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The Christophers: The Spirit Gives Life

Sr. Nancy Usselmann, FSP


I was walking on a busy city street when I spotted a homeless man hunched in the corner of a building on the sidewalk, easily overlooked by passersby. I went to give him some money since I could see by the sadness in his eyes that he simply wanted to be recognized as a human being. He was appreciative of the assistance. I grabbed his hand, saying that I will be praying for him in a special way. He looked at me with sad, grateful eyes. That encounter haunts me. Tears well up in my eyes every time I think of that gentleman who was perhaps at the lowest point of his life. I pray for him, that God’s Spirit will transform him through an astounding resurrection experience.

An article I read recently talked about a homeless addict who became a priest. He wrote that at the very moment of despair, he walked by a church and felt pulled to go inside. That changed his life. He put himself into rehab, changed his lifestyle, and entered the seminary. Now he is a priest serving the poor, addicts, and prostitutes on the streets of Montreal, helping them transform their lives. A true resurrection story.

These two stories may seem unrelated, but in their essence, they are about new life and the Spirit of God at work. In John’s Gospel, Chapter 11, Jesus waits to visit his sick friend Lazarus and then visits only after he has been in the grave four days. Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha, distressed by their brother’s death, offer the most profound professions of faith recorded in the Gospels. Martha says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died, yet even now I know that God will grant whatever you ask of him.”

She believes that Jesus is the Christ, who can overcome any situation because he is God. Jesus proclaims, “I am the resurrection. Anyone who believes in me, even though he dies, will live” (Jn. 11:25). What a statement! If we die, we will live. Only when we hit rock bottom can we move upward. Only in our suffering can the Spirit transform our lives. We see this not only in the Gospels but also in the lives of the two homeless men I mentioned. One became a priest. The other hopefully responded to the Spirit and so is restored to life.

We may not wander the streets homeless, but we can flounder in a world that seems overwhelmingly dark. Those challenging, gloomy moments can be the opportunity for the Spirit to flood us with grace. Paul eloquently says that human nature of itself can only look forward to death. But the Spirit, that lives within us as baptized Christians, “looks forward to life and peace” (Rm. 8:6).

Seeing with the eyes of faith that there is more to life than this finite world can offer gives our weary hearts solace. We recognize how much God cherishes us, loves us, and desires our good. Mary and Martha believed—and Jesus gave them the gift of their brother’s natural life by raising him from the dead. The Spirit often bursts into our lives when all seems bleak, raising us out of the darkness of despair. Such is when darkness harbors the light of resurrection if we but turn to the Spirit with trustful surrender and unshakable faith. Our lives then become the Spirit’s catalyst to transform the world. We become Christ’s light and life for those in need of hope


For a free copy of the Christopher News Note WALKING IN SOMEONE ELSE’S SHOES, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail:

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