I distinctly remember my first impressions of Ecuador: the sights, sounds, and smells of my first few days in Arbolito and Mount Sinai are vividly stored in my memory. I had so many expectations but had little idea of what to expect. The only thing I was sure of was my willingness to encounter the face of Christ – but I still did not know how.
I’m sure the Greeks in today’s Gospel felt similarly during their visit to the Holy Land with the express purpose to “see Jesus.” Jesus came to them with the message, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.” When I followed Jesus to the margins of Guayaquil, I was not prepared for the amount of grace I would receive – the smiles and tears of neighbors, the inside jokes and deep conversations in community, and the receptiveness and growth of retreat group students. The year was full of challenge and sacrifice, but every day yielded abundant fruit in the days and weeks following, and – though at times stressed, sleep-deprived, and overwhelmed – I was happy to give up my life to be planting these seeds.
When I myself returned home this past August, I felt all of that grace and goodness crumble away. I did not know where to look to find Christ anymore and quickly got caught up in the bustle of family life, school, and the political climate of our nation. It took me many months to recognize that New York and New Jersey are just as much holy ground as Guayaquil’s invasion communities, that the people in my daily life reflect the face of God as much as our neighbors and retreatants below the equator, and that it is just as possible to do God’s will stateside as abroad.
As we rapidly approach Holy Week and celebrate the parade of people who followed and heralded Jesus into Jerusalem, we should ask ourselves if we have spent these last 40 days preparing in the same way. When was the last time I welcomed Jesus so openly into my life? When was the last time I went out of my way to proudly and joyously follow Him?
A priest friend recently counseled me on how to turn my daily walk to school into an intentional, prayerful experience by repeating the name of Jesus with every step I take. In this way, I can remind myself that every step propels me down the path toward following Jesus and serving His people. This week, I encourage you to intentionally sacrifice some time to look for God in small, random moments throughout your day. Losing yourself during those few minutes of reflective prayer will produce much fruit.
“And what does the Lord require of you? To do justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
Michael Thorsen was an RdC volunteer in Monte Sinai from 2016- 2017. He is currently a graduate student at NYU.