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If I Had Only Known!

Fr. Joseph K. Horn
9 June 1996
Feast of Corpus Christi
St Barbara’s Parish
Santa Ana, CA

Most of you are too young to remember the name Konrad Lorenz. Doctor Lorenz was born in Austria in 1903, and became famous in his day as both a surgeon specializing in bone diseases and a specialist in animal research. A few months ago there was a news story of a man who was given a bone marrow transplant from an animal. This reminded me of Doctor Lorenz; this would have been right up his alley; he would have been fascinated by such a procedure. But the good doctor died in 1989.

Doctor Lorenz’s life would make a fascinating biography, and I hope somebody writes it some day. If you do, I promise I’ll buy a copy. Meanwhile, I’ve got to share with you just one of his bittersweet experiences. You’ll like this.

One year in early Spring, the little daughter of a millionaire in the United States contracted a rare bone disease. The girl had been diagnosed by many United States physicians, none of whom had any idea how to cure the girl. In desperation, the millionaire called Doctor Lorenz and paid for his trip to the United States. News of his visit quickly spread, and the good doctor was soon swamped with hundreds of letters from parents whose little ones also suffered from uncommon ailments. They begged him to consider their cases, but of course it was impossible for him to take care of them all.

Among those who begged for the services of Doctor Lorenz was a very wealthy woman in Chicago’s East Side. She told him that she would pay any price he named. She also told the pastor at her local church to pray that God would send the good doctor to her home.

Here’s where the story gets really good. Every day after lunch the famous doctor was in the habit of taking a walk for his health and relaxation. Now remember, it was early Spring, and those of you who’ve ever lived in the Chicago area know what that means! You don’t just go out for a stroll, unless you bring a sturdy umbrella with you, even if it’s a bright, sunny day, because Spring in Chicago means it’s sunny one minute and pouring the next minute and sunny the minute after that.

So of course Doctor Lorenz, who doesn’t know this, takes his stroll after lunch one day, and of course he has no umbrella. And of course, at the furthest point of his walk, a full-blown thunderstorm begins.

Now, remember the woman who had asked her pastor to pray that God would send Doctor Lorenz to her home? She was at home at that moment, and when she heard the rain begin, she rushed out to her porch to bring the furniture inside so that it wouldn’t get wet. As she finished, she saw an elderly gentleman walking up her driveway. Soaked to the skin, hair disheveled, looking pathetic, he said to her with a heavy foreign accent, “Madam, may I sit on your porch until the rain stops?”

She assumed he was a homeless beggar, and without saying a word, waved at the wet floor of the porch, then she went inside and closed the door. Old and weak and wet, he was left there on the porch alone. Before the rain stopped, however, his limousine pulled up in front of the house. Doctor Lorenz thanked his chauffeur for coming to look for him in the rain, as the chauffeur threw a coat over him and bundled him into the car.

Imagine her dismay when the lady read the next day’s Chicago Tribune. There on the front page was an article that told how the famous specialist, Doctor Lorenz, had been marooned on a porch during the storm and had been rudely left there in the cold damp air. She rushed to his hotel, only to learn that the great doctor had already left on his return trip to Vienna. The woman almost had a nervous breakdown, wailing, “Oh, if I had only known who it was! God answered my prayers, God sent him to my home, but I didn’t know it was him!”

The analogy is obvious. The parallel is clear. 2000 years ago Jesus came to earth, but we didn’t recognize who it was, and we nailed him to a cross. We were praying that he’d come, and when he did, we didn’t even know it was him.

And you know what? 2000 years later, and it’s still true. Jesus is here with us, but we know him not. Jesus is really present here, in the flesh, but we treat him rudely because we don’t recognize that it’s him. Jesus is really present, his body, his blood, his soul, his divinity, in the Blessed Sacrament, the Eucharist, Holy Communion, Corpus Christi, right here!

Do you recognize Him in the Blessed Sacrament? When you come forward to receive Him in the Eucharist at communion time, do you abruptly receive and turn away, like the woman on the porch, not even recognizing the rudeness of your behavior, because you aren’t even aware of who is right there in front of you? Or do you warmly invite him in, into your home, into your heart? Christ wants that more than anything in the world.

Don’t be like the woman who left Doctor Lorenz out on the porch in the cold. Don’t leave Christ standing cold on the porch of your heart, chilled by your blank, vapid stare of non-recognition. The Divine Physician is here today, with us in the flesh, the living bread come down from heaven.

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