Among the numerous Scripture readings in this Holy Week, I was drawn to the dialogue cited above from the Gospel of Mark. It reminds me of someone I met many years ago.
In the summer of 2000, I worked at a retreat house in Burlingame, California, nestled in the hills between San Francisco and Palo Alto. Among the retreatants assigned to me that summer was a woman in her early 60’s, who said she’d come on retreat because she wanted the answer to one question: “Is Jesus God?” Much the same question as the high priest, isn’t it?
Trained in Ignatian spirituality, I dutifully recommended meditation over Scripture passages that would provide opportunities to directly engage with Jesus, so the retreatant could pose the question to Jesus herself. Nothing worked. She came close on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24—she knew Jesus was beside her on the way, but neither eye contact nor conversation were had.
On the final day of the retreat, I remembered an instruction my novice master had given when addressing all the novices about the assignments he’d just given each of us—to places like Amman, Kingston (Jamaica), and the Rosebud Sioux Reservation (South Dakota). He said, “You’re not being sent to bring God there. God is already there—he was there a long time ago, is there now, and will be there long after you leave. You’re going there to find God,”
With this in mind, I asked the retreatant where she’d already been finding God. “Oh, that’s easy,” she replied. Then she detailed how she often found God in the sky. I asked her to tell me more. A computer scientist, she spoke of how her commute to work in Silicon Valley often found her at a standstill in highway traffic, as it often took her 45-50 minutes to travel the 10 miles from home to office. ’Parked’ there on the highway each morning, she felt enveloped by God in the vast expanse of blue sky that so often wrapped around her in all directions.
The scientist also shared with me that her father was a preacher, who delivered extraordinary sermons each Sunday, as she and her family sat in the first pew—but he was an abusive man at home, and thus hadn’t left his daughter with a valid impression of what Jesus was like in real life. Is it any wonder that God found another way, a way around this tragic situation?
So the question isn’t whether or not Jesus is the Messiah, or where or how to find him. The question is, where and how has the Divine already been reaching each of us—the God who leaves no stone unturned, for whom nothing is impossible. Happy Easter.