Fr Peter writes:
A few weeks ago in my parish letter I invited anyone who would care to email me with their reflection on how they experience the presence of the Risen Christ changing them. I received these two letters, the first from Philip Richards and the second from Peter Toon. I thought others may be interested in their reflections. Thank you both for letting me share them.
Dear Fr Peter,
You ask how has and is the very real presence of the risen Christ changing me.
While I was brought up in a vicarage, it was a long while before I connected my religious upbringing with anything relevant to my life. Once I did, I came to see Christ as something like my operating system, very often challenging my instincts. As time has gone on, I have come to see that Christ’s way is the way to a contented and fulfilled human life.
The routine of the Mass causes me to focus on many of the things that are necessary for this. Time out to consider the errors of my ways, to hear passages from the instruction book, to share concerns and to give thanks for joys, to share in a feast that reminds me I am not alone. (among other things)
Evensong is a time for reflection and provides a setting in which the mind can turn to spiritual thoughts.
It is not uncommon for me to sense God’s grace in a service, today I did, for a variety of reasons. Including your censing of the altar, the pace at which you moved, a brilliant sermon.
On other occasions it has been something as simple as the use of the priest’s gestures with his hands. Our services during the Triduum move me deeply, from tears to elation, the ritual and music heightening the impact.
On one occasion when I was worshipping in S. Peter’s Rome I was hit with a profound experience of God’s grace- I had been praying before the mass began, eyes shut with my head leaning forward. Initially I was cross because our party of six had been lined up to sit with one another in one row on the main aisle, but people dashing up a side aisle displaced Jocelyn and me and we ended up in a side aisle and separated from the others. However, having got that disappointment off my chest I gave thanks for the wonderful holiday I was completing that day, and I prayed for Gods help once I returned to NZ, as there were some very concerning and difficult matters to sort out when I got back. At that moment I felt a strong burning sensation on my neck, and opening my eyes I found I was bathed in a strong concentrated beam of light. It was a sunbeam shining obliquely through the dome and landing on me and a woman in the row behind. “Do not be afraid, all will be well” came powerfully to my mind. The woman behind me also had experienced God’s grace in that moment, and we looked at each other with tears in our eyes.
When I am happy, for example walking in the mountains, hymns of praise and thanksgiving spring to mind, when the going gets tough, a common recourse is to “Father hear the prayer we offer” I sense God through the risen Christ in these moments also. When the chips are down I am given hope, when things are going well I am encouraged to remain grounded.
I have discovered through experience that Christ’s way is the best way; forgiveness for example can be difficult to do as you alluded to today. When I was at school there was a boy who bullied me physically and emotionally. Some years later I ran into him again, and somewhat reluctantly got into conversation with him. That conversation actually developed into a very strong friendship and some years later when I was going through a bad patch, he was the most supportive friend you could wish for. Forgiving served me very well, but was not my natural instinct.
Christ’s operating system serves me so well in so many ways. I don’t always apply it well. I cannot say I am anywhere near being a model. But I am much the better for doing as much as I do, as I pick my way through the competing demands of the spiritual and material world.
Dear Fr Peter,
I guess we each have our unique ways of seeking God. Although, I feel at times my communication with the Almighty could be better, especially in those arid moments in one’s life, I just do what works for me.
Having spent a career teaching people relaxation techniques, I begin my prayer times getting myself ‘ín-the-zone’ so to speak. Beginning with a minute’s focus on breathing, allowing my heart rate to slow to I enter a space where all is calm – my surroundings all but disappear. It is at that point that I focus on the majesty of God and the fact that I am only here as a result of His willing me to be. There is definitely a point where I experience a sense of wonderment. I also become aware of how much, despite my best effort, that I fall short of the mark in the way I live out life and, more particularly, in my relationships with others. This is the bit I dare to call confession. And, I guess following that, I am aware of and express my thanks for all our Lord did for me on the cross.
When think about others’ lives and the world generally, I am often at a loss as to how things can be better, how hurts can be healed and lives restored out of the chaos that often exists. That bit I simply have to acknowledge and leave to God who knows best and trust that His love will overcome all.
Seems simple? Well, I guess that sums up me. Other and wiser folk would have a different ‘take’.
In His name