Few will deny that, in our past, there have been events—good and bad—which at the time may not have seemed significant, but years later greatly influence us: a significant teacher, a book we’ve read or an event we’ve witnessed. The Gospels are full of such moments in which people met Jesus, often in very difficult circumstances, and years later, the significance of their meeting produced marvelous fruit.
For example, there is a beautiful Gospel scene that is unique to Mark and is often used in the Sacrament of Baptism. In Mark 10:13-16, we are given a picture of small children sitting on Jesus’ lap and hanging on his shoulders. Jesus is holding them, touching them and blessing them. We can only imagine the joy that must have filled Jesus’ heart. After all, it was little children who best exemplified true disciples.
We’ve all been around small children and have been enthralled by their curiosity and love for exploring. There must have been something about Jesus that was so attractive to them, that drew them to him. They were safe with him. You can easily imagine their mothers smiling as they crawled all over Jesus. Surely it was an incident never to be forgotten.
There’s no question that key moments—good or bad—influence us. We know that from our own experiences. We have memories of events that never leave us.
One thing that always strikes me is how many people Jesus met, talked to, touched, healed or freed from demonic possession. We have to keep in mind that the Gospels record only a few stories of the lives that Jesus touched.
Can you imagine the adulterous woman, whose stoning was prevented by Jesus, ever forgetting his face or his words? What about the widow of Naim whose son came back to life at Jesus’ touch? Or what of the lepers healed on their way to the Temple? The blind who saw Jesus? The deaf who heard him? The lame who wanted to follow Jesus?
Early Events Later Come to Life
In every instance, the seed of grace was planted: a seed sown and a memory of Jesus never to be forgotten.
I often wonder if, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, as the apostles began to preach the risen Lord and the Good News of the gospel, how many people who had met Jesus found themselves filled with new faith. Remember the occasion of the two disciples walking to Emmaus after Jesus’ death when a stranger—who was Jesus—caught up to them? Later, when they paused for rest, Jesus broke bread with them (Luke 24:13-33). After the breaking of the bread, when Jesus had left them, they were stunned to realize that “their hearts were burning.” They realized they had been in the presence of the risen Lord. In a moment of utter despair because of Jesus’ horrible death, faith broke through, and they realized Jesus had indeed risen from the dead as he had promised.
Jesus touched many lives. Doesn’t it seem natural that the seed that was planted by Jesus’ touch would grow and blossom as those people realized it was the same Jesus who healed and freed them?
When you wonder about who those first converts and disciples were, it is reasonable to realize that many were the ones who had experienced Jesus’ love and power months or years earlier. The seed that was planted had come to life.
I remember, as a 12-year-old, how I was one of our parish’s torch bearers. We were used in major feast day celebrations to add extra solemnity to the processions to and from the sanctuary. At 12, we were not serving in Mass yet, but we were able to wear a cassock and surplice and be a part of the liturgy and procession. That was a true privilege and something very special to us.
The torch bearers also took slots on Holy Thursday for a half hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. I distinctly remember kneeling and looking very closely at the host in the monstrance. And, in my child-like faith, I thought if I looked hard enough, I could see Jesus. Of course, Jesus was not visible even though the host was consecrated. He was there, to be sure, but in my child’s heart, I wanted to see him. After I stared into the host for a long time, I said to myself, “I think I see him. I think I see his face!”
Of course, what I was seeing were shadows on the host like we sometimes see shadows on the moon. And we’ve all said, one time or another, “Look, there’s the man on the moon!” And that’s what I thought I was seeing in the host. Jesus was hidden, but the faith of my heart told me, “There he is!” I was amazed and felt very privileged.
This June, I will celebrate the 50th anniversary of my ordination, having been ordained in 1961. And I have often reflected and wondered if the moment I spent looking at Jesus in the monstrance was indeed a moment when the good Lord planted a seed in my heart that would draw me, as a 12 year-old-boy, to the priesthood. More than 50 years later, I know it was a key moment in my childhood.
I invite you to reflect on your own childhood or other moments in your life in which you can now see the touch of God’s grace and realize it has come to fruition.