Kathryn Swegart describes a moment of seeing Christ in a woman experiencing homelessness.
It was our time for Eucharistic Adoration at a local chapel. My husband turned into the parking lot and we discovered a middle-aged woman lying in a parking spot staring at the sky. He parked the car and we discussed the situation. She looked tanned and healthy, wore torn clothes, and had a bottle of Pepsi.
We got out of the car and said hello.
“Beautiful day,” my husband said.
“Oh yes. I am watching the sky. I need open space to see the clouds.”
I did not know how to respond, so simply smiled and entered the chapel. My first prayer before the Eucharistic Jesus is always, “What do you want me to do?” It was hard to concentrate. I kept thinking about the lady lying on the pavement. My husband encouraged me to talk with her, but I was nervous. Minutes ticked away. An answer came: Go talk with this homeless person.
I went outside and spoke to her.
She responded to my greeting, “I am almost finished. I have one more cloud to watch.”
After completing her task, the woman stood up and we chatted. Her name was Ginger. She rode her motorcycle from Minnesota to Maine to attend a film festival. I studied her face as she spoke. Her eyes were light blue like the sky; her lips were severely blistered. With her blond hair and trim figure, I imagined her once a long time ago as a pretty little girl who loved to run through meadows, free as a bird.
My last words to her were, “Remember, God loves you!”
She looked startled.
Next day was the Feast of the Transfiguration. Lo and behold, the priest, Father James, ended his sermon by talking about how we are to see Jesus in the distressful disguise of the poor. The glorified Christ, shining white as a star, is an image of Adam and Eve as they were in the garden of Eden. That is our identity, made in the image of God. I realized that Ginger is a daughter of God, created by the divine touch, part of God’s sweeping plan of salvation, more awesome than the Milky Way, grand member of the cosmos.
Ginger, I now think of you. Do you look at the sky to escape the woes of this earth? Did your parents love you? Did you feel safe in your childhood home? Are you hungry? Are you thirsty?
Father James explained that the Greek word for heaven is sky. I contemplated this idea. Ginger, homeless on this earth, inexorably gazes up at the cosmos, drawn to heaven, her true home.
Copyright 2020 Kathryn Swegart
Image: Pexels (2017)