I met my friend Darryl during my post-grad service experience working at the St. Margaret’s Center in South L.A. On one hot day in sunny Southern California everyone had taken a seat on the ground under the shade of the balcony, except for Darryl. It had to have been close to 90 degrees and yet he chose to sit under the pergola, dressed in jeans and a black hoodie. The sun which shone brightly through the wood beams highlighted the sweat glistening on his brow and the metal of the shopping cart he had with him. The cart held all of his possessions—clothes, some instant ramen noodles, and a small yappy chihuahua. After some time, the dog stopped yapping and Darryl was forced to take off his hoodie, revealing a shirt which looked like it had been doused by a fire hydrant.
Noticing this, I took a couple of water bottles out to Darryl and his dog. As they slowly came back to life, he began to tell me about himself and what brought him to the St. Margaret’s Center. In a very down-on-his-luck tone he told me that his landlord had stolen money from him and his girlfriend, evicting them. His girlfriend left to live with family in Las Vegas, leaving him with her chihuahua. Abandoned, he wandered the streets of South L.A. until he stumbled on the St. Margaret’s Center. What he told me seared itself into my memory, “God gave me Jesus, Jesus gave me hope, hope gave me you.”
Darryl embodied Paul’s prayer to the Ephesians that hot summer day. Paul says in 1:17-18, “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.” Darryl didn’t have much certainty about where he was going to sleep that night, what he was going to eat, or even how he was going to make his remaining 80 dollars last. None of that really mattered to him, he felt as though God had given him reason to hope.
As a graduate student of theology, I constantly must ask: What is the power of Jesus Christ? The simplest answer might be the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. While this is most certainly true, there is more. Jesus’ power also lies in the fact that His message of love continues to survive to this day—inspiring people to pursue vocations of service. The inspiration we have received from Jesus through our vocations helps make hope manifest in the world.
How many times have you been able to foster hope because of your graced position as a friend to someone in need? Have you had the privilege of walking with someone on their journey with grief? Have you had the opportunity to accompany someone experiencing doubt? Have you experienced the beauty of helping another know that they are loved and worthy of that love?
You can be the power of Jesus Christ in the world. You can be the beacons of light in a world that is filled with so much uncertainty. It is through us that Jesus’ power lives on to inspire hope in people for whom there might no longer be any light. God makes hope known to the world through the power of Jesus Christ which can be realized in each and every one of us.
Months after leaving my position at St. Margaret’s, I was walking home at night from the bus station when I saw Darryl again. As I approached I saw that he was wearing new clothes and looked like he had recently showered. He greeted me with a big hug and said “Christian! It’s so f******g good to see you again! Where have you been?” He then said, “I want you to know that I’ve got my own apartment now. I have a bed and the fridge is full! When I was sitting on that bench, no one was gonna talk to me. I was gonna leave when you came up to me with water. If it weren’t for you I wouldn’t have come back to get back on my feet... God gave me Jesus, Jesus gave me hope, hope gave me you.” Hearing again those words he told me months before, I burst into tears.
Paul’s prayer for us was that we might have the wisdom to know that God has manifested hope through the power of Jesus Christ. My prayer for us is this, that we may have the wisdom to know that we can be the power of Jesus Christ working in the world, inspiring hope for the hopeless.
Photo courtesy of Catholic Charities of Los Angeles