2014 was one of those crazy transition years – a child came home and then got married, a parent was treated for cancer, a re-organization took place at work. My spiritual routine got upended and I went through a phase where I felt guilty about letting my prayer life slide but was too tired and distracted to feel bad enough to do something about it. As often happens though, when I finally realized I was the only one keeping me from hearing the Lord’s voice, the living Word welled up again in my heart. And said it was time for something new! Well, as they say, watch out what you ask for… I think perhaps the Lord has asked me to share more of what he has shared with me.
“What you hear whispered, proclaim upon the housetops.” Matthew 10:27.
And, now, a few months later, the feast of St. John the Evangelist compels me to get after it! So as this new year begins, I am offering a part of my journey, my ponderings, monthly in this space - for what it’s worth and hopefully for encouragement along your journey.
I’m an introvert; thankfully God speaks to us where we are and knows how best to reach us. It’s been my experience that God delights in dropping treasures in my path – whether on the shelf at Barnes & Noble, an article online, or a book review on the radio. Whatever it is may be what I need at that moment, or lie at the bottom of a stack until a year later and
be the perfect nourishment for my soul.
So… getting back to this stressful, disorienting, and yet wonderful year… I felt as though my life was not my own, I couldn’t meet everyone’s needs, and I felt dried out. (Seriously, somebody call the waaaambulance…) I recalled how often I advised others to give themselves time with the Lord and now felt the hypocrite because I was doing the bare minimum in skimming through the daily mass readings. The prophet Amos describes it well:
“I will send a famine…, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the word of the Lord. They shall run back and forth, to seek the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.” Amos 8:11-12
And so I had to stop spinning my wheels. I asked the Lord to find the time and place for me to hear him - because I couldn’t do it on my own. The time was one morning while I was visiting my mom during her chemo treatments. The only day we had no appointment, I got my cup of coffee and my phone and went on her condo balcony. I hadn’t even taken my journal with me on the trip. Yes, I read the readings for the day online but nothing stirred in my soul. And yet I knew this might be the best opportunity I would have in weeks to be alone and quiet. So I looked at what was downloaded on my phone and there was “The Joy of the Gospel” (Evangelii Gaudium) by Pope Francis.
Here is part of what I read that morning:
“The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus…With Christ, joy is constantly born anew…The greatest danger…is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart…and in a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others... God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt and the desire to do good fades... Many fall prey to it, and end up angry, resentful and listless. That is no way to live a dignified and fulfilled life; it is not God’s will for us...
I invite all Christians, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them
; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day… no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord…
The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step forward toward Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms.”
God had spoken the encouragement that I very much needed through Pope Francis’ words. After that day, I renewed my attempts to give the Lord a little more quality time and I did feel more at peace and grounded in Him though life continued to be very busy. There was a wedding to host after all! (Even Mary worried about happy guests.) But I was able to trust in his presence and in his concern for me, for us.
Still, because I obviously needed reinforcement, I was given my own parable a few weeks later. Bear with me… My office is an hour away from home and I travel the south Beltway 8 heading east. I was sitting at a red light on the feeder road at 288 and heard a horn honk. I assumed it was for someone else and followed my own rule to my kids during carpool back in the day – no eye contact out the windows! Another honk, and I see a man in a truck on my right smiling at me. I look away. Another honk, now he’s waving at me too and I’m trying to think if there could be something wrong with my car – gas cap or trunk open, flat tire – no… One more time… and as I’m beginning to think this person is just some kind of crazy fool, he puts his glasses on and I realize he’s a co-worker that I’ve known for 20 years! Without the lab uniform and the ball cap he usually wears and in a place I certainly wasn’t expecting to see him. I was mortified! (Thankfully, we had a good laugh at work…) But it occurred to me, as I continued on my way, that if it could happen to me, then maybe it wasn’t strange at all that Mary Magdalene didn’t recognize Jesus in the garden after the resurrection.
And wouldn’t you know – absolutely true - the next day was her feast day and the gospel reading was that very story.
“She turned around and saw Jesus standing but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?’ Supposing him to be a gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned and said to him… ‘Teacher!’ John 20: 14-16
When I am blessed with such a “coincidence”, I try to ask the Lord what the message is for me. I sat with it and wrote the following in my journal: “I am blind to you when I have little faith - when I believe and look and act as though you are dead. And Lord, you know I am a pessimist… Mary Magdalene thought someone had stolen your body; she was willing to try to carry you herself if need be! You are patient with us; you bring us back to ourselves, you speak our name until we hear it and truly see you. Lord, you are not always who we expect to see, and yet once we do, we are delighted and awed and sometimes overwhelmed, astonished, maybe puzzled. You are love and mystery Lord. Thank you for this! Help me to expect to see you through all my day. This is what you are telling me – that when you say “I am with you always”, you mean always and all ways. You are near and I need to be open to your presence to see and hear and feel you… fear keeps me from being open to you, complacency dulls me to you, doubt and distraction cause me to ignore you. And yet you forgive and draw me back. Jesus I trust in you.”
May 2015 find us with our eyes and ears open in new ways and may we let the Lord surprise us with delight!
Until next time,