The Forgotten Face of God
by Fr. Kwang-Kyu Ji
Fr. Kwang-Kyu is from Korea who did his First Mission Assignment here in the Philippines in 2012.
I came back from Korea to the Philippines on March 26, 2018 and was assigned to Our Lady of Remedies Parish for eight months. I could only celebrate English Mass because I have yet to take a refresher course in Tagalog. With no opportunities to practice, I forgot many Tagalog words while I was in Korea.
One day, I was assigned to visit the sick. With two members of the Legion of Mary, I was to give Eucharist to the sick. They asked me, “Father, shall we visit a child first before going to the area in Malate? The child wants to receive Holy Communion.” They brought me to a street where a small child (13 yrs old) and his mother were living in a tent. His name is Mark. When I saw him, he was in a wheelchair, so weak and thin as a rail. I was quite shocked to see this little child suffering from terrible illness and poverty. I didn’t know what to do. I could not imagine such a scene on the road.
Overwhelmed by Mark’s situation I asked God, “Why is this happening to the one who loves you? Why do you allow tragedy and suffering? Why have you abandoned your beloved children?”
Amidst the noise on the street, I said a prayer. After saying the “Our Father”, I said to Mark, “Katawan ni Kristo” and gave him the Eucharist. At that moment, his face shone so brightly. I saw God in Mark’s face. It was God’s wonderful surprise for me. Suddenly, I felt guilty and embarrassed. But His radiant face glowed in the darkness of my heart. His pure heart penetrated the depths of my soul.
This was the first time I gave the sacrament on the road. I gazed at Mark and he smiled at me. It was a wonderful experience of joy and comfort. At such unexpected moments, God shines out beyond one’s imagination.
At the end of our prayer, Mark asked me for my portable fan with a shy and apologetic expression. It was a present I received from some Korean youths. I did not hesitate to give the fan to him, thinking that those who gave it to me would be delighted to know that their gift has helped someone alleviate the heat in a sweltering road.
It was raining hard the next time I found Mark. His mother moved him to a trolley and brought it inside the tent to keep Mark from being soaked in the rain. The combined heat from the ground and the cold weather caused by the rain was making the child suffer. I couldn’t do anything but gave him some bread.
Whenever I pass that road, Mark looks at me with a smile and waves his hand. The child’s small gesture and bright smile, re-invigorate the love of God engraved in me and remind me of His forgotten face.
God’s presence often appears when we least we expect it. We see God in the eager face of a child who is still capable of smiling amidst his suffering. We encounter God who comes to us as a piece of bread in the mystery of the Mass, which we often ignore. We sometimes forget how to recognize the face of God, how to feel his presence. Despite all this, we should always remember that God is with us all the time.
Our Lady of Remedies Church, Malate
This picture was taken at dawn during the “Salubong” procession – an early morning encounter of the risen Christ with the Blessed Mother on Easter Sunday
(photo courtesy of Mr. Mel Bacani III)