Benjamin Haydon, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

‘Let the Children Come to Me’

Sometimes we need to be close to Jesus to feel his affection

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AckermanOur parish is blessed to have a perpetual adoration chapel. Since people come to adore at all hours of the day and night, security is one of the factors that is always a concern. As a result, we have an infrared beam that extends across the front of the adoration chapel to protect the Eucharist. There is even a little sign that says: “Chapel security. Please do not approach the altar.”

The alarm for the chapel is connected to my phone. One evening my phone began to ring and I was greeted with an alert that someone crossed the beam. I ran down to the chapel, only to find that no one was near the monstrance. I canceled the alarm (it’s silent in the chapel) and figured that it was a fluke. However, not more than 20 minutes later, the same thing occurred. Again, there was no one near the monstrance or the altar. When I talked to the security company, they assured me that the system was functioning well. When the alarm went off a third time, I began to get annoyed. I was not sure if my phone was broken, my mind was gone or someone was playing a great trick on me. I finally went into the chapel and asked the adorers if anyone was near the monstrance. A woman sheepishly raised her hand. “It’s my little daughter,” she replied. “She just loves to be near Jesus.”

I did have to explain to that woman that Jesus needed a little personal space, and that our alarm company thought I was crazy, but her little child taught me a great lesson. We cannot prevent the love of Christ from reaching us, and sometimes we just need to be close to his presence to experience his affection for us. Reflecting upon this experience even brought to mind Matthew’s Gospel when Jesus tells his disciples, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Mt 19:14.) The children who come to Jesus, however, are not always chronologically young.

A woman came to my office one morning in hysterics. “Father,” she said, “I think a man died in the chapel!”

Naturally, I sprang to my feet and ran out to the chapel with my holy oils in tow along with a phone to be ready to call an ambulance or the coroner. Sure enough, there was a man lying on his back on the floor with his hands at his side and his eyes closed. I knelt down and began to talk to him; he did not move. I grabbed his hand to check for a pulse, and he woke up and screamed. I screamed as well, and nearly had to go and change my clerics from fright.

“Are you OK?” I asked him. “You gave some folks here quite a fright.”

“Oh, yes,” he replied. “I was just resting with Jesus and experiencing his mercy.”

His experience of mercy nearly sent several of us into cardiac arrest, but the point was well taken. The moments spent with Christ in silence and stillness are incredibly valuable, and quite frankly the only thing that often sustains our ministry.

I have to admit that finding time for Christ can truly be challenging. There are often so many demands, interruptions and unexpected events that sneaking away for quiet prayer can often appear as a fantasy. However, it is imperative to our spiritual lives.

St. Teresa of Calcutta, a woman who knew the importance of prayer, had this to say about prayer: “The time you spend with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the best time that you will spend on earth. Each moment that you spend with Jesus will deepen your union with him and make your soul everlastingly more glorious and beautiful in heaven.” That should be enough motivation for you and me to make time even in the midst of chaos.

I am actually glad that the chapel alarm occasionally jolts me out of complacency. It is a reminder to get myself to the chapel and turn to the Lord. You never know what or whom you may encounter on the way, but Jesus certainly invites me closer to him; well, at least as long as I don’t cross the beam.

FATHER MICHAEL ACKERMAN is the pastor at Resurrection Parish, Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, and chaplain at Seton LaSalle Catholic High School in Pittsburgh.

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