Then I took a little trip to the city of Rome. This may be a surprising point, but I didn’t go because I have a deep love of Church architecture. I didn’t go because I’m enthralled by history. I didn’t go because I had a mission to see specific saints who have helped me on my faith journey. No, I went because there are a few brothers studying there who have cared for me well, and it has been some time since I’ve seen them. The opportunity to go to Rome before my Jterm in Ireland arose and I began to save money for the trip, as I would even if it were going to be a trip to say some small unheard town with no history. I had few expectations and an excitement to just be, as it was still Christmas break.
I encountered our Lord though. I encountered Him in a new and deep way. We entered St. Peter’s square, and it was busy. Very busy. It was loud and diverse and not necessarily what you’d think of as a place of prayer but I was overtaken by peace. I knew in my heart of hearts that these people around me were friends of the Church. I didn’t know all their backgrounds, I imagine many were Catholic, some were ‘Catholic’, others some other form of Christianity, Jews, Muslims, Atheists, and some I don’t knows. Yet, there we were, in the arms of Holy Mother Church. I knew peace in the moments of rest in looking around and praying for everyone I saw but I also was moved back to a radical desire to be like Jesus. I wanted to love each one with a unique and radical love. I wanted to listen to them, and know their stories-their hearts. I wanted to lay down my preconceived notions, my tiredness, and my sinful nature and just be Christ to them. The Lord allowed me on this trip to, at least, in some small way, love like the Church or as the Church really. Albeit, I wasn’t able to talk with each person I saw because they were countless, I lifted them up in prayer that they may know that they are seen and loved even by those they do not know. Those I did have the chance to talk to I tried to smile a deep smile that only Christ’s love could produce. I thought most nights, and even having left, I’m still thinking about these people and the love stirred up in my heart. I’m holding on tight to the grace. I don’t want to lose this love because of my selfishness.
Everyday, we pass by so many people. We have the opportunity to love them with a deep love flowing from our relationship with Christ and we don’t. It’s hard to be vulnerable and pull down our walls of fear, or shyness, or pride, or self-doubt. It’s hard to remember to choose true love in every moment. It’s hard to recognize that community that we are as human beings. But it’s worth it. To love another, and to be loved are two of the most beautiful gifts that anyone could take part in. For whatever reason, we place those things on a pedestal and act as if a quest is needed to enter into them. But it’s simple. Look around. These are all our brothers and sisters, and they are worth loving. Your love is good and worth sharing. I want to be like Jesus, and I know that even though we can’t recognize that desire always, that it’s in us. We can share in His gift of life.
I pray that we can continue to see others as a gift, and a love can be stirred up in us for them…a love that isn’t cheap or repetitive but a sacrificial radical love for each individual, that even in clinging to our crosses we may revel in the pain for the sake of those we love.