Recognizing a Hoodlum

Jesus of Nazareth as portrayed by Robert Powell in famous movie

Whether or not we want to admit it, each one of us is prejudiced and has preconceived notions of how people should look and how they might behave. One relevant example is the recent controversy pertaining to young people who cover their heads with hoodies. Although there is really nothing inherently wrong in a hooded sweatshirt, in recent years many people associate this act as being linked to crime and juvenile delinquency. Some schools even now forbid the wearing of this type of garment in their dress code. Unfortunately threats to security are profiled. Experience, culture, teachings, and the natural instinct to protect oneself can make one wary of certain types.

We can’t always judge someone by their appearance. 

Irony exists in the fact that as a middle-aged woman, I myself might occasionally wear my sweatshirt hood on the street when being caught up in a gust of cold Chicago wind and rain on my walk to the drug store. I remember as a kid sitting around the campfire with my sweats pulled up over my head in the wilderness.This form of stretchy cotton/polyester is not only warm and comfortable, but also usually cheap. On the other hand, some designer and sports sweats can be quite pricey as everyone knows. Some kids indeed might actually be wearing this type of garment to keep their heads warm in cold climates. Others might put them on to show their team spirit. 

Interestingly, the use of various types of hoods traditionally has been associated with honor. It is characteristic of the coveted doctorate graduation gown. Also many religious orders have habits that include the wearing of a hood. Many of the Saints and even the Blessed Virgin Mary have been depicted having something on their head.  We might all recall seeing many images of Jesus with such.  In fact, the infamous veil of Veronica was used to wipe Christ’s face.

Sometimes it is difficult to recognize people.

Some people make a living by trying to weed out suspicious looking characters. Anyone who has gone through airport security knows this. As a woman with two children, I have been pulled out of the line to be “specially” screened by physical pat down on numerous occasions, with my husband waiting by patiently. When my son was a toddler, his stuffed animal was even frisked and scanned. I’m always amused by the language used to inform me of my special selection. Either I was yelled at or approached like I had won the lottery. I remember a Franciscan friend of mine who wore a habit through security was detained because of his suspicious looking rosary making tool.

We have all seen and heard of millionaires who dress and look like homeless. Even movie stars try to hide under shades and big hats. Would anyone be able to pick out a secret agent who had an ear piece and a trench coat? What about identifying someone who might look like a member of the Mob? I remember seeing a lot of Godfather look alikes in Rome.

Recognizing Jesus

A familiar story in the Gospel is when the Disciples are on the road to Emmaus and don’t recognize Jesus. An interesting point of this Sunday’s Gospel (April 22, 2012) is that the Disciples realize Jesus being present amongst them once He breaks bread (Luke 24:35-43):

The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way,
and how Jesus was made known to them
in the breaking of bread.

While they were still speaking about this,
he stood in their midst and said to them,
“Peace be with you.”
But they were startled and terrified
and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have.”
And as he said this,
he showed them his hands and his feet.
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
They gave him a piece of baked fish;
he took it and ate it in front of them

The recognizing of Jesus through the breaking of the bread foreshadows what those of us believers experience when we participate in Communion.  The Eucharist is known as the source and summit of the Christian life.  It is through the Eucharist that we receive graces to know Jesus on much deeper levels.

Jesus can be known to us in our hearts

We can receive Him through the Eucharist. We can know Jesus on an intimate level in our hearts. We can also recognize Him in the face of strangers and of those in need. Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta loved the poor because she could see the face of Christ in them.Through her works she was able to love Jesus through others.  Unfortunately many people fail to realize that each human being was created in the likeness and image of God.  It is an exercise to recognize the face of Jesus even in the most unlikely neighbor.

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