I have never been great at paying attention. I am a day-dreaming doodler. I like to be busy. It is hard for me to sit still. Some of the best songs I have ever written were scribed in the margins of my notebook during graduate school. Even when I am watching a movie or television, I am usually doing something else. Sometimes I miss something. If I do, I just rewind and catch what I missed. This is not the case however, when I go to mass. I do try my best to be fully engaged in the liturgy. I sing the songs. I pray the prayers. I do not watch people in the Communion line, nor do I judge their outfits. I may make faces at the occasional baby in a pew nearby, but that is as far as my folly goes inside the church. Except once. I had chosen to go to the EARLY mass. In case you don’t know this, youth ministers are not, as rule, early birds. I know that my colleagues and I do our best work when everyone else is winding down. Suffice to say that this particular morning I was dead tired. I had a load of ministry commitments scheduled for the day, so starting the Sunday with early Mass was just the ticket.
However, when I was kneeling during the Eucharistic prayers, I must have dozed off. I woke up when my forehead banged against the pew. Now not only was I still tired, but now I had a bruise on my forehead and a guilty conscience. I missed the thing that was most important.
In today’s gospel from Luke, we see a similar thing happen. Jesus goes to the synagogue and reads a passage from Isaiah. The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; He has sent me to bring good news to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, release to the prisoners . . . He concludes with “Today this Scripture Passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” Those in attendance were outraged. They totally missed the point. Jesus was revealing Himself to His neighbors and friends, but they missed it.
Interestingly, today’s Gospel starts with a passage found earlier in the gospel of Luke. Whereby Luke is addressing Theophilus. There are many scholars who feel that Theophilus is us. Translated it means “beloved of God.” So in the first part of the Gospel we have Luke addressing us (Gentiles), and in the second part of the Gospel Jesus reveals His nature and mission to the Jews. So it’s like, Hey you guys. … pay attention. . . look at this!
The big question here is, do we? Do we pay attention? Do we see Jesus? Do we hear Jesus? Do we feel Jesus? Or are our days just a string of doodles in an effort to pass time?
I know a woman who runs a homeless ministry out of her home. She is an amazing woman. She has dozens of volunteers helping her. One of her volunteers does the ironing. Does that seem odd to you? To iron a shirt that you are about to give a homeless person? It seemed strange to me until I heard her explain why. She sees Jesus in every homeless person that she meets and she would not give Jesus anything less than a perfect shirt.
Opportunities to experience Jesus surround us. The trick is to see the Divine in the everyday. It’s that seeking that comprises the gift of wonder and awe. Being bogged down with worry, anxiety, frustration, over-scheduling and relationship drama are like the doodles of our spirit. They can distract us from what is really important. Slowly they suck the awe right out of us until we become cynical scoffers.
Today, Theophilus, is the day to proverbially crack your head off the pew and wake up. It is the day to greet Jesus’ presence in the people and circumstances that you experience. All things, all people, good or bad, provide us a chance to form our spirituality, rekindle the gift of wonder and awe and experience Jesus.