Happy Thursday of the Twenty-first Week in Ordinary Time!
Some years ago, I had cause to plead with God – to beg for something… anything that would help me through a challenge which, up until that point, was the worst moment of my life.
Sure, every single day I’m in need. And if I were a betting man, I’d bet that you also feel the same way. But on this particular day, I was slapped in the face with something I could never have imagined, and certainly didn’t want. It doesn’t really matter what it was, but it was palpable and intense. Perhaps you’ve felt something similar at some point on your journey.
So, and as I usually do when things go wrong, I found myself in the sanctuary. Sitting completely alone, isolated, and broken, I yelled, “God, are you even there?”
And then it happened.
In as clear and loud a voice as you could imagine — as though it came from someone sitting as uncomfortably close as they possibly could — in my left ear, I heard, “Well, Paul, I had to get your attention SOME-how.”
I spun to my left immediately, but the church was completely empty. It took a few moments, but it hit me like a ton of bricks… It was Jesus, Godself, who had to beat me over the head with a huge stick just so I would be able to recognize that he was there with me.
In our Gospel today (Matthew 24:42-51), Jesus says to his disciples: “Stay awake! For at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
I sure didn’t know that Jesus would yell at me in that hour. But the thing is that God is ALWAYS there, yelling at us. If we would only keep our senses open to seeing him, we’d find God in every moment, in every person, in every experience. Jesus walks with us in every step and in every occasion, whether we like it or not. God is always there, pursuing us. In our strength and in our sorrow, our joy and in our pain… In the extraordinary and the ordinary, God is there.
So where does God find you? Is it only in the good? Or could it also be in the bad?
Could it be in loss, or maybe an accident? A diagnosis or breach of trust?
Could it be in the shame and regret of the mistakes of your past?
God is there.
God is with you… especially when you least expect it.
Open your eyes, your ears, your heart. A tree. A flower. A bird. A song. A weed. A phone call. A broken bone. A chance meeting. A stranger appearing at the exact right moment. A person saying, “I love you.” That’s God, coming for you. Wanting you.
Holding you in the amazing expanse of his most holy arms.
I don’t know when it’ll happen, but God does. And all we have to do is keep our eyes peeled, and be open, be ready, be waiting. Even in our darkest moment, it’s never too late to know and feel God’s loving presence.
So where is God in your life right now?
Who is Jesus using to reach you, to walk with you?
Or, could it be that God is in you, acting though you, to reach out to another?
Stay awake… be ready. Look. Listen.
God is with you,
even in the hour which you do not expect.
Dear God of all creation,
thank you for the gift of your most amazing presence in all things.
grant us the faith to see you,
to hear you,
to call for you,
to reach for you,
and to know your healing
in your perfect way,
in your perfect time.
Thy will be done.
Peace and love to you, today and forever.
Paul Puccinelli is Director of Liturgy & Music at St. Rita Parish in Sierra Madre, California, and a member of the retreat team at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center.