If Jesus Returned to this Earth

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
February 13, 2024

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeIf Jesus returned to this earth, what form would he take; what region would he go to; and where would he live? We know that he was born in a manger, the humblest of all dwellings, but would he reappear in the pomp and regality of a king, the self-importance and arrogance of a prime-minister, or the swagger and manipulative power of a financier?

I ask these questions after contemplating the life of Leo Thompson whose final moments I chronicled last Sunday and in light of Donna Reyes’s observation on Leo’s life: “Jesus walked among us but we didn’t know. He was so humble. We seem to feel we need for so many things but he lived simply and effortlessly. He had so much to give although he was so poor.”

Donna, a seemingly uncomplicated woman, was affected by Leo’s life and what it meant for those he left behind. She suggested that we could be carried away so much by our own elevated status that we seldom contemplate the larger truths that the lives of simple people reveal to us.

Anne Forbes, a resident of Paradise Gardens and English Language and Literature teacher at Queen’s Royal College, rhapsodized in a note to me: “My family started out on Highland Court, Paradise Gardens in 1988 and along with our two now-adult children, we continue to be happy residents. Your article on our Leo is a wonderful tribute made all the more precious because you didn’t have to pen or publish it.”

All lives are precious in God’s sight. Many philosophers believe that life itself constitutes the highest ethical value although existentialist philosophers such as Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre consider life an absurd proposition. Sartre believed that existence manifests itself in our choice of actions and freedom of will. God has nothing to with it.

People who see life as valuable realize it is important to chronicle the existence of the most insignificant as well as the most accomplished people. In the eyes of God and his family, Leo’s life was just as important as that of Basdeo Panday whose deeds filled the pages of our newspaper recently.

Last month I visited Leo’s residence to experience the ambience of his surroundings. As a young boy, I bathed in the Tacarigua River when, as Langton Hughes, the African-American poet, reminds us “the dawns were young.” Lal (John Dindial), a whacker-worker and odd-jobs man (as he described himself), acted as my guide.

Two other inhabitants, George McIntosh and Baby Jordan, former residents of the St. Mary’s Children Home, lived near Leo. George who lost one of his legs from diabetes keeps struggling along. His humor is infectious.

Around their residences, a young breadfruit tree was struggling for life as a bacano (bois canot, pronounced ‘bwa-can-no’) tree triumphed in royal splendor as it reached for the skies. Not to be outdone were the kymit (cayemite) and the mango trees that lived close to the showy balisier plant. These plants demonstrated the variety of life.

These “unfortunate” members of the society lived amidst nature’s beauty even as they scrambled to make a living. While I do not blame anyone completely for the lives these young men lived, shouldn’t this combination of natural beauty, spiritual richness, and material wretchedness tell us something about who we are?

Amidst nature’s bounty, I got a funny feeling that if Jesus returned to this earth, he would want to dwell amongst those people who live in the ghettos and the river banks of the world. He would feel so much at home amongst His Father’s creation, near to the gentle, flowing rivers of life and nutrition.

Leo, George, and Baby Small built steps that took them down to their dwelling on the river bank. Lal helped me get to the bottom of the incline to get a better view of their residence. I don’t know how George with his amputated leg gets from the bottom of the riverbed to Highland Court Road, but I know that he was at Leo’s funeral to send him off to glory.

We should ponder our own humanity. In doing so, it might be well to remember that we are only on this earth for a short holiday. During that time should we not be compassionate to our fellow men as the Paradise Garden residents were to Leo. As we contemplate that possibility, we should we remember James Shirley’s poem, “Death the Leveller”:

The glories of our blood and state
Are shadows, not substantial things;
There is no amor against fate;
Death lays his icy hand on kings:
Sceptre and crown
Must tumble down,
And in the dust be equal made
With the poor crooked scythe and spade….

None of us know how, where, and when Jesus will show his face when he returns, nor can we be sure that the beggar we turn away from our door may not be one of his commissaries preparing the way for his return.

While we await his return-or even as we live-we should practice compassion to one another keeping in mind the advice of my dear friend Brian Harry: “Humility is the essence of grandeur.”

Meanwhile, the Biblical injunction may still be our guide: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

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