An Encounter With the Living God

By Father Patrick Longalong

My brother brought me back to visit our hometown parish since I haven’t seen the place for over a decade.

We were greeted by a group of women dressed in the same fashion at the doors of the church. They excitedly led us to one of the church meeting rooms while already engaged in a lively “updating” of the current situation in the neighborhood.

I noticed one of the senior members of the group looking at me curiously. “You remind me of someone,” she said. “I hope it is someone good,” I responded. “Something about how you carry yourself reminds me of your mother.”

I am sure that once in your life, you have heard someone say something similar to you. I say the same thing to my younger brother when I see his son inconsciously manifest mannerisms similar to him. Like the way he crosses his legs when he sits.

Our Gospel reading this weekend has often been called the High Priestly Prayer. One can say that it is a beautiful conversation and prayer from Jesus to his Father. His words expressed deep concern for the well-being of his disciples when he would be separated from them. This is a good passage that we can hold onto when we find ourselves feeling like God has left us to fend for ourselves. Because in reality God has always been so close to us, even more so during the times when we could not recognize Him at all.

In the first reading, the disciples of Jesus showed us the only way to respond when we feel distant from God. After Jesus had ascended to the Father, tradition says that they went back to the Upper Room to pray. It is during their time together in prayer that they were filled by the presence of the Holy Spirit with the courage and ability to proclaim the Gospel to the world.

At the beginning of the Gospel, Jesus revealed to us in his prayer the relationship he has with his Father and how this intimate relationship allowed us to see what the Father is like in the person of Jesus. There is also a nuance of an invitation into this relationship when Jesus said, “I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of this world.”

In scripture, when we know someone’s name, we are essentially saying that we have a close relationship with them. And when we have an intimate bond with someone, we also may manifest similar inclinations that others can identify with the person we are associated with. This is also the reason why we have that hymn, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”

We also hear today the word “glorify” repeated frequently. An implicit reality that this word presents to us is the fact that you also represent or bring the presence of the one being glorified.

When I was a seminarian, I was assigned to attend a CPE program under Sr. Julie Houser, C.S.J. at Queens General Hospital. I remember visiting a patient who was dying. When I entered his room, I was greeted by a man who welcomed me to sit next to his bed. We had an uplifting conversation but most of the time, it was he who was leading the dialogue. Before I left, I asked him, “Is there anything I can do for you? Are you comfortable?” He looked at me and responded: “Honestly, I am in pain, but I am offering this up to the people I love.” He then revealed to me the rosary he was clutching in his hand underneath the blanket.

I never heard the man complain once. Instead, I heard mostly encouraging words come out of him. He was glorifying God through his suffering. And while he was doing that, he made God’s presence manifest in the room so that every person who encountered him did not meet a person who was dying but a person who was full of life and love for the people around him.

For me, that visit was an encounter with the living God.

Readings for the Seventh Sunday of Easter

Acts 1: 12-14

Psalm 3

1 Peter 4: 13-16

John 17: 1-11a

Father Longalong is the pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes, Queens Village, and coordinator of the Ministry to Filipino Immigrants.

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