The following is a transcript of a Raised Catholic podcast episode. To listen to the episode, click here.
Today is episode 120: Where God Meets Us
Hi friends. Today continues a bit of an exploration into the first Gospel readings after Easter Sunday, the ones where we see the varied reactions of the followers of Jesus to the miracle that changed everything. Gosh, I wish these were the readings that we focused on on Sundays – they are so rich and I’m not sure most of us ever get the chance to really take them in, but hopefully we can use these stories today as a touchstone to help us integrate that Good News into our own lives in a meaningful way as well.
Last week we talked about the journey from ‘but we were hoping’ to ‘hearts burning within us’ and how we can discover the ‘God who is’ by reckoning with the God that we may have unwittingly made, even in our own image. This week I’d like us to focus on the many places where Jesus meets the disciples, both before and after the resurrection, so that we can come to recognize the places where God meets us, too.
Mary Magdalene was the first to meet Jesus after He was raised from the dead. We spoke a bit about her last week, how she ran and told that Good News to the disciples who did not believe her. And you know, it’s funny, I heard a homily last week that claimed that every person who heard the news about Jesus did not believe it, from the women to the men to Thomas, and I sat there sort of shaking my head and thinking, well, that’s not true. According to the Scriptures, the women absolutely did believe. I don’t know why a priest would say otherwise.
And – just a sidenote here, but I’m wondering if you’ve ever sat in a pew listening to a homily where something is said that is just demonstrably untrue. I have, and I bet you have, too. No easy answers for this, friend, but it’s just one more sign of the sin of clericalism that most of us don’t feel like we can question anything that is said from the pulpit, even when we know it’s wrong. And I guess I’d want to offer this as just one more encouragement to be sure to read scripture and learn about faith for ourselves, to own our own faith, and if you have any answers about what to do in those awkward pew moments, I would love to hear them!
Anyway, back to our friend, Mary Magdalene. She met Jesus at the tomb, in a place of death and mourning, and I wonder if you have ever met God in a place like this. There is something about the nature of grief that can crack us wide open to receive God’s presence in a way we might not have before. When my Mom passed over ten years ago, I remember reading every book I could get my hands on about near-death experiences and life after death. And I did not know it at the time, but the mourning of my mother would shift and realign so much about my spiritual life, resulting in feeling in many ways closer to her than when she was walking on the earth, but also feeling Mary and Jesus and the Holy Spirit with me in a way that I never had before. Many of us meet God in a place of grief or mourning because we are uniquely open to seeing Him there.
God met two disciples on the Road to Emmaus, while they were literally on their way somewhere else, and I think if you were born and raised Catholic, it can be easy to forget that God comes to us in this way, in the midst of our daily lives. No, God does not live exclusively at church, but He exists in all creation, and God cannot be contained. He meets us where we are, as we are, while we are out here living our real lives. If we can attune our minds and eyes and spirits to recognize Him more while we’re walking out this life, I do think that we and maybe the whole world might be a whole lot better off. We humans love to ‘put God in a box’ but God will not live in one, and that is Good News for us all.
One of the best places Jesus met the disciples was behind a locked door in the upper room, and, friend, I love this story. If you were born and raised Catholic, you may have been taught that the weight of the responsibility for your relationship with God is on you. I read a post recently from someone who recounted all of her many daily prayers and sacrifices and relationships with various saints as her “way in” to Heaven. In the same week, I heard a priest from the pulpit use similar language and, in each case, I just kind of shook my head because this is not what our faith even teaches. We are not ‘earning’ our way into Heaven. It’s so easy to forget that the Kingdom Jesus preached is already here, in process. It’s something Jesus brought to us as a gift, and it is certainly not something we can ‘earn’. And this might be strong language for some, but when we do focus on our own efforts as the lever that ‘gets us into Heaven’, what we are doing in fact is making ourselves into little gods. It is idolatry masked as piety, and it is not a sign of a healthy spiritual life, though it is the way so many Catholics practice their faith.
