Engaging Presence- Lenten Journey
We encounter God’s presence in everything and everyone, but how often do we engage the divine? Many saints, including Saint Benedict, Saint Francis, and Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez, encapture the divine presence in everything we see and everyone we encounter. Do we live with this engagement seeking?
The contrast between encounter and engagement is qualitative. Saint Paul talks about being unveiled to reflect the full glory of God with one another. “Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him” (2 Cor 18:16-18, The Message).
We have more veiled encounters than unveiled engagements.
My wife Rocio and I are blessed to be around each other most of the time. We work together and share one car with one cell phone. I encounter my wife all the time, but how much of that time am I genuinely present with her? We work at engagement through praying together, setting aside time for deeper meaningful discussions (with no distractions), and weekly devotion/book discussion on marriage and spirituality. I am a morning person, and Rocio is a night person. Ideally, we must manage our time around each other’s peak hours. This is challenging, but it takes an intentional focus and a high degree of flexibility from both of us. Balancing our unveiled time together as well as our time with others is essential to our marriage relationship and serving ministry relationships.
My patron saint, Alphonsus Rodriguez, had a difficult life early on, losing most of his family at an early age and later in life losing his wife and all his children except for one. He desperately wanted to be a Jesuit priest but lacked the educational requirements. He went on to be a Jesuit brother. He lived out his Jesuit service as a doorkeeper for a college in Majorca. Every time he went to open the door for a new visitor, he went with the expectation of engaging Christ in a different way. Is that my expectation? Do I have that sense of divine presence when encountering new people? Or is it about what I can get from that person rather than what I can see differently and give to them?
Our Lenten journey should encompass more than acknowledging the divine but shift toward practicing God’s presence intimately in solitude and community. A Kairos time for us to intentionally invite the divine presence into our daily life. It is more than praying better and giving up things but searching for new moments to be with others and serve them. An increasingly difficult practice in these pandemic times but an opportunity to be inquisitive and imaginative in our divine consciousness. A conscious immersion in what we are moving toward and sustaining over what we are giving up.
How do we make this practice of engagement essential to our Lenten journey? We seek the divine by asking for the fervent desire to engage God in prayer, Scripture, liturgy, and seeing all humanity as the embodiment of the Risen Christ. It is a holy longing to be one with our Sacred Creator and the divine creation. What is preventing you from that longing? That is probably something you should let go. For me, it is not merely giving up material consumption but allowing God to transform what I think about and how I use my time.
Being aware of God is fundamental; being awakened in God is transformational.
Another way of giving up my false self and carrying my rugged cross. What do I gain? Everything. Our presence with God’s presence (including all humanity) is living in and out of God’s will. It is only illusory to us when we stop engaging life beyond ourselves. What was I created for? What is my purpose? To be fully alive in the divine presence of life. God’s desire becomes my ultimate desire.
Our Lenten journey is an open invitation to follow Christ in discipleship by engaging God’s presence that is all around us and in us. Father Patrick Dolan of MPB Denver envisions Lent as a practical practice of following through to embrace the “Follow Me” of Jesus fully. How is your follow-through going?
Join the Brothers of Saint Benedict’s Monastery in our Lenten 2021 Series- Engaging Presence. Father Terry and Father Micah will be sharing brief reflections every Wednesday during Lent at 2:00 PM MT. It will be live on Zoom and recorded for our YouTube Channel.
Zoom ID # 367 360 7803 (It is the same meeting code every week)