A Visible Appearance

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

I had the good fortune to be a passenger as my friend drove back down the river canyon from Estes Park to Denver. I could fully take in the majesty of golden leaves on aspen trees interspersed with bright red maples, making the valley below glow against a perfect blue sky and the foothills landscape. Two thoughts grounded in two texts dominated my reflection on the Assembly.

“For the presence of Christ in history – the visible appearance – visibly abides in the unity of believers, which is the encounterable form of His presence.” (Giussani, Why the Church?; 21)

This reality may be the most important gift I’ve received in eleven years of following this charism. The answer to how I become familiar with Jesus, how I know what He does, how I know He loves me, how I can observe how He makes me feel, is staying close to the unity of believers.

I have never had great comfort with admonitions like “Let Go and Let God” that seem to direct my deepest needs, fears, and concerns generally heavenward after which I am to comfortably relax, trusting that somehow Jesus has “taken the wheel.” I need to experience that relationship, not talk about it. The gift of following CL has given me a place to abide with the unity of believers.

An experience like the National Assembly shows me that all the dynamics of a true relationship are there when I encounter the presence of Christ in the unity of believers. If we take Giussani literally, Christ is visibly present and I can give Him a hug, side-splittingly laugh with Him, cry with Him, eat with Him, hike with Him… live with Him. I am even more grateful that the experience of the unity of believers in the Movement opens me ever more to our unity with the Holy Father and the promise that that particular following has to unite the whole world.

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

The National Assembly showed me in three clear ways that, in fact, Jesus Christ is the great equalizer (my term). First, new people are always catching our attention and we follow them. We have seen new people to follow at the international, national, and local levels. New people share their witnesses, new priests celebrate Mass, new people lead us in music and prayer. We see in this open and free dynamism that Jesus is active and not fossilized.

Second, every member of this unity can be a good for me. My twenty-something single friend and I searched the full cafeteria for open seats and approached a table of four women ranging from newly-married to grandmother. I hesitated: why do two guys want to sit down with four women already engaged in conversation for dinner? Christ surprised me again with an encounter over that meal that was a definitive source of grace. This happened again as I was gifted unexpected conversations on the hike with people both long-familiar and new to me: two priests older than me, a father and husband in the same stage of life as me, a CL leader and mother of grown children. Everyone is the presence of Christ to me!

Finally, I didn’t think there would be Frizzis with a group of several hundred that was so diverse and so new in being together. But there were! No one – not even the on-paper most important person there, President of the Fraternity Davide Prosperi – was denied the gift of being shown in an “I-am-laughing-so-hard, I’m-crying” way that it is not our capabilities, talents, position, vocation, or history with the Movement that makes us valuable. We have unexpected and infinite value to each other precisely because we have Jesus in common.

Curtis, Des Moines, IA