Monday, February 29, 2016

How to Notice and Name our Encounters with Christ

"The Road to Emmaus"

The Christ question is not whether we have ever encountered the crucified and risen Lord, but when, and if we have noticed.

Usually, I miss the moments in "real time." But, later, when I have a chance to look back on different experiences, these encounters become more clear.  In fact, at least for me, there seem to be a number of recurring categories of such experiences:

Sometimes they are mountain-top moments. I have found that stepping away from the daily routine, seeking silence, and opening myself to a day of reflection or a retreat often leaves a supernatural impact on my life. Old insights return.  New clarity or direction or peaceful reassurance emerges.

Other times they are everyday eternal events. These seemingly routine realities--the shimmering sunrise or sunset, the graceful flock of geese or the carefully placed cardinal outside my window, the smoldering logs in the fireplace at the end of the night--often serve as hints of the eternal breaking into time. Christ, the Eternal Word and the Light of the world, has taken on created human nature in order to take it up, once and for all.

Oftentimes they are liturgical lessons or sacramental seconds. Though my long-suffering teenage children do not approve, during the recessional song I often start a pew-dance (its first cousin of a line dance, but without moving into the aisle, and with no para-liturgical connotations!). In recent months, Sunday Mass has been marked by the joy of the Word speaking through the Scriptures, or catching my ear during the homily, or jumping out of a Eucharistic prayer, or tugging at my heart through a line from a hymn.

The most dramatic times have been blessed bottom-outs. These humbling reminders help me remember that I cannot save myself. It turns out that being fallen involves periodic falls; conversely, being redeemed brings recurring experiences of redemption. The power of God becomes most evident when my not-so-almighty self admits my own powerlessness. Thanks to such moments, I realize that my In-Dependence makes sense only when it is lived as Dependence-In my Lord and my God.  

The most frequent times are pointed inter-personal experiences--particularly with the Lord's beloved "least"!  Christ told us that he will come in and through the people we meet. Whether it is a look in someone's eye or a surprising word or gesture, it makes me marvel how many different faces of Christ are all around us.

The most memorable times are the living love of family fellowship, which refracts the Light of Christ as through a prism. I may be tempted to think that being born into a family, or being grafted onto a family through marriage, is just a twist of fate. But the love that pours through these relationships might be the most mysterious reminder of Jesus' ability to work in and through all those we meet.
These categories are not exhaustive, of course, because the Lord of heaven and earth is full of surprises.  However, the more attentive I am to these different types of encounter, the more they are able to transform my heart.  Day by day, of course!