Halfway into my second round-trip drive of the day, I was sitting in the van with a sleeping baby waiting on my son’s confirmation retreat dismissal. Listening to some dull music on the radio while scanning statuses on Facebook, my thoughts weren’t concentrated on anything particularly weighty when suddenly my ears perked up like our puppy’s do if he senses something important invading his environment.
That familiar chanting of benediction sounded into the air as external speakers transmitted Father’s prayers to the world beyond the sanctuary walls. Though I couldn’t exactly make out the Latin from the seat of my van, my heart knew the words. Captivated, I recognized that my Lord was exposed inside. Without seeing, I sensed His true Presence. How beautiful it must be to live next door to that chapel, I thought. To hear that signal often, the melodic litany of praises, seemed to me an envious prize.
At the same time, a small cardinal appeared on the ground beside my vehicle catching my sight. It darted about before ascending bare limb by bare limb up the neighboring tree. That bird seemed an apt representation of my state as the words of benediction lifted my mind closer and closer to heaven along with my feathered companion.
The remainder of my waiting couldn’t extend long enough. I would have liked to continue resting at the foot of that unseen altar entertaining the meaning of that bird, but my son appeared signaling departure time. Back in the chauffeur business, I recalculated the GPS and my mind toward home.
Turning onto the main road, the spicy perfume of incense filled my nose reminding me of the chrism oil used to anoint the baptized and confirmed. Sniffing in an attempt to determine the source, I realized the sweet scent had attached to my son’s striped sweat shirt. The aroma lasted throughout the 50 minute trip home leading me right back to my daydream of His Presence.
Without a direct word spoken to me, my senses identified the Lord. It didn’t require an overt action or conversation to raise my awareness. So, too, it can be with us when we testify to our beliefs. When those around us hear our choice of words, watch our actions or study our demeanor they will form an opinion. If we speak with charity, move with tender purpose and love unconditionally they will sense the presence of Jesus.
While last week’s visible sign of ashes has been washed away, lent is the perfect time to ask ourselves if strangers can still see the marks of faith on our brow. Rather than attempt to be like the Pharisees who made a show of their penances and prayers, let our every day words be like litanies and our common place actions like prostrations that lead the observer toward home.