In October 1977 in Lake Arthur, N.M., Maria Rubio was rolling up a burrito for her husband Eduardo’s breakfast, when she noticed a thumb-sized configuration of skillet burns on the tortilla that resembled the face of Jesus. Needless to say, Eduardo went hungry that morning as Maria told family and neighbors of this miraculous event.
By 1979, over 35,000 people had come to see the face of Jesus on the tortilla, often bringing flowers and photos of sick loved ones. Maria quit her job as a maid to attend full-time to the hastily constructed “Shrine of the Holy Tortilla” in her home. When away, she’d leave the door unlocked so that no one would be denied access to the shrine.
On June 11, 2005, in Pittsburgh, Jeffrey Rigo was just coming out of the shower worried about the need for costly home repairs and the means to pay for them, when he noticed a water-stained piece of plaster with the face of Jesus. His response was to sell the piece of plaster on eBay to make the money he needed for the home repairs.
In 2011 in Brisbane, Australia, an employee at the Posh Pizza restaurant pulled a three-cheese pizza from the oven, she was surprised to find that it came out with the image of Jesus’ face in the cheese.
One Sunday afternoon when my children were young, we drove to my in-law’s home in Newport, R.I. My mother-in-law was so excited to show us a picture she had taken that week of a tree in the side yard of Jesus Savior Catholic Church in town. The picture was of peeling tree bark that looked like the face of Jesus. She piled everyone into the van and took us over to see the tree for ourselves. The peeling bark really did look like the face of Jesus we often see on TV and in the movies. That picture held a place of honor on her refrigerator until she died.
My mother-in-law was a woman of deep faith, she did not need proof that God’s son, lived and died for us. She saw the image in the tree bark as a gift from Jesus that says, “Here I am, I am in your community, alive and well.”
We may not see Jesus’ face on a tortilla, the cheese on our pizza or the plaster in our homes, but we know that that Jesus’ living presence is with us when we come to worship, when we share in the sacrament of Communion, when we see our children and youth excited to be part of a community of faith.
We see the face of Jesus in the faces of the homeless people who sleep in our local churches as part of the Out of the Cold: Centre County program, in the faces of the people who go to the State College Area Food Bank for food, paper goods and hygiene products for their families, the people who come into the Community Help Centre for help and resources, the people moving out of Centre House because they have found permanent housing, the people receiving furniture from Interfaith Human Services.
We see the face of Jesus in the many faces of the people in our community making a difference by donation their skills, time and financial resources to help other people in need.
We see the face of Jesus as we comfort one another, rejoice with one another, sing and pray together. We see the face of Jesus as we work together to build up Christ’s church and make a difference in our community.
I invite you to see the face of Jesus in as many places and as often as you can. And each time you encounter Jesus, hear him proclaim, “Here I am, I am in your community, alive and well.”
The Rev. Monica Ouellette is pastor of St. John’s United Church of Christ in Boalsburg. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.