Last week at "Making Disciples" in Colorado Springs we introduced the forty+ participants from 20 dioceses in the U.S. and Australia to the idea of having conversations with people that aim at learning about their relationship with God. In listening to these responses, we might hear moments of significant insights, conversion, as well as disappointments and disillusionment. But by entering into the story of their relationship with God we can have a better sense of what their perspectives and questions are with regard to faith.
We thought it would be good to let them witness such a conversation (and then to have one with a volunteer from the Colorado Springs area), so I invited my friend, Daniel (of whom I've blogged before (see: http://blog.siena.org/2007/02/totalitarian-faith-enfleshed.html). Daniel had a powerful conversion about two and a half years ago, and my friendship with him has had a profound effect in my spiritual life.
At any rate, I asked Daniel the basic question we were encouraging people to ask, "Can you briefly describe your relationship with God to this point in life?" Now, of course, there are a whole series of specific questions that can follow that basic question, depending upon whether you're talking with an atheist, an agnostic, a non-Christian person of faith, a Protestant, a New Age devotee, a Catholic. And within faith traditions there are many questions depending upon whether or not they "practice" or not. The purpose of the conversation, however, is to listen well, and to hear the person express their experiences, and to try to hear whether or not certain "thresholds" that precede intentional discipleship have been crossed or not.
It's not my point to try to describe the whole process. Needless to say, Daniel got a chance to speak of his conversion experience and his relationship with God today.
Why this post has a connection to the other Sherry's post quoting Denise's reflection on heaven is that the conversation Daniel and I had ended with the question, "If you could ask God any question right now, and you knew God would answer right away, what would you ask?"
I expected Daniel to ask something along the lines of, "What would you like me to do with my life, Lord?" since that is a question that I know he would like answered.
Instead, Daniel thought for about five seconds, then looked me in the eye and asked, "What's for dinner?"
The room erupted in laughter and applause, and some of the participants stood in admiration of that amazing end to an amazing interview.
I was puzzled, however. Daniel doesn't take such matters lightly, so I knew he wasn't just making a joke - even though he likes to eat. Was he simply indicating that his trust in God was so complete that just knowing what was going to happen in a few hours was enough for him? Was it a reference to the Eucharist? Or was it something else?
So a few days later, over a burrito at Chipotle, I asked him the meaning of the question.
He said something along the lines of, "Well, Fr. Mike, you know that I want a one-on-one game of basketball with Jesus as soon as I get to heaven. But I figured we'd eat first, so I would want to know what we'd have." Then he told me his own image of the Paschal Feast of heaven.
That made a lot of sense, and fit the Daniel I've come to know and admire. As Denise indicated in the previous post, heaven does begin here, because our relationship with Jesus begins here. Daniel is consciously making the Lord a part of his everyday life; praying as he works as a carpenter/handyman (not unlike the Lord he loves and serves), praying for the people he talks with, and praying for guidance that he says what the Lord would want. No part of his life seems to be "out of bounds" in regard to his relationship with Jesus, including his love of sports.
Now Daniel doesn't have simply a "me and Jesus" approach to faith. He truly desires to know others who share a similar relationship, and participates in daily Mass and many other community events. He seems to have the charism of evangelism, so he has plenty of opportunities to gracefully share the love that he's discovered in very effective ways.
Daniel's response and vision might sound simplistic to some, but I don't believe it is. It is a function of a profound trust he has in Jesus' love and Jesus' will for him - and for each of us. While some of us (including me) say things like, "I have a lot of questions to ask the Lord about things that have happened to me," a person who really trusts the Lord may not have a need to ask questions. In that case, simply being with the Lord in something as intimate as a game of one-on-one hoops would be top priority.
As for me, I hope the Lord and Daniel are open to an occasional game of two-on-two. I always imagine St. Peter to be on the tall, stocky side, so I think the Rock and I could give them a good game.
But I'd want Our Lady to act as referee. I suspect Daniel fouls a lot.