Master, where do you live today? We have three rather comfortable places to find Jesus: the Church, its sacraments and Sacred Scripture. Theologian J. A. Mayoral comments: “If we stay in them only, we have stopped in the middle of the road, or we have only visited some rooms of the house of the Lord.” (We added a fourth place: Jesus’ Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist).

It has been repeated that the two main characteristics of the spirituality of Jesus are “his tender and intimate relationship with God,” and “his compassion for the poor, oppressed and suffering” (Richard Woods).

The Risen Lord is also present in all neighbors, and in our love for them: “Whoever loves his brother or sister lives in the light … But whoever hates another believer is in the darkness, walks in the darkness” (1 Jn 2:10-11). He is present primarily in the poor, the needy neighbors: “The most intimate room of the house of the Risen Lord is the room of the needy. He who does not discover this room, does not know the Lord very well, because then he can only have a superficial encounter with the Lord” (Mayoral).  In Jerusalem, the Three Wise Men asked: “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?” (Mt 2:2). Where? In Bethlehem, “in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (Lk 2:7).

          The Lord is present in those who are blessed. Who are the blessed or happy people?Blessed are the poor, the sorrowful, the humble, the hungry and thirsty for justice, and the pure of heart, the peaceful, those persecuted for the sake of justice…Why these are called “blessed”? Not because they are really blessed in themselves (they are not), or good, but “because God, His Father is going to give to them His kingdom, a kingdom denied to their most devout companions” (Mayoral).

          Today, as in the time of the prophets of the Old Testament, worship without justice/love is not true worship. This is what we are asked: “To act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with the Lord” (Mi 6:8; cf. Is 1:11, 15-17; Lk 10:25-37). Sacrifice without compassion is nothing! We are to imitate the compassion of Christ, who had “compassion on the crowd” (Mt 9:36). True compassion occupies the middle road between apathy and antipathy. It is accepting the others’ sufferings and doing something to remedy them.

We are accustomed to divide people between good and bad. Christ divided them between those who see and those who cannot see. The division between people who are good and people who are evil is not evangelical: “There are no evil people, but poor blind people who do not see – and deserve more compassion than anybody else (…) Many men are what they are, and do what they do, or suffer what they suffer, because others do not see” (Felicísimo Martinez). In general, as Spanish writer Carmen Martin Gaite put it, “people are not bad; they just suffer” ().

_____Jesus is present in the poor

and in those who help the poor ______

It is healthy – spiritually and ethically – to remember the Parable of the Last Judgment (cf. Mt 25:31-46). What are we doing for the poor persons around us? Jesus keeps telling us that these are His “proxies”: What you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do it to me,Jesus says. Peter Chrysologus: “Give to the poor and you give to yourself.”

          The “poor” are blessed. St. Vincent de Paul says: “Jesus is present in the poor and in the lovers of the poor.” The poor are redeemed because they are poor: fully, in those without reason, the mentally incapacitated, the gravely ill (X. Pikaza). Challenging words: “The poor, the sick, and the marginalized are to be treated in the same way as the priest treats the sacred host” (F. M. López Melús).

          The Lord lives today in many houses, or in one big house with many rooms. However, “He does not live in many other houses where we force Him to be” (Mayoral). Asking the Lord for His house entails to be ready to accompany Him to His house and to leave our own houses, or the rooms we continue staying in that are not the Lord’s. We try to accomplish these things by cultivating constantly a spirit that is detached and free, that is, the spirit of a nomad or a pilgrim. And we remember the Lord’s words: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Mt 8:20).

Jesus is really present in the Holy Eucharist, a presence closely connected with the Lord’s presence in the poor and downtrodden of the world. Words to ponder:

“Would you honor the body of Christ? Do not despise his nakedness; do not honor him here in the Church clothed in silk vestments and then pass him by unclothed and frozen outside. Remember that he who said ‘This is my Body’, and made good his words, also said, ‘You saw me hungry and gave me no food’, and, ‘in so far as you did it not to one of these, you did it not to me’ … I am not saying you should not give golden altar vessels and so on, but I am insisting that nothing can take the place of almsgiving. The Lord will not refuse to accept the first kind of gift but he prefers the second” (St. John Chrysostom).

We have to see Jesus, then, in the needy of our society, in the wretched of the world. What am I doing for the needy, the poor, the migrants, the abandoned children or the elderly, drug addicts, dead row convicts…?Today our Lord continues to be crucified in all these people! “Where were you when they crucified my Lord?”