activists, writers, poets, artists, Divine Mother devotees, and practitioners of Kriya Yoga as taught by Rev. Ellen Grace O'Brian of the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment. Michelle is also a Montessori public school teacher. Robert is also an ordained Interfaith Minister.