By Fr. Ron Will, CPPS
Welcome to this eighth episode in a series titled “Encounters of the Fourth Kind.” I am Fr. Ron Will, a Missionary of the Precious Blood, serving at Precious Blood Renewal Center in Liberty, Missouri.
Many of you probably remember the science fiction movie out some years ago called “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” An encounter of the third kind is the sighting, in the distance of non-human beings. An encounter of the fourth kind is not just the sighting in the distance, but the actual personal encounter of human beings and non-human beings.
This series invites you to go deeper into your relationship with God; to plunge into that deeper relationship. It is an invitation to enter the divine embrace.
In 1950, American printmaker Fritz Eichenberg produced a lithograph that has become quite famous. It depicts a line of people waiting to enter a soup kitchen. They are bedraggled and disheveled bunch, hunched over and subdued looking. But around the head of one, barely perceptible, is a halo. One of them is Christ. The title of the lithograph is, in fact, “The Christ of the Breadline.”
You may not see halos around the heads of your brothers and sisters in need, and yet, when you serve them, you also serve Christ.
One message from sacred scripture is: Stay awake so that you may hear Christ’s call into His Kingdom of Love.
Stay awake to Jesus’ command: “Love one another,” and you will be on your way.
“Seek first the Kingdom of God,” says the Lord.
Love is the greatest commandment, and service is the outward expression of love.
Listen as I read Matthew 25:31-40
Now I invite you to allow me to lead you in a guided meditation on that scene. Close your eyes and get comfortable. Relax your entire body. Take a couple deep breaths; exhale deeply.
Do that a few times and relax.
Look at the picture on your screen. Then close your eyes and recall an experience in your own life.
Can you remember a time in your life when you offered a helping hand or an encouraging word to someone who was struggling, and as you walked away from that experience thought to yourself, hmm, I think I may have encountered Jesus there.
Or can you remember a time when you did not stop to offer a helping hand, or a listening ear, or an encouraging word, walked away and later thought, hmm, I think I missed an opportunity to encounter Jesus today.
You can probably think of a lot of experiences when you passed up an opportunity. But for now, focus on a time that you did stop and notice, and offered a helping hand or word.
Recall that event now; revisit it.
I am going to invite you to savor that moment.
See the person in your mind’s eye. See all the circumstances around it; notice the environment.
See what the person is wearing.
See the expression on the person’s face.
Or maybe recall a time when you thought about making a phone call to someone who was going through a hard time, and you made the call.
As you revisit it now, what are you feeling in your heart? Take your time to remember that event or person. (pause)
When you hear Jesus say, “Come, you who are blessed, into the Kingdom of my Father,” what are you feeling? (pause)
As you reflect on that past experience, what is the desire in your heart for your future? How and when could you do that? (pause)
Every person is precious, as precious as the blood of Christ.
You have just had an encounter of the fourth kind; not just the sighting from a distance, but the actual personal encounter of a human being and a non-human being;
an encounter with the hidden Christ within a human being.
Continue to sit in silence for a couple minutes and continue to experience that encounter. Savor it. Then join me again next month, for another “Close Encounter of the Fourth Kind.”
In the meantime, may God bless you.
All of the videos in this series can be found here: Encounters of the Fourth Kind.
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[Fr. Ron Will, a Precious Blood priest and spiritual director, is a graduate of Catholic Theological Union and Creighton University’s School of Christian Spirituality. He has a special interest in helping form intentional disciples of Jesus, encouraging others to go spiritually deep-sea diving to explore a deeper relationship with God, and walking with people as they dive into the ocean of God’s mystery actually experiencing God rather than simply dipping one’s toe into the water.]
“The Christ of the Breadlines,” lithograph circa 1950 by American illustrator and printmaker Fritz Eichenberg. In the Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery Collection.