CLOSE ENCOUNTERS 26.03.2017

Do you have a friend that you can really talk to? Is there someone you would sit up chatting with real late at night? Is there someone with whom you could sit in the coffee shop, but you could not drink another coffee and actually Starbucks are thinking of charging you rent, such is the flow of conversation? Maybe you do not meet often but when you do the reconnecting is seamless. Are you blessed enough to have a friendship that does not do full stops, only commas? If you are, you know what I mean. It may have the frenzied rat- a -tat- tat of excited, breathless conversation and be just as comfortable in an easy silence. It’s a place that survives prickly irritability and even the odd storm. I am sure you recognise it. You can name her, or him. Whisper the name now and smile and give thanks. She is the one of whom you say, ‘Oh I can’t wait to tell her’! He is the one with the smile that does not hurt but gently reminds you that, in fact, you are all right…and more…much more. How is it that such a place..such a person is so important? How come such an encounter can make such a huge difference?

I think one of the reasons that such close encounters mean so much to us is that they are just that. They are an experience of closeness. The gap is narrowed. We realise that we are not alone. It dawns on us once again that we do in fact matter. We glimpse the joy of being known. The difficulty that arises is that it is not a complete or entire experience. We glimpse, we sip, we get a whiff of, but we quickly recognise that any greed on our part will destroy this. This is not a place to gorge or down in a pint-full! This is to be savoured. This is slow, this is rich, this is quality. Suddenly it disappears. Just when we think we have it, it’s gone. It teases, tantalises. We yearn for more and yet some of its richness is in its scarceness. It is real food and we recognise its quality especially when we compare it with much of what we feed on. Yes there can be no doubt when we meet another in this special moment, this close encounter, we experience something of the sacred.

I wonder was it like this for Nicodemus or the Samaritan Woman at the Well? We know that Nicodemus came to listen to, and look at Jesus. We also know that he did this at night lest he get into trouble. Job, position and reputation were all at stake but still he had to come to Jesus. The woman at the well was so moved, so changed that when she went off to tell family, friends and neighbours about the encounter it is interesting to note the language she used. She did not speak of him as engaging or special or a holy man or indeed a prophet, but rather wonders is he the Christ? She is left with a fire burning within her. The fire of wonder. Could it be? Could it be, she wonders, that I have met with, conversed with the Messiah, the Holy One of God?

Of course what is being hinted at here is the special moments. The golden moments. The moment when the gap between ourselves and the world is bridged. We do not feel quite as alone. We have connected. We feel a little bit better known. This can be momentary and fleeting or reasonably regular. The encounter with Jesus begs this question could this be more lasting? Could it be more regularly attainable? In fact not only is it more attainable, it is accessible on a daily basis. Indeed even better than this, is the fact that what is available to us is much deeper and richer than any human encounter, no matter how good. In a nut shell what I am getting at here is the possibility that is open to all of us, namely to have a personal, meaningful relationship with Jesus. This is exciting beyond words.

Could it really be that Jesus of Nazareth is alive and wants to be in relationship with me? Is it possible that this relationship could be real and meaningful and have genuine impact on my life? The truth is, even though I understand that it’s difficult to believe, the truth is a resounding yes! This relationship with Jesus can happen and it can be very real, because of the incarnation and because of God’s salvific plan. With the arrival of God’s Son into this world as a helpless baby everything is changed, irrevocably. God loved us so much that he sent His Son as one of us. Not only does he show an interest in us, he is passionate about us. The truth is God ‘is mad about us’! Now here’s the deal when I give special time to Jesus in silence incredible things happen. He listens to me as I rattle on. Sometimes when I shut up, He gets a word in. Now here’s the best bit. The best bit by far is when we just sit gazing at each other. To sit in the gaze of Jesus and bask in the warmth of his love! Yes! This is the ultimate, the unbeatable joy!

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