Thursday, October 18, 2012
A Place Fit for a King
A Place Fit for a King
Last week I had dinner in a small Chinese restaurant. I was alone and apparently early, since the food had yet to be set out and arranged. The waitress was very apologetic and made a fuss over me, telling me that she would rush and asked that I just be patient. Which I was. I had no place to go. I had my camera with me and asked if I could take pictures of the dining area, for the light was subdued and I thought the pictures would be nice. She smiled and said she would arrange the tables in whatever way I liked. I said no, everything was fine. And so I took pictures. And soon she brought the food I ordered, and it was good.
I never got the name of the waitress and, besides, I am not too good anymore with remembering names. But I remember her face. She had a large growth on the right side of her face and it was discolored, the color of a plum. Her smile and friendly demeanor diminished the outward disfigurement on her face. But I wonder what it had cost her in life. When I left, she called after to me to come back, come back soon.
I knew a woman in my past parish who was hesitant to meet me at first. She said she wanted to meet me but asked that we put that off a while. She had read something I had written and wanted to talk about it. So, we chatted several times on the phone and one day she said she would come to the rectory. The day came and the doorbell rang and when I opened the door I understood her hesitation. She had tumors all over her face and they were so large that they almost grew over her eyes. I was to find out later that she had undergone many surgeries to avoid that happening. She asked me if I was shocked and I said no. From then on, we went out to lunch every now and then. At the time, she was much older than me. She was very well read and interesting. She had worked for years for an insurance company in Newark but was then retired. She lived alone. She once told me that no one had ever kissed her. She insisted on paying for the lunches and sometimes did. She was a beautiful woman.
Faces reveal but also hide. They may reveal what we think to be beauty. A pretty face can be attractive or it can be fatal. A person lives within, a person who always struggles to live with what is seen on the outside. We all know, if for no other reason that we have heard it so often, that beauty is only skin deep. But we need to be reminded of that over and over again, to better learn to see beyond appearances, beyond color or race or nationality or disfigurements.
It is Christ the King Sunday. We all want to be people who resemble the King, the image that we have of Jesus. But Jesus is not Hollywood. We believe that the presence of God is in everyone. It is the presence who is disfigured, who wants to help us get the perfect picture in a Chinese restaurant and who insists on paying the bill. God chose to be like us in all things. He takes on our lives, including our wounds, our many inabilities, our disfigurements.
Where is this King, asked Herod.
He is here, in our midst, making sure things are right, just right, hoping that we come back again and again to share his table, to take a picture, to buy him lunch.