This morning I had my digital device tuned to a Catholic radio station. As I dressed for work, I listened to a well-known speaker share a story about a profound conversion he had while in the seminary. He came to understand the intimately personal nature of God’s love for each of us through a unique prayer experience. He had been meditating on a verse of Sacred Scripture when the moment gave way to a profound experience of being “known and loved.” He likened the experience to being called by name. The speaker attempted to convey the feeling that accompanied the moment with examples of being publicly acknowledged as a personal friend by a celebrity or esteemed member of the community. The analogies fell short until he cited the passage in scripture by the empty tomb when Jesus speaks Mary’s name and she immediately recognizes him. It is one of my favorite passages.
I had to leave the sermon there and head out the door. Little did I know that one of the more challenging mornings in recent memory awaited me. After sitting in unprecedented traffic and a series of unpleasant moments densely packed into the first couple hours of my day, I found myself reaching for my coat and walking in the directon of a nearby Church. I entered and knelt before the Blessed Sacrament for a little while.
As I left the Church, I noticed a priest speaking to a group of people. He turned around and warmly called out my name. I had met him only once, weeks earlier. How he remembered my name is beyond me. All I know is that I was deeply moved when I heard him speak my name. I couldn’t help but discern the Lord’s presence in that simple greeting. I took in the moment’s disclosure with reverence and walked more confidently into the afternoon.
The disciples said to him, “Where could we ever get enough bread in this deserted place to satisfy such a crowd?” Mt 15:33
Too often our first reaction when suddenly confronted with our own limitations or circumstances that challenges us is doubt. What shall I do now? Do I have the wherewithal to resolve this?
If we are not careful, we lose sight of God’s presence in our lives and sell ourselves short.
Our Lord has a much higher estimation of us and our ability to transform the challenges we bump up against in our lives than we have of ourselves in those challenging moments. He knows that nothing can separate us from his love; and that his lifegiving grace is available to each of us every moment of every day. Above all, he knows what we are capable of when we abide in him.
In the Gospel the Lord responds to the quandary his disciples face with a question.
Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” Mt 15:34
He redirects their attention to the here and now. Because it is by fully inhabiting the present moment that we are able to abide in Christ most powerfully. Jesus is also calling attention to the value of what they do have, shifting the conversation away from a perceived lack of sufficiency; thereby, resetting expectations.
The Lord uses the little they had -seven loaves of bread and a fish – to feed thousands. He can do the same in our lives. The Lord can take the little we have and achieve great ends. We need only have faith, and take refuge in St. Paul’s refrain: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Morning meditation on the daily readings or the Office is the soil where we plant the seeds of our day. There, a part of us remains hidden, in Christ, protected, untouched by the worldy concerns of the day.
I do my best to carry a verse or two with me as I move through the day. These verses become a doorway back to that place of accompaniment. And I return there throughout the day when I am in need of silence or support.
Here are few from today.
“The Rising Sun has come to visit us to guide our feet in the way of peace.” Luke 1:78,79
“And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent. As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!” Romans 10:14,15
“To support one another in the things of the spirit is the true sign of good will between brothers (and sisters), of loving kinship and sincere affection.” St. John Chrysostom
“Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” Matthew 4:19
The season changes in the liturgical calendar today. Advent invites us to move more deeply into the mystery of the Incarnation by contemplating “the end”. The language which Jesus uses in the readings today is serious and the imagery, formidable. We can be sure, however, that its purpose is not to terrify, but to awaken. Be “vigilant at all times,” he says.
As Christians we know the Lord’s return to be a matter of fact. That said, we don’t know when that will be with any degree of certainty. What we do know is that we are heirs to a spiritual call, one that has been imprinted in our souls by the loving touch of the Holy Spirit. We participate in a mystery that began with the Incarnation and has been unfolding in history ever since. Everything in our lives and in the world is moving toward the salvation and perfection that was made manifest with the birth of Jesus and complete at the Empty Tomb.
During Advent, we step outside the mundane concerns that drown out the call of the Spirit and cast our gaze within, to the Christ-child, the God-man, to the One directing and caring for our lives and our hearts.
Have a beautiful week…
Check out Bishop Robert Barron’s most recent article, Pope Francis and True Mercy.