He was sitting on a bench on the subway platform. As Sister and I approached him, his head was down and his shoulders hunched over. We had two carts with us—one filled with hot meals and the other with wrapped gifts. “Would you like a lunch?” Sister asked him. He looked up and accepted the offer. One of his eyelids was black and blue and swollen. “Merry Christmas!” We said, handing him one of the gifts. “Is it Christmas?” he asked. “It’s Christmas Eve,” we answered.
Seeing what was happening, another man approached and asked for a lunch and also a prayer. We asked the two men what their names were. The second man was Robert and the first man was Israel. Standing there on the subway platform we bowed our heads and said a prayer.
It was a brief encounter, but my heart was deeply moved. Throughout the rest of the day, Israel’s question kept going through my mind, “Is it Christmas?” I was so struck that he didn’t know it was Christmas Eve. For four full weeks of Advent, we were preparing our hearts for Christmas in the convent—singing Advent hymns, lighting one more candle on the Advent wreath each week and wrapping gifts for our Christmas ministries, but Israel did not know that it was Christmas Eve. I kept thinking about him the rest of the day.
Israel—the name of God’s chosen people, the people God had chosen to be His own. This man, Israel, too, was chosen and loved by God, but did he know?
That night we gathered for Christmas Eve Mass. During the consecration, the priest elevated the chalice filled with the Precious Blood of Jesus and in my heart, I placed Israel into the chalice with Jesus, offering him to the Father, praying that God, the One who loves him perfectly, would embrace His son, Israel, and reveal to him that he too, just like the Israelites of the Old Testament, is chosen and loved.
Sr. Mae Therese, CFR