No, Jesus appeared to the disciples past a locked door. Jesus has been known to knock on doors, as in the Book of Revelation when He knocks on the doors of our hearts, and it is important for us to learn to hear that knock and to answer, but there in the upper room, Jesus let Himself in because He knew how terrified they were, and how much they needed Him in that moment. The resurrected Jesus is bigger than the box we’d want to put Him in, and no door or person was going to stop God from reaching His friends that day. And I’m wondering, have you ever experienced God, unbidden, coming in past all of your defenses to make Himself known to you? Gosh I hope so. He is so good like that, and when it comes to our Christian witness, I do believe that these are the best stories.
While Jesus walked the Earth, He met people in so many ways and places and these could be a sort of map for where we might look for Him, too. He met Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John while they were at work. He met so many people in their physical or mental suffering. He met Mary while growing within her and in her everyday rhythm of home. And while some of Jesus’ early followers did meet Him in the temple, and we can certainly meet Him at church, I think it’s important for us to remember that we, like the early friends of Jesus, can meet God in other places too. We can meet God at work. We can meet God in our suffering and yes, friend, we can meet God in our homes as well. Look around you, friend, you are sure to find Him there.
As our good God comes out to meet us in all these places and spaces, it is on us to recognize and respond to Him. Zacchaeus watched Jesus from high up in a tree and ended up welcoming Him in for dinner. Sick and suffering people met Jesus on the road and extended their hands to touch God in the hope of healing and received it. God met Matthew while he was at work in a tax booth and when Jesus called Matthew, he dropped everything to follow Him. For so many people, the encounter with God was so compelling as to change everything else. God became human and meets humans where they are – that is just the nature of who God is – and Jesus never demanded worship, but He did tell them – and us – to follow Him. Our response to God meeting us in every place and space should be the same, to follow where He goes and to allow Him to walk beside us. So, this week, let’s try opening our eyes to the places and spaces where God is meeting us, and let’s respond with open hearts and minds because He is a good God who wants us to encounter His goodness. He wants relationship with you and me because He loves us, and He already exists in every place that we already are so God, this week, please give us eyes to see.
Thanks so much for being with me today, friend. If you need me, you can find me on Instagram @kerrycampbellwrites or on my website at kerrycampbell.org. Thanks so much for rating, reviewing, subscribing and most importantly, sharing this podcast with a friend. That really makes a difference in growing our community, so thanks. If you’d like to support this podcast financially, there’s a way for you to do that in the show notes, along with some resources related to today’s episode, so do check all of that out, but before we go, let’s pray together.
This is a prayer we say at our retreat house, and it feels like a good one for us in this time, just to ask God to open our eyes and to transform us by what we see, so let’s pray.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your spirit and we shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth. Oh God who, by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolation through Christ our Lord, Amen.
Thanks for listening today, friend. I’ll see you next time.
Today we take a look at the many places that Jesus met His friends, both before and after the Resurrection, and use these as a sort of map for finding God in all the places He meets us in our everyday lives. Spoiler: He is already there.
If you’d like to connect with me, find me on Instagram or at my website. If you’d like to help support this podcast financially, there’s now a way to do just that, and thank you – visit me on my page at buymeacoffee.com! Thanks as always for sharing, subscribing, rating, and reviewing, as this helps our community to grow!
Thanks as always to my friend, Peter Vaughan-Vail, for providing the beautiful harp music you hear in this and every episode.
Here are some resources I hope will help you to engage with this week’s topic in a deeper way for yourself:
1. Open the Eyes of My Heart, by Audrey Assad
2. Book: The Shack, by Wm. Paul Young
3. Movie Trailer: The Way – this beautiful movie on the Camino de Santiago now available in theaters and online
4. Journal prompts:
Has God ever surprised me by showing up unbidden in an everyday experience? How did that feel? How did I recognize God there?
Where has God used me to encounter someone else so that they could experience God’s kindness?
5. Book: Drawing God, by Karen Kiefer
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