The Tenderness of His Presence

“I felt free to share everything with these new friends” – visiting her friend in Florida, Sofia rediscovers her need to discover Christ within a companionship in the flesh.

I recently spent several weeks in Florida visiting a dear friend, Jess. During our rich days together I got to know many of her own friends — in Pensacola, Jacksonville, Port St Lucie and West Palm Beach — about whom I have known for a long time, both because of testimonies they have shared in this Newsletter and because of how their witness and affection has changed Jess’ life. It was the occasion to discover, as Fr. Lepori told us at the Spiritual Exercises, that the more I share Christ with others the more I possess Him.

During my visit I was struck by how much each of her friends enjoys life, and how much I enjoyed life with them. When I asked myself “why?”, I realized it was because of a freedom they have, an intense pursuit of Christ as the fulfillment of all of their desires and a total openness to however He would answer them. I found myself embraced with the same simplicity they showed their own hearts.

This embrace generated a unity among us. It was an unexpected unity, as most of us have radically different temperaments and backgrounds and not much knowledge of each other’s lives. But we were one in our awareness that Christ is the meaning of everything. This was especially clear to me during an evening some of us spent singing together; our shared attention to the lyrics of longing and begging filled me with silent eagerness for the coming of the Lord at Christmas. And above all it was evident in the daily celebration of the Mass, where I was reminded over and over that our friendship was like the white dawn announcing the rising of the sun: it was a sign of something further, deeper, but something already here, because these faces were the means of the same Presence who already claimed me at my Baptism and possesses me daily in the Eucharist.

As we heard God say through Isaiah during Advent: “I have not spoken from hiding nor from some dark place of the earth, and I have not said to… look for me in an empty waste.” Rather, Christ asks me to look for Him in a fullness, within a companionship in the flesh. Because His presence is the truth of my identity, I felt free to share everything with these new friends: my time off, my money, even my brash and sensitive temperament, because I saw in them that Christ chooses me as I am today even amid my sin. So whether I see them again or not, my affection for them will last to eternity.

I am grateful for this experience of the inexhaustible newness of the coming of Christ, which prepared me for the great celebration of His Nativity. I left Florida with a desire to see this continue and grow. I need to see that I can possess Him more by sharing Him with my family, and my colleagues, and every person who is celebrating Christmas — whether they know His face yet or not. I burn to communicate to everyone the tenderness of His presence.

Sofia, Cambridge, England