Encuentro con Jesús… Encounter with Jesus…
“For I was hungry and you gave Me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave Me water to drink. I was a stranger and you gave Me a room. I had no clothes and you gave Me clothes to wear. I was sick and you cared for Me. I was in prison and you came to see Me.”
-Matthew 25:35-36 NLV
I had an encounter with Jesus Christ during an afternoon in February of this year. This encounter did not take place during a worship service, a Bible study, a time of prayer or reflecting on the Scripture, nor did it take place during a spiritual retreat. The encounter took place at the bedside of one of the intensive care unit rooms at UNC Chapel Hill Hospital. Jesus was there laying on that bed, his name was José, he was a few days short of turning thirty years old, he had a tattoo of praying hands on his right arm, and he was hooked up to several tubes and cables that were keeping him alive. After being run over by a car and being left dying on the side of the road, he had spent five days on a comma. He had immigrated to North Carolina from central Mexico in 2018 in search of work that would give him the possibility of helping his family make ends meet back home. He did not have any family and had no close friends in North Carolina. However, when a few members of the community where he lived heard of his story, they became his family. So many members of his community came to visit him, without knowing him personally. He was slowly dying and many members of his community joined in prayer for a miracle. A local community organization inquired about his situation and found out which city he was from and even contacted his family in Mexico. The community organization, in collaboration with the Mexican Consulate, helped the family begin the process to apply for a humanitarian visa so that José’s mother and brother could come and see him. That process became a race against time, which was complicated by José’s body losing ground against death and the bilateral bureaucracy that often hinders the process to obtain a humanitarian visa. The humanitarian visas for José’s mother and brother were ready on a Monday morning. Sadly, he passed away the previous Saturday evening. It was heartbreaking to hear his family struggling to make the decision to authorize José’s medical team to disconnect the life support systems after it was determined his brain was no longer sending any signals to his vital organs. It was beyond heartbreaking to hear José’s mother, father, sister, and brothers saying goodbyes through tears over a video call. It was an undeserved and unmerited privilege to be asked to commend his soul into the arms of the Creator once his life support systems were disconnected. It was a sacred moment when, in that intensive care unit room full of people offering prayer and songs of praise, God called José home.
I encountered Jesus Christ in José. I also encounter Jesus Christ in the dozens of members of his community that, without having any personal connections with him, became José’s family. The Spirit of the Living God, who led Jesus into the wilderness, and who currently leads you an me through this Lenten journey, was moving mightily in them. I invite you, dear hermanas y hermanos, amigas y amigos, to continue following the Spirit through this Lenten desert. As we enter into Holy Week, let us pray with hearts full of faith that we would encounter Jesus Christ in unexpected places. May those encounters bring transformation into our hearts, minds, lives, and homes… and may that transformation be evident in our families, churches, faith communities, neighborhoods, and cities. It is through transformative encounters with Jesus Christ that our reality is transformed. It is through transformative encounters with Jesus Christ that our world becomes a brighter place.
Prayer Focus: Immigrants who are alone in the United States and throughout the world.
Thought for the Day: Where will I encounter Jesus Christ as we enter into Holy Week?
Let Us Pray: Our Father in heaven, there are so many places where your Son Jesus Christ is present. These are often spaces in which our comfort is challenged. At times we lack the courage and compassion that is needed to enter those spaces. We pray for your Spirit to drive us and to empower us so that we will be willing to lose comfort and enter spaces of vulnerability. We pray for your Son Jesus to meet us in those spaces. May our encounter with him be one of decisive transformation. We pray humbly and with hearts full of expectation. Amen.