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He has nowhere to lay His head
A reflection on changed plans
I want to tell you about a man named Mike.
A few weeks ago, on a particularly free day, I decided to pay a visit to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
I had every intention of going to one particular chapel. But when I shared my plans to go pray, I was asked to tack on a few errands since I was out. It didn’t matter where I ended up going as long as I got the errands done.
In a quick moment of decision, I decided to go to a different chapel instead—one that would be a lot closer to the errands I was running and require less driving.
About 30 minutes into my visit, a man walked in. He looked visibly tired, upset, and obviously caught in the rain. Slowly and deliberately, he walked towards the tabernacle to bow before Jesus. He then shuffled over to a chair in the corner.
One by one, other people who were praying in the chapel began to leave, eventually leaving just him and I.
I sat still. He was shaking. He was also crying.
I looked into my bag and had Kleenex on hand—a miracle in its own right, because even though I am a Frequent Crier™, I usually fail to have any kind of tissues on hand.
My mind was racing while I trained my eyes ahead at the Blessed Sacrament, wondering if I should offer him a tissue. After what felt like an eternity passed, I walked over to him and held out a tissue to him.
He took the tissue and thanked me. Then, without missing a beat, he said, “I try not to cry so as to bother people.”
Oh man, do I know that feeling.
We started talking quietly. While I couldn’t make out most of what he was saying, a few things jumped out: His name was Mike, he’s lived in the area for a long time, he was homeless, and he’s suffered tremendously. Sickness, illness, and many nights wondering why God continued to let him live. We prayed together, and before he left, he thanked me again for taking the time to be kind.
When he left the chapel, I found myself feeling heartbroken and fishing for tissues myself. There was something so profound and raw in the barely 10 minute conversation we had, and it broke me.
“Why, in the midst of my pain, does God let me live?” is the question that Mike asked.
This question, and my interaction with Mike, continue to weigh on my heart. The perennial question of the existence of suffering in the world is one that, even after all the apologetics and theology have been put on the table, still leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
Lord, have mercy.
After Mike left that day, I was reminded of the words of Jesus to an eager scribe who wanted to follow Him: “[T]he Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20, NRSV).
Christ, have mercy.
I was also reminded of the many times where I was the priest and the Levite on the road (cf. Luke 10:25-37): I walked around a person who needed help, turning the other way, looking for something—anything—that wouldn’t weigh so heavily on my conscience.
Lord, have mercy.
I can’t say for certain, but I want to believe that God prompted a quick change of my own plans so that I could encounter Mike.
This particular day, God was inviting me to step outside of myself and talk to someone who had very, very different life circumstances from my own. And yet, in our brief conversation, I came to see that we weren’t so different: At different times, we’ve questioned why suffering existed in our lives. But all the same, we both needed Jesus for our healing, and so we came to the Divine Physician who could minister to the wounds of our heart and soul.
Today, I ask you to join me in praying for Mike and for many others who find themselves in similar situations. They may not have a family to go back to or a place to lay their own head at the end of the day. And even if we think we have nothing left to give, let us try to give the love that Christ has poured into us.
In Jesus Master,