Mr. Breen was in his seventies, a cantankerous “guest” who arrived at the New York (Catholic Worker) house one day. “I am at my wit’s end,” wrote Dorothy to a friend in July 1935. “He sits at the lower window like a Cerberus and growls and curses at everyone who comes in for a bite of food or for some clothing…And he, after all, is Christ.” Mr. Breen stayed until his death, in 1939.
“As long as I live,” he once wrote her, “I shall always be proud of having had you as my boss and my friend. Your little glimpses into my mind on personal responsibility a few days ago remade me and I have, thank you, ceased to hate people as I was wont to do.” (story from The Magnificat, June 2016)
Mr. Breen was changed because Dorothy Day recognized that each person is created in the image and likeness of God, and each one has Christ living within. She treated him according to that knowledge.
Blessed Mother Teresa did the same. “I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve because I love Jesus.”
Who is our Mr. Breen? Is it the neighbor who grumbles when we say hello? The cashier who ignores us at the register? The driver who cuts us off on the highway? That eccentric, and often annoying, parishioner? Perhaps the co-worker who doesn’t shower as much as we think they should? The homeless person sleeping on a park bench or the pan handler who approaches when we just want to have a pleasant night out?
If we act with the knowledge that Jesus lives in disguise of each of us, we can change the world.
“Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” Matthew 25:40