Friday, May 15, 2009
“Jesus prayed, ‘And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.’” (John 17:11)
“SOUL-SURFING” – May 24, 2009
Seventh Sunday of Easter
Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
Recently engaged and generally brimming with excitement whenever I see her, fellow hospital chaplain Claudia was even more so the morning she directed me to a computer website. “Bob, just take a look at this! John and I won a contest, and now everyone knows our story.” So I sat and I read:
“He was 43. She was 39. Having spent their adult lives exploring careers and living in various cities, they both began to realize that they’d accumulated more zip codes than long-term relationships. Trying hard not to be the cynical New Yorkers they feared becoming, they each managed to find their way to an online dating site where they launched another effort at the game called love. And they were ‘matched’ by the website. And they clicked. And it happened. Full-on, head-over-heels love! Better than anything they could have thought or imagined. They still pinch each other occasionally to see if it’s a dream.
“John is a teacher of the deaf for an early intervention program. Claudia is a hospital chaplain. They both love movies (John was a film studies major and worked in L.A. for seven years) and traveling (Claudia worked for the airlines for 8 years and has visited dozens of interesting places), and share addictions to books, chocolate, and coffee. They’re always sharing their eclectic interest in music with each other (from vaudevillian ragtime blues to 70’s pop tunes to jazz piano to commercial jingles). Claudia is animated and gregarious; John is thoughtful and steady.
“What makes their relationship unique and wonderful is what a surprise it is to both of them! Just when they thought they’d reached the age where they were figuring things out, along came love and turned them into a couple of starry-eyed kids! When you interact with John and Claudia, you get a sense of two grounded people who have just boarded a ride at the amusement park, ready for the fun but not quite sure what they’ve gotten themselves into.” (Source: www.mergeweddings.com)
Did I not know this couple personally, she for a number of years, I’d say it was just another scripted come-on for one of those increasingly popular online dating services. You’ve seen those TV ads, usually just when you’re bleary-eyed falling asleep with a re-run easing you into total slumber. Soft music and dim lights accompany two sort of young people who have finally found the one they’ve so earnestly sought. The music swells as they kiss; then you’re back to the re-run. But this story wasn’t a TV sales pitch. Claudia and John: I know them! They’re real people! And, in my estimation, far more real than that computer dating ad ever let on. Probably for reasons of marketing, the ad people don’t tell you how deeply committed this couple is to their Christian faith. A seminary graduate and a devout Episcopalian, Claudia is active in the vestry of St. Andrew’s Church, located just one block away from John’s Catholic parish, St. Vincent DePaul. As Claudia confesses, Sunday mornings can be kind of busy as the couple regularly attends the early morning Catholic Mass at John’s church followed by breakfast, and then the late morning service at her church. “But it works for us,” she concludes. “It’s good.”
It is good, I think to myself, the whole thing. Over the years that Claudia and I have worked together as hospital chaplains, I’ve seen the wide breadth of her compassion and have also known, at the same time, the deep ache of her heart calling out for a companion with whom to share her life. Finally it happened. She and John met, and these days I hear of excited plans for their September wedding. Yes, it is good, I think to myself, the whole thing. And the very best part is what the dating service ad never mentioned: their deep religious faith at the bedrock of their relationship. Claudia and John are not a twosome: they are unabashed partners in a trinity, God ever-present to them.
In the gospel passage we hear today, Jesus prepares for the ascension, his bodily departure from the world, by commending his disciples to the Heavenly Father’s care. “Jesus prayed, ‘And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.’” (John 17:11) Indeed, Jesus’ anguish at leaving his disciples is almost palpable as he gives them into his Father’s embrace. We know, of course, that the Father answers the prayer of Jesus through the event of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit of God enflaming the hearts of the disciples with a burning desire for union with God. And from that first Pentecost down through the centuries the church has grown and flourished as God’s Spirit continues to ignite hearts and minds. Indeed, I believe it was more the work of the Holy Spirit than a computer dating service that brought Claudia and John together.
As my friends prepare for marriage, I can imagine the words of today’s gospel being applied directly to them. I can hear Jesus praying for them, “Father, I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world. Protect them in your name so that they may be one, as we are one.’” (John 17:11) Indeed, before this couple ever met, each was already deeply united to God through faith. Now, as they prepare for marriage, Jesus prays that their vowed Christian bond will strengthen that faith.
Claudia whooshed into our hospital office that excited morning with news to share. “Bob, just take a look at this! John and I won a contest, and now everyone knows our story.” Well, the website narrative only told part of the story; God’s part was noticeably absent. No matter, though, for I am confident this cyber-matched couple knows love to be so much more than do those computer dating service people. Claudia and John know they are now partners in a divine trinity, God ever-present to them, ever praying for them, ever watching over them.
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