The Mama and Papa Bear rocking chairs in both alcoves at the back of Sacred Heart Church surprised me. As I explored that historic church, the chairs were a welcoming contrast to the hard, straight wooden pews lined up in the main church.
Almost hidden from the congregation and unoccupied at this weekday mass, the rocking chairs, I imagined, held mothers relaxing in them as they soothed or nursed their children during Sunday mass.
I was early for mass, having walked from the conference hotel the hot mile on this September day in downtown Tampa. In one alcove, two rockers were almost hidden under a staircase. The smaller one reminded me of where I sat to rock my babies. This Mama Bear Rocker seemed to beckon to me as it waited contentedly next to the taller Papa Bear rocker.
As soon as I sat down, tears came to my eyes with momentary flashbacks of many motherhood moments. Almost immediately the scene in my mind changed from sitting with my babies in my lap to sitting beside Mary. Somehow the rocker expanded to fit both of us side by side. Overwhelmed with the emotions of thanksgiving, reverence, privilege and humility that swept over me, I gladly gave in to her unspoken offer of compassion and comfort.
I followed Mary’s line of sight over to the Papa Bear rocker and saw Jesus sitting there. He was talking to families. Children were climbing on his knees.
Mary and I became observers. No, more; we were privileged confidants. We helped the children take turns, as disciples assisting in his ministry. Somehow, at the same time, we were recipients of his loving message and tender care.
Then he turned and glanced at us. I saw the love in his eyes for his Mother and the same loving glance, although briefly, at me — before he gave his full attention to the next wave of children.
That glance stays with me — love penetrating if only momentarily, yet lasting forever.
What a scene it was: sitting with Mary at the side of Jesus while he ministered to others. Then came his glance of love and appreciation for us sitting at his side.
So how do we sit at his side with Mary, while he ministers to those in front of us? Surrounding us?
Sometimes we help bring them into his presence, as does his mother Mary by helping the children onto his lap. Or at least point them in his direction when they seem to lose their way. We invite them to mass, Bible study, a day of renewal or retreat. Or just for coffee. We take the time to sit with them as privileged confidants and listen as they open their broken hearts to us. Then we offer them his compassion. We look into their eyes and hope that they get a glimpse of Jesus loving them intently.
We may discover him unexpectedly in someone who tells us an amazing truth about the Lord or about ourselves when we need a word from Jesus. As supportive observers, we look for his glance of love unknowingly coming from that person.
Our Lord wants to connect with us as we work to build his kingdom as disciples alongside him. And, like the experience of the rocking chairs, we receive in that one penetrating glance the encouragement and healing he offers to all his children.
When have you felt the Lord’s presence and seen his love in someone’s face?
Has anyone received his glance of love from your eyes?
(© 2014 Nancy H C Ward)
(Photo by Nancy HC Ward, taken at Sacred Heart Church, Tampa. FL.)