At Mass this past Sunday, Father Bob Werth challenged us to find Jesus in our lives and not let Easter Sunday be a single-day celebration.
Many of the parishioners responded with stories of obstacles overcome and prayers answered. And then, one man expressed his guilt at failing to see Jesus in the pleas of a homeless man who had been a constant presence at Our Lady of the Americas Church.
Last month, Cleveland Green died.
I admit to sharing in the parishioner’s guilt for failing to remember Jesus’ words: "Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me." (Matthew 25:40)
Cleveland, known to some of us as "Stevie," could barely communicate. He shuffled around and begged parishioners for money. His clothes reeked.
My husband treated him with compassion. He brought him a coat and often gave him a few dollars. When my husband could not attend Mass, Cleveland would approach me.
And I would deny him.
The entire congregation struggled with what to do about the situation because Cleveland had become more aggressive and started begging during Mass. Father Werth asked mental-health professionals and local police officers for advice.
We never did come up with a solution, and Cleveland stopped coming around. My husband wondered if he was upset with us.
We never had the chance to say we were sorry if we had hurt him.
So, I can only pray that as he sits with Jesus in heaven, Cleveland forgives parishioners like me who failed to help him.
I admit I write all this to allay my guilt. But I also hope the story will help us all to open up and see when Jesus is standing right before our eyes.