“The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while’…And they went away in a boat…Now many saw them going…and they ran there on foot from all the towns, and got there ahead of them. As he landed he saw a great throng, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them…”
One of the things we can see clearly in the Gospels is that Jesus got interrupted a lot. He’s on his way somewhere, and people keep coming, seeking his healing touch for themselves, or their servant, or their child. And he responds. It is never recorded that he turns anyone aside, or ignores them hoping they will just give up and go away. And on several occasions – the woman with the bleeding problem (Mark 5), the crippled woman in the synagogue (Luke 13), and Zacchaeus up in the tree (Luke 19), to name a few examples – he goes out of his way to single out individuals and call them to himself despite the press of plenty of other seekers. Even the Syrophoenician woman in Mark chapter 7, whom Jesus seems intially to rebuff, is granted not only the healing for her daughter that she seeks, but also approval for her humility.
I’m afraid I am not so gracious much of the time, especially when I feel pulled in multiple directions by the expectations of those around me. I’ve been thinking about the issue of “presence”: availability, attentiveness, welcome. So often what that actually looks like is an undistracted listening ear.
I weekly see my pastor after Mass with a crowd of people around him, wanting to tell him something, ask him something, make an appointment with him. I so admire and appreciate how he seems to be able to focus so completely on each person; no divided attention, no evident impatience. I’m certain he’s honed this skill over many years, but it still impresses me; I’ve been on the receiving end of this focus and it has been a great blessing.
How I need to increase that capacity in myself – the capacity to be more fully available and present to others!
Empty me, Lord of self which takes up so much “room”! Make space in me so that I might be open and hospitable to others around me, willing to receive them – the challenges and the unknown blessings they might bring. Make me, Father, more willing to be a little uncomfortable, trusting your plan rather than my own. Help me to find that place of “yes” to you; to trust more fully your perfect, loving Providence in my life. You, Lord, are ordering my days. Grant me your grace to believe and live that truth.
“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls interruptions are precisely one’s real life – the life God is sending one day by day.”
C. S. Lewis