“If you only knew…”
When I was drawing close to ordination as a priest, I remember having a very candid and serious conversation with an older priest. I had known him most of my life and was looking forward to the next few months and following fifty years of ministry! My excitement was wearing him down a little because at a couple points he effortlessly downplayed certain of my enthusiastic hopes with the remark, “if you only knew…”. A few more times he ‘batted at the gnat excitedly buzzing around him’ and I got the hint: I sensed he was tired of the ‘young pup’ and my effusive excitement so I slowly started to retreat with my enthusiasm. I guess he felt bad at having deflated my balloon and, after a few minutes of just sitting and enjoying the growing summer, he said again, “if you only knew”. His tone was different this time. Feeling dismissed, I asked him to go on. The priest began to crack a bit and his expression had changed. He turned to me quite warmly and looked me in the eye. “If only you knew…and you can’t yet, but you will.”
“God is so good”, he continued. “I have been a priest for over 45 years and I am always—always—amazed at how blessed I am to witness such goodness. When I celebrate the sacraments, it’s all God’s doing and it’s never-ending. When I visit the frail, I can actually see God holding them up…even holding them together…and bolstering their failing strength. And when I’m tired and get a little worn out, God blesses me and sends me angels: folks who say ‘hello’ and mean it; people who love the church no matter what…really, no matter what; little dreams as I pray, and I feel God settling in beside me, not so unlike a lad and his puppy after an hour of fetch. Yep, if you only knew, you’d be even more excited!”
Jesus says to the woman of Samaria, “If you only knew the Gift of God that is before you”. As if hoping and inviting and waiting, the gentle Master longs for her to see and to know the gift of God: His peace; His acceptance; His loving mercy; His ache for her to know…really know Him. Thankfully she comes to know, and to experience, all of the blessings that life holds out for her, in Him. Despite her wrestling and doubt and wandering and defense…she is still able to leave her hardness and scars aside and come to know the Gift of God. And what a gift it is; what a gift He is!
For us, as we wander through this Lent, can we picture ourselves hoping and meandering and aching? We don’t have to be as the Samaritan any longer. We can know the Gift of God and receive His life-giving grace.
May our excitement never wane and may our enthusiasm never allow us to stumble or veer off this path that leads to the Gift of God.
Blessings to you always,