Approaching the Cathedral for Mass, we arrived early. The previous service had not yet finished. 5 minutes past. 10 minutes past. Nearly 30 minutes after the service was scheduled to begin, a noticeable assembly started to gather. Was it finally time for their service to end and ours to begin? Amidst the chaos, smoke slowly billowed out the door, incense clearing the way for a Eucharistic Procession. Just as we were planning to enter, Jesus was leaving. The assembly followed, marching towards the streets and headed to various places through Bungoma town—hospitals, schools, and the city center. Christ left his home and was going to the people.
Alone now in the massive Cathedral, the emptied pews echoed the silence. Waiting, wondering, will there be another service? Greeting us at the steps, a nun asked, “Why didn’t you follow Jesus?” We explained, “we were waiting for the third mass.” “Sorry,” she explained, “we are not having a third mass today. You should have followed Jesus through the streets. If you want, you can wait here for him?”
“Why didn’t you follow Jesus through the streets?”
What a profoundly poignant question.
So often, we look for Christ in the Cathedrals, in the mighty majesty of the divine and ornate. Christ is certainly present there. Locked behind golden tabernacles, Jesus is enshrined behind bars in the chambers of the great Basilicas. A prisoner of our own design, Christ and all things sacred are limited to the pristine. But what about Christ in the shit, vomit, and sweat?
The image of the sacred procession is a reminder to get out to the streets. To adore Christ in the hospitals, prisons, schools, homeless, and crowded city markets.
As I laugh with chalk-covered hands and holler over cocking rosters, Christ is surely present in the students’ smiles and cheers.
In the backseat of a van, Xaverian Brothers caravan street kids from an event celebrating the African child. In the bumpiness of the roads and the heat of a packed van, nausea sets in, and a young boy’s vomit fills his lap. Christ is certainly present in the comforting arm, the dirtied rag, and the kind words of the Brother’s reassurance.
Confusion of directions and the need for a quick change required me to make a turn without signaling. Frustrated by my actions, a passenger bike followed closely, furious by my actions. Through curses in multiple languages, we reassured him of the mistake, but it wasn’t until a random truck driver intervened did tempers calm. Christ was certainly in the compassionate, understanding, and gentle voice of that stranger.
In nursing homes, living rooms, and make-shift hospitals, people around the world comfort the sick, elderly, diseased, and dying. Christ is certainly present in the soiled hand of those who humbly clean the bodies and rear-ends of others.
As Christ turned the corner onto the street and the chorus of voices followed, I simply watched and waited for his return. A return that never came.
Christians are inspired to wait for the return of Christ. Perhaps it is time that we stop waiting and begin to follow Christ into the streets?
If we want to bring about the coming of Christ, we must become Christ for the world today. As a poor immigrant, Christ would certainly find himself more at home in the filthy streets of the world than in the mighty golden domes we chained him to.
The nun was right, “Why haven’t we followed Jesus through the streets?”
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