Most of us have never heard of Greg Boyle. But Greg Boyle is a Catholic priest living in Los Angeles California. He leads an organization called homeboy industries which helps gangsters change their lives. When Greg was just beginning as a priest, he was sent to a little town in South America. His bishop then asked him to hold a service, a mass, high up on a mountain platue near his town so that the poor farmers in that area could receive communion. So he got his things and took the bus. And after two hours of a three hour trip, he realized he had forgotten his ritual book. He was filled with fear and shame as he realized he would have to try give the service by memory and in Spanish. To make matters worse, when he arrived there were over 200 people waiting for him to celebrate the mass. He hacked his way through it, making mistake after mistake. After it had ended, feeling like the most unworthy priest to have ever lived, he changed his clothes and put away the chalice. When he looked up, everyone had left, not a soul in sight! Already feeling like a failure, he realized that there was no one to take him to the bus stop and he would have to walk. It had just started to rain.
Then, seemingly from out of nowhere, a tiny man appeared in front of him. He was old. There were wrinkles on every part of his face. He looked like one of the farmers from that area with a hat and sandles. His feet were caked with mud. In the midst of Greg’s despair, this strange man came write up to him, smiliing and with a gleam in his eye, he said, ‘muchas gracias, padre’. This little old man then put his hands into his pockets and pulled out two hand-fulls of fresh rose petals.
In the mud and the rain, He anointed Greg with rose petals.*
Dear friends, we can be strengthened by stories like this. For even though this kind of meeting may not have happened to us, it can remind us that perhaps there is nothing more important today then to trust that outward appearances are not the whole story. That there is a hidden world in what appears as the world. That even when we see all around us the mud and the rain of increasing turmoil, untruthfullness and despair; even when we feel like the accused adultress in our gospel this week (Jn 8) or that our efforts don’t seem to be making a difference, Christ sees differently. Christ sees our heart’s core.
May we learn to see what He sees. May we learn to feel His presence in the mud of our world, like rose petals anointing us in the rain.
*Rudolf Steiner often mentions that in our time, Christ can appear to us like a normal person, in a moment of real despair or need. He will help us and then disappear. We will think it was a normal person but in reality it will have been Him.