Love In Disguise

There’s an old story that’s told about a king who lived in a far-off, distant land.  He had a rich kingdom, with all his needs and most of his desires met everyday by the royal court that served him.  He was loved and respected by his family and noblemen and was known throughout the land for his wisdom and fairness.  It seemed the king had everything he could have ever wanted.  Except for one very important thing:  he had no heir to whom he could leave his kingdom and all its wealth.  So in his wisdom and he came up with a plan.  He would invite young people from all over his kingdom to come to the castle and be interviewed for the job.  He’d sift through the applicants and find the most-qualified, most well-suited young man to become his prince and heir.  The king sent out the word to his people and then he waited.

Far away in a tiny remote village, a poor young man heard about the king’s plan.Intelligent and hard-working, his heart leapt at the thought of meeting the king and perhaps earning his trust to become his adopted prince.  But the castle was a long way from the young man’s village and he had no supplies at hand for such a hard journey.  So the young man worked and saved day and night to earn enough to buy the food he needed to make the trip and some new clothes to wear for his meeting with the king.  After weeks of work and difficult travel, he finally found himself outside the king’s castle.

Sitting by the castle gate was a filthy beggar dressed in dirty rags, crouched in the dust of the road.  “Have pity on me, my son” the beggar cried out to the young man.  “Help me.” The young man looked down at the beggar and his heart was moved to pity for him.  He gave the beggar the new clothes he’d worked so hard to buy.  And he gave him the money he’d saved for his return trip home.  The beggar was overjoyed and thanked the young man for his generous heart and kindness.  But now his giving heart was fearful as he looked down at the old clothes he’d worn on his travels.  Since he’d given away the only new clothes he had to the beggar, he was going to have to wear his old things to meet the king.  “Oh well,” he thought, “I’ve come too far to let anything stop me now.”  He was escorted into the palace and led down a long hallway to the king’s throne room.  As the huge doors opened before him, the young man stepped into the presence of the king.  There, seated on the throne, was the beggar wearing the clothes the young man had given him.  The king looked at his shocked visitor, threw open his arms and exclaimed, “Welcome, my son!” This old story illustrates Jesus’ teaching that He shares with us in the Gospel:  “Whatever you did for the least brothers of Mine, you did for Me” )Matthew 25:40).

We’ve all heard versions of God’s call for our generosity in countless stories like this one.  We’ve become so accustomed to the theme that we can often anticipate the ending.  I’m sure many of you felt that the old beggar was, in the end, going to be revealed to us as the king in disguise.  But there’s a difference between these old stories and real life.  In our everyday encounters with those in need, we don’t see the “big reveal” at the end.  We only see the poor in their poverty or the sick in their illness.  Blessed Mother Teresa  called what we see with our eyes as “the distressing disguise” that covers Christ.  She was able, with God’s grace, to see beyond that disguise and to see each person whom she encountered as Christ Himself.  What Blessed Teresa did is what we are all called to do — to bring care and compassion to our “least brothers.”  Sharing Christ’s love with others is how we build up the Body of Christ and how we, in our own way, assist Him in making His Kingdom among us.  This “hands-on” Christianity isn’t something reserved for the clergy and religious among us. 

If you profess to love Jesus, it isn’t optional.  Many of us support the work of those who care for the sick and the dying, who bring faith and comfort to the imprisoned, who provide housing and services to the poor and the immigrants among us.  This is a wonderful gift to the Lord’s people.  But it’s not enough.  We’re also called to care for the people we personally encounter in our daily lives.  The stranded motorist.  The mother struggling to find enough grocery money in the checkout line.  The elderly man who seems lost and confused.  The neighbor who lives alone and unvisited.  The ex-prisoner asking for a job.  The relative from whom we’re estranged.  Our response to the “least of our brothers” reveals the truth of our hearts and the depth of our relationship with Christ.  We’re called to eagerly, freely, openly and joyfully serve the people of God, expecting nothing in return.  The young man in our story did this.  And he was welcomed by the king he’d helped.  May we also be welcomed into the presence of our Lord and King, Whom we serve in love.

“Today the poor of our world are looking up at you.  Do you look back at them with compassion?  Do you have compassion for the people who are hungry?  They are hungry not only for bread and rice, they are hungry to be recognized as human beings.  They are hungry for you to know that they have their dignity and they want to be treated as you are treated.  They are hungry for love.”
                                         —Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997)


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Juan R. Velez
    Mar 07, 2012 @ 16:36:57

    How many young people are unmotivated, discouraged or in need of a father or mother figure? How many young or not so young married couples need good advice and support to be faithful? How many immigrants need welcome and an opportunity to work and learn English? Our Lord is waiting for us in each one of them.

    Judy, thanks again for helping us to see Christ in our midst.


  2. Marie Bernadette (@MbernadetteE)
    Mar 11, 2012 @ 13:46:57

    You’ve said it so eloquently, so well, and with such passion.
    Thank you.


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