In the Presence of Greatness

Last night I had dinner with the Archbishop. Impressed? Don’t be.  I was kind of along for the ride with one of my young ladies who is open to a vocation to the religious life.  The Vocation Office hosts these dinners at the Archbishop’s residence in order that the young women might hear some sisters’ vocation stories and get some advice on beginning to discern God’s plan for their own lives.  So it wasn’t anything great I did that got me there. But still, it was pretty cool to be served dinner by a successor to the Apostles and to pray with him in his own chapel.  Cool and not a little bit awkward.  I never know what to say to important people, and inevitably end up saying something I instantly think is stupid.  At the end of the night, I thanked the Archbishop for a personal letter that he had sent us when Gianna was sick this summer, and I saw him look at my nametag, trying to remember who I was.  I don’t say this to fault the Archbishop.  He shepherds thousands of souls, and as one who has a part in the lives of only hundreds, I understand well the limits of the human person.  I think we all left impressed by his hospitality and honored that he opened his home and schedule to us.

Earlier in the day, I had a different experience.  I had met with a group of youth ministers about our summer youth camp, and spent over an hour praying for the camp in front of the Blessed Sacrament.  During this prayer time we had a chance to pray over each member of the group. Each person’s experience was so unique, each receiving what he or she needed from the Lord.  How interesting that in this instance, we were in the presence of one much greater than the Archbishop (his boss, in fact!) and instead of awkward fear there was peace.  In the presence of the One to whom “all authority on heaven and earth has been given” we felt deeply known, accepted, loved.

This is a phenomena we Christians should not take for granted.  Jesus calls us not to be slaves, but friends.  What?!? The God of the universe calls us friends? That which makes us feel nervous and out of place in the presence of persons of great power should be so magnified in the presence of God that we cannot get up off our faces.  After all, He could smite us with a blink of the eye.  Instead, this great Deity stoops down and washes our feet, or better yet, sheds every last drop of His blood to win for us the right to call Him friend.  And if Jesus was going to go through that much suffering to establish a relationship, by all means we honor Him by taking Him up on the invitation.  But I think it does us good to remember how truly strange it is to be able to approach with confidence the Throne of Grace, how unique it is that our Creator calls us himself our bridegroom and how profoundly grateful we should be for the privilege.

Something to think about next time we are invited to Jesus’ house for supper…

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