It was the unlikeliest of situations for someone to discover that Jesus exists, though not in the way Tim had anticipated. He had grown up in a semi-religious Catholic family and was a faithful child to his parents but his upbringing was void of viewing the world through a lens of faith. Any claim to formalized religion was attendance at a funeral or Christmas at best. Admittedly, Jesus was an idea but not a reality for Tim because no one had ever explained the necessity of believing in the man called Christ.
As a result, the transition into adulthood only strengthened Tim’s understanding of life solely focused on satisfying his pleasures and desires. The formulation of Tim’s worldview is understandable owing to his upbringing and personal life choices that involved satisfying his vices at the expense of other human beings. However, one day, while eating at a local restaurant he noticed a gentleman make a gesture before preparing to enjoy his meal. Tim was struck with curiosity by this man’s actions and wanted to know why he did what he did. Without hesitation, he walked over to the gentleman and politely asked, him “Why did you do that?” The gentleman somewhat confused looked at him and said, “Do you mean the prayer I said before my meal?” He said, yes, “why did you do that?” Smiling, the gentleman said, “I never know when my last meal on earth will be so I give thanks to our Lord Jesus for the food he has provided. Every meal is a gift and an opportunity to thank Him for this gift.”
Tim was spiritually struck by how the gentleman answered his question. But what drew Tim’s curiosity even more was the gentlemen’s demeanor toward Tim, the man in the restaurant was tired and appeared spiritually beaten but, in the end, expressed a sense of gratitude and joy as he answered Tim’s questions. Tim wanted to know how someone so visibly beaten could still acknowledge Jesus Christ in his own life through a simple meal. The irony of this encounter was that Tim also felt this way but would not even think of thanking anyone let alone Jesus.
The encounter with the man at the restaurant gnawed at Tim because of the sense of joy he witnessed from him. An unassuming, and unexpected encounter suddenly became the focal point in his life. It bothered him, leaving him with the question of how this man during his meal could exhibit such joy and belief in Jesus Christ amidst his visible state of suffering. Tim asked himself, “If his experience is true, then I need to find Him, please someone help me find Him.” The result of this encounter started Tim on a journey to find “Him”-the Son of God Jesus Christ.
Please help me find him
Jesus reminds us that whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple. What Tim witnessed from the man in the restaurant was someone who in his eyes exemplified a disciple of Jesus from the simple gesture of praying before his meal and how he was received by him with great joy and affection. The experience helped him understand the meaning behind the greatest commandment to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. When Jesus speaks of his pending death in the Gospel of St. John, he reminds his followers that:
He who believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me. And he who sees me sees him who sent me. I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects me and does not receive my sayings has a judge; the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority; the Father who sent me has himself given me commandment what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has bidden me.
It is important to note that what eventually brought Tim back to the Catholic Church was not a program of evangelization or the latest discipleship-building product but an encounter with Jesus Christ through the witness of a simple man at a restaurant. Some may claim that Tim was already trending toward a stage of curiosity in his search for Jesus but when I spoke to him months later, he assured me that this was not the case, he was simply in a desolate place not looking to have a relationship with Christ until he saw the man pray before his meal. At that moment, Tim began to walk away from himself and die to Christ knowing that he does have a relationship with him, he indeed has found the Messiah Jesus Christ the Savior of the World, he found Him.
Now this I affirm and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their minds; they are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart; they have become callous and have given themselves up to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of uncleanness. You did not so learn Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus. Put off the old man that belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new man, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.