So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help. Hebrews 4:16
I remember arriving in Lourdes for my first pilgrimage feeling so humbled as I watched people being rolled into Mass in hospital beds and wheelchairs. I couldn’t imagine how I could possibly ask for any graces when there was so much greater need around me. In those first moments there, all I was poignantly aware of were the outer needs of healing. But as the days of the pilgrimage progressed, with the more time I spent experiencing Christ through the sacraments of confession and Eucharist, adoration and finally in line for the baths I came to understand that every single one of us has area(s)- spiritual, emotional, physical – that we struggle with where we are all in deep need of God’s loving Mercy and Grace. And despite being one in a gathering of thousands upon thousands of people, God’s healing mercy arrives in an exceptionally intimate way. What I initially viewed from a place of scarcity, thinking there is only so much to go around, I received as an intimate experience of abundance, as God’s grace entered our experiences impacting lives through uniquely personal encounters.
This past week I was privileged to attend the SEEK conference in San Antonio put on by FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) with over 13,000 college students and college missionaries strong in attendance. It was amazing to witness and experience personally how in the midst of this immense communal experience, Christ was intimately connecting with and drawing near those who opened their hearts to His Presence.
No matter our stance before we arrive at a place of pilgrimage, retreat or confession there is a softening that occurs when we allow it. A relaxation and relief knowing we can lean into and be met where we are. Gifted with a vision of the possibility of what we can become in the world through Christ. Little glimpses of the sky opening to reveal what life can look like through our new lens of Mercy, Grace and Love.
It is real. It is accessible. Sometimes it takes us stepping out of the crowd of our sins or away from those places in us which point a finger at all but ourselves. Moving our eyes towards Jesus who sees us and the heartache of our own hope filled thirst of intentions.
When we meet the gaze of the One who knows us on every level and loves us just the same, can we drop everything? The judgment of the world. Our limited self perceptions. Our sinful ways. Through each intimate encounter, Jesus invites us to trust His Way. Can we respond fully? In this moment. Now. And for all our days going forward?
M. Walsh is a retreatant and friend of the Passionist Community.