Christ’s gift of love can be our gift to others

by Robert J. Foertsch


Robert J. Foertsch

I bought John a cup of coffee the other day.

I met John out on the sidewalk as I was walking around the downtown area of a large city in the U.S. John and I made eye contact, he approached me, and we began to engage in conversation. He told me about the architecture of the city all around me. He had an eye for these things, you see.

After about 20 minutes of conversation, John asked me if I would be willing to buy him a cup of coffee. I said sure, and we approached the local coffee house.

John and I entered the coffee shop and immediately I noticed that the clerk was unhappy. “He’s got money; he’s just conning you!” the clerk shouted to us. John got his paper cup and filled it with coffee, while I approached the clerk to pay with the clerk grumbling the whole time. The clerk was frustrated and angry that I was buying John some coffee. “He does this all the time,” the clerk said. John and I eventually exited the store, said goodbye and went our separate ways.

It is easy for us to misjudge situations and people, and this is the error of the clerk. The clerk put John in the category of homeless, lazy, a con man, without actually encountering him. The clerk put a false image in his head of the man without ever engaging John.

How often do we do the exact same thing? We say things like “I will not give money to the homeless because they’ll just spend it on booze or drugs.” Or perhaps, “My spouse underappreciates me because…” We quickly force our own preconceived understanding on so many people without ever simply receiving the other person.

Is this how God judges? Is this how God loves? Of course not. We as Christians are called to move beyond our own natural fallible powers into acting with supernatural grace. To love as God loves, such that when one gives to those in need, we see Christ in the other person, and our free gift of love to the other is a gift to Christ. When we give ten dollars to a man on the street, we freely give ten dollars to Christ. When we see our spouse eating cereal at the breakfast table in the morning, we see Christ in our spouse, and we love Christ in our spouse.

Ironically, if God judged us fairly, there would be no Christmas; we would already be condemned. Our first parents had fallen into sin through Original Sin, and I have a multitude of sins to append onto the list. Yet in God’s superabundant love for us, he sends Christ to us to redeem us in spite of what we deserve.

Perhaps this can be our call this Christmas season, to cast aside our preconceived notions and false judgements and ask God for the grace to see as he sees, and the courage to act as he acts. Jesus pours out love upon all who ask for it, and so should we.

I’ll leave you with these words from the 25th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew: “‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me’” (Mt 25:37-40).

Foertsch is a Theology I seminarian at St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver, Colo.

Editor’s Note: Seminarian Life is a monthly column written by current Diocese of Fargo seminarians. It gives New Earth readers a glimpse of what these discerning young men are experiencing. Please continue to pray for them.