The wallpaper image on my smartphone is a photo that I took of another photo that was part of an exhibit during World Youth Day in 2016. It’s a black and white image of a young Missionary of Charity bathing the emaciated body of a woman whom the sisters rescued from dying on the streets of an urban slum somewhere in the world. Above the sister is a framed picture of the deposition of Christ from the cross, and written on the wall is the phrase “Body of Christ.” It’s a powerful image, and reminds us why that young sister is doing what she is doing for the sick person lying before her. For her, it is Christ. Her love for the Lord allows her to spend her life doing for others what seems impossible.
Looking at that image again, I thought of how parents do things like that all the time for their children. The love they have for their kids enables them to change dirty diapers, wipe runny noses, and clean up when someone gets sick – things that might have turned their stomach before, now they suddenly can do. It’s because they love their children.
But as every parent knows, sometimes a kid doesn’t want you to change their diaper. It could be a horrendous mess, and yet the kid fights you and squirms around, trying to kick you off. It tries your patience, but you still love them. And if you’ve ever been to a convent run by the Missionaries of Charity, you know that the people they care for can be very difficult. Sometimes in their misery they shout curses and blaspheme as they resist the kindness the sisters are trying to show them. But the sisters still strive to love these poor souls, reminding themselves and each other that this is Christ.
The image of the sister bathing the sick person on the floor of the convent is particularly moving because it’s not like that. Rather, you can see how the poor woman has surrendered herself to the care of the sister. There is a tenderness in the expression of the sister, and a look of peace on the face of the woman. It reminded me of the times I’ve seen my sisters and their husbands changing the diapers of their kids, exchanging smiles and laughter.
These things give some insight into the way God loves us. In the Lord’s eyes, we are the ones with the dirty diaper, with a runny nose, covered in our own sick. We are the ones lying on the street of some slum. He finds us there, looks at us with loving concern, desperately wanting to help us. Gently, He calls our name and reaches to lift us up – even as we resist, kicking and screaming all the while. What joy there is when we finally surrender our hearts to Him, looking at Him with love and gratitude, and say: “What a mess I am, Lord! And how kind You are to care for me.”