You were within and I looked for you outside

Published on 03 Sep 2020

Where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them[1]. 

Christ’s presence in our life is indispensable.  We always need him and he is always close to us.   We acknowledge this presence by prayer as often as we can.  Sometimes a substantial amount of time can be devoted to this acknowledgement.  At other moments, the prayer, which honours his presence, is a brief connecting to the One who is most important to us.  Our wanting to pray and our doing so are further indications of the divine presence.  The Lord is beside us and also, through the Holy Spirit, within us, prompting us live according to his way.

I shall be there with them [2]. The presence of Christ in our life is sacramental.  He is in us and we are also in him. At a period in history when the sacraments have, for many, been difficult or even impossible to receive, we are grateful that the Lord is already sacramentally present to us.  He has incorporated us into his own life.  As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life [3].  Baptised in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit we are permanently graced with the presence of Jesus. He is with us and we live in him.  Present to us, he involves us, whenever we choose to accept him, in the whole of his mission. He came into the world to offer the sacrifice of himself, to be the Word made flesh and to lead his followers into the kingdom of God.  To have gone down into the tomb with Christ in baptism is to have been immersed in all that he seeks to do.  His sacramental presence in those of us who are baptised has sustained us through a time of famine of the other sacraments.

Mass and confession being difficult of access, the Christ present in our life invites us to use this time to prepare for them with a renewed sense of their significance.  I shall be there with them [4]. The shall takes on a new importance at this time.  We delight in the sacramental presence of the Lord, which we already possess, and we look forward to acknowledging his presence more fully and without interruption.   He will come back to us at the end of everything but also, much sooner, we hope, when our access to the Eucharist and the other sacraments is unimpeded.  Meanwhile we prepare well by prayer and amendment of life. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the chalice. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves [5].  The Jesus who is with us and within us is hurt by our wrongdoing. Mercifully, however, he forgives us and helps us to recover or to construct a willingness to welcome and acknowledge his presence.

‘You were within, and I was outside and sought you outside.’[6]  It takes us some time to discover and cherish the presence of Christ.  Strangely, we sometimes avoid it.  ‘You were with me and I was not with you’ [7].  It is as if some of us cannot find the Lord until we have known the disappointment of searching for him in the wrong way.  It is not so much that he could not be in the places we tended to look.  There is hardly anywhere he will not go, especially to rescue us.  However such is the power of his sacramental presence that there is a particular joy in the meeting with our saviour which takes place in our own heart.   We are sentries guarding an interior castle [8].  I have appointed you as sentry [9].  Quiet stubbornly we can choose bar the door to the presence of the Lord within us.  Are we locking him in? We keep ourselves out from where we most like to be and from the company which we would most like to enjoy.  Come in; let us bow and bend low; let us kneel before the God who made us for he is our God and we the people who belong to his pasture, the flock that is led by his hand [10].  The acknowledgement of the divine presence is worship.  The friend restored is our God.  We are in easy conversation with him. We also offer him our adoration and our devout attention.

To be in the Lord’s presence is to be in his good company but also in that of his other friends.  Where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them[11].   The sentry at the gate of the heart defends the presence within of Christ and watches for the arrival of those others who also seek him. I tell you solemnly once again, if two of you on earth agree to ask anything at all, it will be granted to you by my Father in heaven [12].   To acknowledge with joy that Jesus is with us is to be at one with the prayers of those others who share our faith. Obedient to God’s commands, we make our own the prayers of our whose community.  O that today you would listen to his voice! Harden not your hearts [13]. Such is the power of the Lord’s loving presence in us that we look kindly on everyone else. All the commandments…are summed up in this single command: You must love your neighbour as yourself [14].  Despite all the quarrels that divide us from others, we learn reconciliation and harmony from the prince of peace who is present with us.

O God who give us the gift of true prayer and of peace, graciously grant that, through this offering, we may do fitting homage to your divine majesty and, by partaking of the sacred mystery, we may be faithfully united in mind and heart [15].   We acknowledge Christ’s presence with us by prayer.  We plead to be enabled not to lose sight of the spiritual gift with which we have been entrusted.   We offer ourselves along with Jesus’ self-offering. We pray for peace and for unity.  In such tranquil oneness, we can agree to ask anything [16] that is needed.  The Lord’s sacramental presence in our life strengthens us to be close to him and to be attentive to the needs of our brothers and sisters.  Where two or three meet in my name [17].   Meeting with others, our attention is brought to what they lack.  The name of Jesus reminds us of his teaching about how to be at peace with our neighbours and to serve them.  Acknowledging his presence in our own life we find him in the life of others also.  The sacraments seal this acknowledged presence.  Once we sought what was lacking outside.  Now, we are content with what is within. However, the loving presence of the One whose name is holy is all-embracing.  ‘Outside’[18] has been abolished.

Homily by Fr Peter Gallagher SJ

[1]              Matthew 18.20

[2]              Matthew 18.20

[3]              Rite of Baptism, from The Anointing with Chrism

[4]              Matthew 18.20

[5]              1 Corinthians 11.28-29

[6]              Augustine Confessions 10. 27 intus eras, et ego foras, et ibi te quaerbam

[7]              Augustine Confessions 10.27 Mecum eras, et tecum non eram

[8]              Teresa of Avila El Castillo Interior 1577

[9]              Ezekiel 33.7

[10]            Psalm (95) 94.6-7

[11]            Matthew 18.20

[12]            Matthew 18.19

[13]            Psalm (95) 94.7-8

[14]            Romans 13.9

[15]            Roman Missal, Prayer over the Offerings, for the Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

[16]            Matthew 18,19

[17]            Matthew 18.20

[18]            Augustine Confessions 10,.27 ‘I was kept from your presence by things which, if they had

not been in you, would not have existed at all’ ea me tenebant longe a te, quae si in te non essent, non essent