Stumbling upon God’s divine presence
A Reflection for Monday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
I had an evening flight the day that I moved from Boston to Chicago, and friends took me to dinner at IHOP before I departed. These were “recovery friends,” people I had gotten to know through participation in a twelve-step fellowship. Countless times after recovery meetings or just to spend time together, we had eaten at the 24-hour IHOP on Soldiers Field Road in Brighton. It was the best place for my last dinner in Boston.
After we had eaten, my friend Ryan drove me to Logan airport. I had been his sponsor in recovery for several years. Sponsorship can include a profound sharing of one’s deepest self, and that was the case between us. I don’t know if there was anyone I knew better, and I think he could say the same about me. But I was moving away. We were certain to remain friends, but we also knew everything was about to change.
At Logan, I got out of the car and grabbed my things from the trunk. As I turned to wish Ryan goodbye, he grabbed me in a bear hug. Ryan is a strong guy; he is a boxer and a union ironworker. The hug was nearly bone-crushing, and I reciprocated as well as I was able. After what felt like several minutes, Ryan still hadn’t let go, and I didn’t either. As the hug continued, I experienced something else. All those years of talking about higher powers and spiritual transformations and unconditional love now produced something more between us. God was present; I had stumbled upon divinity in a place where I would never have thought to seek it out. I have visited Boston several times since moving away, and I have walked past the spot where that hug took place and the memory of it never fails to move me.
Wherever we allow memories of love to take root, God can continue to act, and transform even a heap of stones into a pathway to heaven.
Today’s readings each reflect on divine presence. I identify most with Jacob in the first reading. Fleeing his brother’s wrath, Jacob kept to deserted places as he made his way to safety. One night, he stumbled upon God’s presence. The covenant he made in that newly-discovered sacred place was the foundation for the one his descendants made at Sinai and the one Christ made on the cross.
In today’s Gospel reading, Matthew reveals another kind of divine presence. Jesus drops what he is doing and accompanies the father of a dying girl to his child’s bedside. Jesus’ mercy was such that he would disrupt his own life to travel where his power was needed. In this, Jesus reflects the divine reality of the psalm, when God promises to save all who call.
Key to our discipleship is the ability to find and respond to God’s divine presence, however we encounter it. We should not forget, though, that we bear the Spirit as Christ did. Every place we go is somewhere that God can become present. When we make our love real, “something more” joins us. Wherever we allow memories of love to take root, God can continue to act, and transform even a heap of stones into a pathway to heaven.