It was a cold afternoon. The world seemed harsh and I felt somewhat miserable. I was letting the weather get me down. Then an act of love inflamed my heart and brought me such joy it made me think of heaven.
It started with a New York City bus driver. His bus was parked on the side of the street waiting its turn to start its route picking up often times frustrated commuters from the subway who just want to go home.
The man, dressed in the uniform of his profession, quietly and gently took off his shoes on the sidewalk by his bus. He stepped on his prayer mat and prostrated himself before God.
The sight of this man prostrate on the ground brought me inexplicable elation. The world no longer seemed so cold and cruel, devoid of love subsumed to human weakness and the temptation of evil.
The feeling was strong – one that is best felt, and not thought through. Nonetheless, a couple of blocks later, I realized how strange it was. Here I was, a Catholic Christian woman in 21st-century Brooklyn, elated at a Muslim man practicing his own religion.
Was I happy because I lived in a society that allowed for religious freedom when it seemed to be stripped away in so many places around the world? No. That was a fact I was grateful for, but it was not the reason for this joy. It was something much stronger.
The reason for my joy was that this stranger, one I would have otherwise probably not noticed in this city of 8.5 million people, loved Him, whom I love above all things, so much so that he did his best to pay Him homage.
Despite being cold, despite being at work, despite being on a dirty city street, despite the chaos of the afternoon rush hour, despite the hatred, he worshiped the King of Kings, the creator of the universe, the best way he knew how. He made that little space on the sidewalk sacred because he focused his energy on Love and fulfilled what He believes to be the commandment of God. He brought his head down in full humility and called God by the name of Allah and the name of Mercy.
I was happy because this man showed love to the One whom I love even if we call Him by different names.
It has always been my innermost desire that all creation worship God. From my youngest years, I prayed for the conversion of sinners so that they may rejoice in God, even before I was taught to do so. It is later that I learned that is the very mission of the Church and the reason God Incarnate died on the Cross.
The reason I thought of heaven having witnessed this act of Love is because that is what I know heaven to be: a union of creation bonded in Love for and of God. In heaven we will all know the perfect way to worship God. For now, all we can do is pray the best way we know how.
Further reflecting on this brief, yet profound encounter, I correlated it to my children.
Naturally, it brings me great joy to see others treating my beloved precious babies with love. I love watching my family and friends play with them and share moments of love with them. As a mother, that is the best gift anyone can give me.
As a daughter of the King, what can be better than seeing someone show love to Our Heavenly Father.
I now understand that it was a sisterly love that I felt for that man I will probably never see again, except maybe in Our Father’s House.