Mike’s Meditations: Do You See What I See?

Do You See What I See

By: Mike Van Vranken

Life is filled with layers of our constant waiting or expectation of the next coming of Christ. In Advent, we practice this waiting by remembering his coming as the infant Jesus, while, likewise, we anticipate him coming at the end of time. But because the kingdom of heaven is here, we also can practice waiting for him in the next person we encounter. Do we see Christ in that person?

On an unusually cold and windy Shreveport morning, I was shivering while driving too fast; eagerly waiting for the car to heat up. I exited the car as the police officer walked towards me, asking to see my identification, and politely requesting I take my hands out of my pockets. I handed over my driver’s license and car registration, and he asked me again to remove my hands which I had already put back in my pockets. Doing so, then without thinking, I put them back into my warm pockets, when he patiently asked me one more time to remove them where he could see them. Because I was cold, he had to ask me again and again.

As the title of this car was in the name of my employer, he asked if this was my car. I explained it was a company car that was provided for my work. He nodded and said he would give me a written warning and cautioned me to slow down. I was so happy and grateful I was not served with a speeding ticket.

The next morning, as I was thanking God for this kind and generous officer, he asked me if I am as kind when I encounter other people.  Do I anticipate the coming of Christ in other people?  In particular, God asked me if I try to see Christ in others. I felt he was calling me to put myself in the officer’s shoes and replay how I would act in this situation. Would I easily see Christ in the other person?  A flood of questions came to my mind and heart.  If I had pulled me over for speeding, would the scenario be different?

What if I was the officer staring at a different looking me?  A me that resembled my Lebanese mother with dark eyes, olive skin, a large nose and jet black hair. Or, my grandfather with all of these same Middle Eastern features and scraggly beard as well. Would I see Christ?

What if this Lebanese me was constantly putting my hands in my pockets?  If I was the officer, would I be in fear there was a weapon in those pockets?  Would I have pulled my taser after so many repeated calls to “show my hands?”  And how about the car that wasn’t mine?  Would I have demanded proof that the car wasn’t stolen? Would I have asked for verification that I indeed worked for this company?  More questions included: What if this person had a Hispanic or an Indian accent?  What if they were black or brown-skinned, or wore a hijab headscarf?  Would I see Christ in them?

As I continued trying to answer these questions in my conversation with God, I did wonder: “What did this officer see in me?”  What made him so comfortable and generous with a speeder who continually kept his hands hidden in his pockets and who didn’t own the car he was driving? Did he really see Christ in me, or was it something else that put him at ease?

Of course the deeper question is:  “What would I have done in his shoes?” Would I only be kinder and gentler to a person that looked just like me?  Would I have seen Christ in someone who looked and acted very differently than I do?  God, grant me the grace to see you in everyone.

So, let’s practice this throughout Advent.  Pretend that every day is a new, large Advent calendar waiting for us to continually open its doors to each and every moment. Behind each door, look for the coming of Christ in that particular moment. Then, at the end of each day, let’s spend time in an Ignatian Examen.  Not an examination of conscience; but an examination of consciousness! When, during this day, was I conscious of Christ’s presence in others?  When, during this day, did I not see Christ in others?  Like Bartimaeus, we pray for the grace that we might see.

We indeed want to be ready for Christ’s second coming at the end of days. And, we are anxious to celebrate his coming at Christmas.  This month, let’s also desire to gaze on him in the very next moment. Let’s be present to God as he continually asks us: “Do you see what I see?”

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