Monday, January 30, 2012
The teenager sits before me, her pain overwhelming, of loss, of fear. Her father is terminally ill. I have nothing to offer, nothing but compassion, presence, God. Inside I kneel before the burning bush. A soft flame ignites gently, spreads through me to the youth, unstoppable, irresistible, comforting to both of us. We pray.
It’s like that some days, this sense of God, of the divine, organic and real, like water, fire, and wind.
And then there are the other days.
Most interestingly, the days when God feels most present are not necessarily the easiest. The tearing of the veil of heaven can happen so unexpectedly, confronted by the pain of another, the reality that there is nothing to do but reach out for God with the one who suffers, and just be.
On the mountain, God burned for us, exposed, vulnerable, unconsumed. God always burns for us, and in us, if we allow it. And sends us out like Moses to care for the poor, free the slaves, confront the Pharaoh and simply be there for each other.
It’s difficult, this business of being with God. Not because God makes it so. We do. We crowd our days with things, goals, aspirations and fears. But what is most needful sometimes is just to let go. Be there. Be still. Be.
In the weeks and months ahead, the teenager’s father will enter into his passion, what Ronald Rolheiser calls the passivity before death that Jesus endured, that all of us must endure. Even as we live, we die. Even as we die, we live. The father will have to let go of his life and his child. And his child will have to let go of him.
But in that letting go, in that enforced passivity, in that passion of love and of being there that this family will journey through, God will be present, burning for all of them through the moment of death and ever after. And I hope, in some small way, that God will help me be present for them too.