Sunday, October 4, 2015

You Are My Brother


I saw you dirty, sleeping in the street,
Your dry hide, carbon smudged ancient pottery,
Your fingernails, black as oil pooling in the driveway,
Your hair spiked like hawk feathers clumped by doormat mud.
I mistook you for an asphalt ball
Tumbling out of a truck,
Raked then rolled into the road,
Or dung of vegetarian animals, dark green
Sea urchin exploding needles, grass.

What stroke of misfortune befell you?
Has some broken gene uncoupled your logic?
Why are your glassy eyes transfixed by chimeras?
Did some personal tragedy tear your psyche into two?
No bread for a father,
No home for a mother,
No education for currency, unemployed,
Misfit piece in a manufacturing assembly line,
You wander about, a gyrating flywheel unconnected to a machine.

If I filled your cup with coins, I myself would go begging
Because your needs are a bottomless horn of empty.
Am I, Cain, being called to account for your destitution?
Am I, Dives, caressed by fine silk, thickened by choice meats?
I tell myself I will live simply,
Giving to you beyond the needs of my family,
Working to create a better society in which the poor
Are less destitute and the destitute are less.
See, my heart is a pocket fraying holes.
Tracked by an accusatory finger,
I want to look away but I cannot—
You are my brother.

Originally published in New Asian Writing (May 7, 2015)

A homeless man


  1. The speaker is faced with a moral dilemma. He sees the beggar and asks himself, Am I my brother's keeper? We know from the Bible that the answer is, Yes. Therefore, the speaker asks himself, What should I do? Is it possible for me to remain entirely passive, even completely indifferent, without incurring any liability on my conscience? The answer is, obviously, no.


  2. If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him?--1 John 3:17


  3. May the face of this homeless man, anonymous, accomplish its worthy purpose of eliciting genuine charity towards our brothers and sisters in need. To him, besides the photographer, also anonymous, I sincerely accord credit and thanks.


  4. Also published in The Penmen Review (July 20, 2015)


  5. Photo courtesy of

    Photo link:



    I want to focus on this “revealing the face of God.” In this regard, St. John, in his Gospel, relates to us a significant fact. Approaching the passion, Jesus reassures his disciples, inviting them not to be afraid and to have faith; then he initiates a dialogue with them in which he speaks of God the Father (cf. Jn 14:2-9). At one point, the apostle Philip asks Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied” (Jn 14:8). Philip is very practical and concrete: he says what we, too, want to say: “we want to see, show us the Father”; he asks to “see” the Father, to see his face. Jesus’ answer is an answer not only for Philip, but also for us and leads us into the heart of the Christological faith of the Church; the Lord affirms: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9). This expression contains a synthesis of the novelty of the New Testament, that novelty that appeared in the cave of Bethlehem: God can be seen, he has shown his face, he is visible in Jesus Christ.

    Throughout the Old Testament the theme of “seeking the face of God” is ever present, so that the Hebrew term panîm, which means “face”, occurs no less than 400 times, 100 of which refer to God, it means to see the face of God. Yet the Jewish religion, by forbidding all images, since God cannot be depicted - as instead occurred among their neighbors with the worship of idols; therefore, with this prohibition of imagery, the Old Testament seems to totally exclude “seeing” from worship and piety. What does it mean then, for the pious Israelite, to seek the face of God, while recognizing that there can be no image of Him? The question is important: on the one hand, it is said that God cannot be reduced to an object, to a simple image, nor can anything be put in the place of God; on the other, however, it is affirmed that He has a face, that is, He is a “You” that can enter into a relationship, who isn’t closed in his Heavens looking down upon humanity. God is certainly above all things, but he turns to us, hears us, sees and speaks, makes covenants, is capable of love.

    ...Moses, whom God chose to free the people from slavery in Egypt, to give them the Law of the covenant and to lead them to the Promised Land. Well, in chapter 33 of the Book of Exodus, it says that Moses had a close and confidential relationship with God: “The Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as one speaks with his friend” (v. 11). By virtue of this confidence, Moses asks God: “Show me your glory,” and the Lord’s answer is clear: “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name ... But you cannot see my face, for no one shall see me and live ... Here is a place near me ... you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen” (vv. 18-23). On the one hand, then, there is the face to face dialogue as among friends, but on the other, there is the impossibility, in this life, of seeing the face of God, which remains hidden; the vision is limited. The Fathers say that these words, “you shall only see my back”, mean: you can only follow Christ and in following you see from behind the mystery of God; God can be followed seeing his back.

    To be continued

  7. THE FACE OF GOD (continued)

    Something new happens, however, with the incarnation. The search for the face of God undergoes an unthinkable change, because now this face can be seen: that of Jesus, the Son of God who became man.

    ...The desire to know God truly, that is, to see the face of God, is in every man, even atheists. And we perhaps unwittingly have this desire to see simply who He is, what He is, who He is for us. But this desire is realized by following Christ, so we see his back and finally also see God as a friend, his face in the face of Christ.

    The important thing is that we follow Christ not only when we are in need and when we find space for it in our daily affairs, but with our lives as such. The whole of life should be directed towards encountering Him, towards loving Him; and, in it, a central place must also be given to the love of one’s neighbor, that love that, in the light of the Crucified One, enables us to recognize the face of Jesus in the poor, the weak, the suffering. This is only possible if the true face of Jesus has become familiar to us in listening to His Word, in interior dialogue, in entering into this Word in such a way as to really encounter him, and naturally in the Mystery of the Eucharist. In the Gospel of St. Luke there is the significant passage of the two disciples of Emmaus, who recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread, though after being prepared by the journey with Him, prepared by the invitation they made Him to remain with them, prepared by the dialogue that made their hearts burn; so, in the end, they see Jesus. For us, too, the Eucharist is the great school in which we learn to see the face of God, we enter into an intimate relationship with Him, and we learn at the same time to turn our gaze towards the final moment of history, when He will satisfy us with the light of his face. On earth we walk towards this fullness, awaiting the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God.

    Benedict XVI