Saturday, October 19, 2019

What’s in a Name?

My husband and I have season tickets to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Every time we attend a concert, a man is standing out near the parking deck playing his trumpet. Far from a professional, he plays a couple lines from a variety of songs as people pass on the way to Orchestra Hall. Rain or shine. Snow or sweltering heat. He is there. Every concert.

Except the last one.

As we walked past “his spot” I noticed his silent absence. Throughout the concert I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to him. Was he ill? What if he died? What if…

It was amid the questions that I realized I didn’t even know his name.

Sure, we had dropped money in his tattered trumpet case and smiled as we walked past, but I knew nothing about him. I never told him his presence brought a bit of joy to every concert. It made me sad to think that after all these years, I had never taken the time to know his name or thank him.
The concert ended and as we walked outside, I could hear the broken notes of his trumpet. I felt a sense gratitude for this second chance. I went up to him and asked his name.

“Frank” he replied. I told him how much I had appreciated seeing him. A smile spread across his face and he said, “Well thank you and may God bless you.”

It got me thinking. How many others in my day do I just pass by? How many go unnoticed? How often do I let people know how much I appreciate them?

Scriptures assure us that God knows us intimately. Even the hairs on our heads are numbered (Luke 12:7; Matthew 10:30). He calls us each by name (Isaiah 43:1). God assures us we are precious in His eyes and honored, and He loves us (Isaiah 43:4). Our God is a God of relationships. Created in the image and likeness of God, we are called to be in relationship not only with God—but with each other. To call each other by name.

What would happen if we kept our eyes open to those around us? To the mother struggling to push her shopping cart while holding a sleeping infant? To the elderly man trying to open a door while hanging on to his walker? To the homeless person we would rather avoid? To the tattooed young adult asking for directions at the gas station? To our spouse? To our parents? To our children?

I was met by a man outside the St. Therese Chapel who was asking for money to pay his phone bill. I was on my way to a meeting and really wanted to keep walking, but I thought of Frank. I turned. Facing him, he repeated his plea. I asked him his name. “David” he replied. “Not the king, just David.” He laughed. I joked that we are all sons and daughters of the king. We both laughed. I gave him a couple of dollars but also asked if he wanted prayers. He eagerly accepted. We both promised to pray for each other.

Jesus calls us His friend. David and Frank are the most recent reminders to me that we are called to take notice. To be aware of the people around us and to reach out as Jesus did in friendship. The beauty of all of this is that when we do, we will be blessed by the encounter in ways far greater than we can ever anticipate.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Evangelizing Jesus

Today was my first day taking part in a popular evangelization series being run in churches all over the world.

As I walked into the room, I was greeted with enthusiasm by at least three people of whom I see regularly at Mass. The lady at the check-in table was extremely happy to see me, marking off my name and joyfully telling me my table assignment.

I recognized many of the people in the room. Most I have worshipped with for decades. There were a few new faces. Everyone was very eager for the session to begin.

The smiling hostess told a joke and made us feel welcome. The lunch was delicious.

We watched a short video that began with the question, "Who is Jesus?" The rest of the video, slickly done with beautiful videography and stunning scenes from the Holy Land, went on to "prove" that Jesus existed. The video’s presenter was a former lawyer-turned minister. He smiled broadly as he finished the clip, assured that he had given us what we needed to know that Jesus was "real."

In the time that has passed since I left the class, I have been thinking a lot about the experience. I realized a few things about myself and the assumption that we all come to know Jesus through the same process.

I was a young child, about five, when I had a profound experience of Jesus. There is no doubt in my mind that I had a very personal and life-changing encounter with Divine Love. I can honestly say that from that moment on, I knew Jesus was real and loved me very much.

My path to Jesus did not begin with an intellectual study of books and Scripture. That all came after that first, very personal encounter with radiating, unconditional love that I somehow, at that young age, knew was Jesus. 

I wonder in these days of trying to figure out how to bring people into a conversion experience if we aren't going about it the wrong way. It’s as if we are assaulting them with Jesus. Proofs and facts, arguments and debates. We are intellectualizing what should be intimately personal.

Jesus is a human being with whom we are invited to be in relationship. He is God, fully Divine, with whom we are to enter into the mystery. Jesus envelopes us and fills us. He transforms our very being. Jesus wells up from within us, overtakes us and fills us.

 I think coming to know Jesus is so much more than a lawyer laying down the facts or a scientist proving hypotheses.

I have concluded there is no one-size-fits-all path to Jesus. As unique as each of us is, our path to Jesus is equally distinctive. I am convinced the key to evangelization is building relationships with those around us. Seeing each other as people to be loved. Desiring to share what we have with others and longing for their happiness. Being with them in their woundedness so that through prayer they are consoled and made whole through the healing power of God. Loving ourselves and each other as the vulnerable people we are and allowing Jesus to transform our every cell and fiber with His Love.

When we do, we will know Jesus in profound ways. Our thirst for Him will compel us forward, to learn about Him, be with Him, and joyfully share Him with others.