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Other persons are a gift

English Spanish Sr. Constance Veit Profile

A few days ago I met a very little girl who made a big impression on me. Grace and her older brother Benedict suffer from a rare genetic disorder that has resulted in serious hearing impairment and limited physical growth. The two come to our home for the elderly each week with their mother to pray the rosary with our residents. Watching Grace and Benedict interact with the elderly, I was amazed by their maturity and graciousness. I almost felt that I was in the presence of angels — such was the radiance of these two beautiful little ones in the midst of our frail seniors.

In all likelihood, Grace and Benedict will never make an impact on the world scene, and yet I believe that they, and so many other little, hidden souls, make a huge difference in our world spiritually. This is what our Holy Father is suggesting by his Lenten message this year. The theme he has proposed for our 2017 journey through Lent is “The Word Is a Gift. Other Persons Are a Gift.

Using the parable of Lazarus and the rich man from St. Luke’s Gospel, Pope Francis turns our attention to those whom we might usually ignore. He compares the anonymity of the rich man, who is never named in Scripture, with Lazarus, who appears with a specific name and a unique story. Lazarus “becomes a face, and as such, a gift, a priceless treasure, a human being whom God loves and cares for, despite his concrete condition as an outcast.”

The Holy Father continues, “Lazarus teaches us that other persons are a gift. A right relationship with people consists in gratefully recognizing their value.” Lent, he says, is a favorable season for recognizing the face of Christ in God’s little ones. “Each of us meets people like this every day,” says the pope. “Each life that we encounter is a gift deserving acceptance, respect and love. The word of God helps us to open our eyes to welcome and love life, especially when it is weak and vulnerable.”

This is what our foundress St. Jeanne Jugan did so beautifully. Mindful of Christ’s promise that whatever we do to the least of his brothers and sisters we do to him, she opened her heart and her home definitively to the needy elderly of her day. She often counseled the young Little Sisters, “Never forget that the poor are Our Lord … When you will be near the poor give yourself wholeheartedly, for it is Jesus himself whom you care for in them.”

Jeanne Jugan looked upon each elderly person with the loving gaze of Christ and so she saw each one as a treasure worthy of reverence and loving care. She knew that despite outward appearances, each person to whom she offered hospitality was someone for whom Christ died and rose again; each one was someone worthy of the gift of her own life.

Pope Francis’ prayer this Lent is that the Holy Spirit will lead us “on a true journey of conversion, so that we can rediscover the gift of God’s word, be purified of the sin that blinds us, and serve Christ present in our brothers and sisters in need.” Let us pray for one another, he concluded, “so that by sharing in the victory of Christ, we may open our doors to the weak and the poor. Then we will be able to share to the full the joy of Easter.”

I thank God for my recent encounter with Grace and Benedict, for they opened my eyes anew to the beauty in each human person. My wish for you this Lent is that God lead might you to a similar life-changing encounter.

Sr. Constance Veit
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Comments from readers

Sister Lidia Valli - 03/14/2017 11:39 PM
Thank you, Sister Constance. At the Marian Center, we have taken to the heart the message of Pope Francis and with our students and adults, we are going to raise our monetary sacrifices in order to help a family of five from Immokalee, with a mother chronically sick and five children, one of which has Down syndrome. It is our way to see others as a gift. Have a Holy Season of Lent.
Dan - 03/14/2017 09:40 AM
Hi Carlos! I�m a Let's Talk blogger and read your comment which piqued my interest! I�d never heard this before! Isn�t it interesting how tradition gives names to biblical personalities that go unnamed in scripture. The penitent thief is named Dismas, the roman soldier who pierced Jesus side is named Longinus and the three wise men have been named Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. None of these names are in the Bible. And as you point out, neither is Epulon. I did some research on Epulon and found that, according to Wikipedia: �In some European countries, the Latin description dives (Latin for "the rich man") is treated as his proper name: Dives. In Italy, the description epulone (Italian for "banquetter") is also used as a proper name. Both descriptions appear together, but not as a proper name, in Peter Chrysologus's sermon De divite epulone (Latin "On the Rich Banquetter"), corresponding to the verse, "There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day�.� It seems that the Italian word for �banquetter� (epulone) eventually became his proper name. Thanks for teaching me something new! I welcome you to visit my blog www.MassExplained.com and perhaps I can return the favor! Blessings, -Dan
Carlos R Medina - 03/13/2017 04:08 PM
It is true that the rich man's name does not appear in Luke's gospel (the only place in the whole Bible where this story is told) and that should be enough to support your article. However, when I took Historia Sagrada in my second/third grade (65 yrs ago), the rich man's name was reported in the text book as EPULON. I say this not to argue your article, but just for information to all. Nothing official, Luke's gospel is the real story/parable.
J - 03/13/2017 03:19 PM
Dear Sr. Constance Veit and fellow Catholics, I truly appreciate your blessed thoughts in this article. I'm in total agreement with all the stated principles. It is challenging on a daily basis to look and see Jesus in each one of us. However, not only are we different in many ways but a cog in the wheel of our Lord's complex design. We never know when Jesus or one of his Angels will visit us in a different form or disguise. I submit to you for your perusal that during this Holy season we should strive to treasure every person with "reverence and loving care" as perfectly announced within this beautifully written composition. Blessings, and in Unity,

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