The challenge to encounter Christ in those around us

Lauren RamseyerBY LAUREN RAMSEYER
ASSISTANT EDITOR

How often do we truly encounter another person? How often is the empty “How are you?” followed by an equally as hollow “Fine, thanks. How are you?” In the midst of texts, calls, social media, homework, television — do we actually take the time to know someone?

As I was interviewing the students from Gibraltar (Jeremy Duo and Christopher Cortés) about their perspective on American and Franciscan culture, this is something to which they called my attention. Duo mentioned how hard it is to truly get to know an American, even at such a friendly place as Franciscan University.

He spoke about how he would meet and talk with a person for an extensive amount of time, and then the next day, that person would not even recognize him on the sidewalk. While this could be a momentary memory lapse, I believe it to be a cultural oddity that Americans adopt at a young age, and it took someone from another culture and continent to bring it to our attention. Why does this matter?

We are always pursuing a more perfect encounter with Christ through regular reception of the sacraments and continuous prayer, but what about encountering him through our brothers and sisters? Lent should be the time when we stretch our spiritual muscles and perhaps our social muscles as well.

As Pope Francis said in his Lenten message, “Lent is a favorable time for showing this concern for others by small yet concrete signs of our belonging to the one human family.”

Christ did not call us to be little secluded islands, far away from the rest of bustling humanity. Humans are social creatures meant for interaction, emotion and love. Pope Francis instead called the members of the church to be “islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference.”

Instead of just this air of apathy toward those around us, we should be challenging this closed-off culture – one interaction at a time.

The pope urged us to seek after “a heart which is firm and merciful, attentive and generous, a heart which is not closed, indifferent or prey to the globalization of indifference.”

As we are approaching the end of Lent, I challenge you to truly encounter your Franciscan family. Make eye contact and share a smile with those you pass on the sidewalk every day. Have a real conversation with someone that lasts more than a span of five minutes. Get out of your comfort zone and befriend someone sitting alone during lunch.

It may sound insignificant compared to the terrible strife going on in the world, but it seems that the lack of love, kindness and virtue begins with the tiny roots of indifference.

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