Thursday, April 24, 2014

An Encounter with Christ

As many of you know, I've taken some time away from the computer for Lent; only recently returning to Facebook and blogging.  During that time I've tried to add some other pursuits that would help me grow closer to God.   One of the things I decided to do was get back to 'pleasure reading.'  With classes for ministry formation, bible studies, prayer groups, etc... a great deal of my reading has been 'assignments' or things I needed to research to plan a prayer retreat, or even the Facebook posts.  So I picked out a few books to read, to help me grow closer, but also books that are just for me.  Books I wanted to read.

One of those books is The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything by Reverend James Martin, SJ.  This book interested me because of our new Holy Father, Pope Francis, and his Jesuit background.  I don't know a lot about Jesuits so trying to understand their spirituality is very interesting and enlightening to me.   I've also been reading the wonderful book, Pope Francis: Why He Leads the Way He Leads given to me as a gift by my dear friend Laci.   One of the interesting things I have found about Father Martin, is that he consistently looks for Gods presence in everything.  In every person. In every action. In every thought. In every 'desire'.   He looks to find God, if not in the moment, at least in retrospect to the end of his day when he does his daily Examen.  There is such a wonderful anecdote in the book by Father Martin about a man working in an administrative position who, when the door bell rings, would say "I am coming Lord!" in preparation for trying to see God in whoever had come to visit or to do business.

Such a simple concept, to look at your day and try to find God in each person you talk to.  In each task you are doing. In every blessing and even in every problem.  Father Tim Seigel  used to say much the same thing, when he would talk about the beauty of our round church.   He would tell us that in each person in the room, there is Jesus waiting.  I even remember a story about a grumpy old man that someone was trying to serve or at least talk with in a shelter, and the story ended with "Jesus wasn't in a very good mood that day."

It all boils down to "whatever you have done for the least of these, you have done for me" and in the same token "whatever you have not done for the least of these, you have not done for me."  This long introduction leads me to such a simple moment, but one that really opened my eyes and blessed me this morning.   On Thursdays we say a chaplet of Divine Mercy in our Sanctuary after Mass.  Today as we were praying for Mercy for the world and all of us in it, I was drawn to contemplating Mary Magdalene and the gospel from a few days previous.  In that Gospel Mary arrives at the tomb and finds it empty.  She is devastated.  Jesus walks up but she doesn't recognize him in his glorified state, and I'm sure her grief stricken heart and tears helped make it even more difficult to recognize anyone at all.  She, thinking he was the caretaker, begged him to just tell her where Jesus body was and she'd come get it.  She turned back to the tomb, turning her back on God... and a moment later, Jesus said her name.   Something so simple, but immediately she recognized him.  As we were praying for Divine Mercy, I was thinking of the beauty and mercy of that tender moment... being called by God, by name.
There I sat thinking looking around at the faces of the beautiful people praying with me, and asking myself do I see Jesus in this room? In Richard and Gene I always find love, in Mary I find patience and fortitude, in Paul I find the kindness to go out of his way to help everyone.  Yes, in these people I see Jesus every day.  My heart was content for I thought, "Yes, I have seen Jesus today in his body!"

Then as we were leaving, I was talking to Rita about the prayer basket we had set up in the entrance and she, as always, was kind and generous.  Then as she was leaving she gave me a hug and a kiss on the check, and she said "You tell your children and wife," then she paused for a moment as if taking time to get every word just right and said, "Haley.  Hannah. Sarah.  Moira. and Julie."  Pausing between each name as if they were precious and beautiful, and then "that I love them."   Then she walked away.  There He was.   When I was least expecting him, when I thought I had already seen through my own effort what he had to offer me for today, the God of Surprises blessed me with a beautiful moment in which he reminded me "I have called you by name.  You are mine." (Isaiah 43:1) Thank you Lord for reminding me that you love and watch over my family, and that they belong to you.  May I try to live up to that honor of having them in my life; and thank you Lord for Rita, for being your instrument today to bring me such a beautiful present.