“Whatever you did to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me” (Mt 26:40). This sentence from the Gospel is the most definitive word on what a human being is. This definition is no less scandalous than Jesus declaring himself Son of God. In the name of their personal freedom, identity and uniqueness, human beings think that they have a right to contest the fact that they are so identified with Jesus Christ. Human beings want to be loved for themselves, for who they are, and not to be degraded as some sort of mask for Jesus. Human beings fear that the “bit more” of love that they receive out of love for Jesus might not take them into account, might rob them of the love they need and desire for themselves.
But who could neglect their neighbours while trying to love Jesus in them (and in this way also neglect Jesus)? And who could claim that acknowledging the presence of Jesus in others means diminishing their human dignity; in that case they have not understood the presence of Jesus in their neighbours. Since Jesus has identified himself with humankind – God himself who is Love – he has also identified himself with every individual human being. But love is never an affirmation of oneself that consumes and annihilates others. It’s something that gives of itself, and, in its self-giving, provides others with the freedom to be themselves.
Jesus never leaves me alone. He is on my side, he accepts me just as I am, and whatever concerns me, also concerns Him. I remain myself. Indeed, I become my fullest self precisely because I never remain alone. The mystery of Christ is the mystery of every human being. What does this mean for the people I meet, and what does it mean for me and my life?
For what regards other people, it means that I am never dealing merely with a link in the chain, a cog in the wheel, or just a number in the huge numbers of people that exist. Each time I look upon a human face, I meet God in his unconditioned state, I encounter that voice that still declares over the face of every human being, what was said of Jesus during the Transfiguration on that mountaintop: “This is my beloved son!” (Mk 9:7). There are no exceptions… A human cannot rob itself of its ultimate reality. Whether he is a criminal or a scoundrel, I can never again write him off as a lost case. I encounter Christ in every person not because the person is good or deserving, not even because he or she draws upon the divine light in their personal lives, but because God has irrevocably adopted them as his own sons and daughters.
Certainly the human being is immense because of the Divine life that he and she have let into their souls because of their personal choice to believe, which took place in baptism in the name of Jesus. Belonging to Jesus is something “automatic.” When a person is born, Christ has already assumed into himself that person’s living and dying, fault and self-inflicted wounds: everything is assumed into the life and death of Christ who gave his life for each one of us. This is why we encounter Jesus in every human being.
And we encounter him in a particular way in the least, in those who seem to be farthest from Him, in the people in whom his face seems to be most overshadowed. Why? Because on the cross, during his abandonment by God, even becoming sin (2 Cor 5:21), Jesus identified himself with what is farthest from God, what seems most opposed to God. [It is only by] discovering Christ in our neighbours and giving to each of them that human love with which you turn towards every neighbour, with an indivisible love that is therefore directed to Christ himself, that will enable every neighbour to discover his and her own identity with Jesus, their own nearness to Jesus, being completely assumed by Him.”
(From “Offene Weltformel”, by Klaus Hemmerle, Neue Stadt, 1970)