To choose something from this experience as being most significant is somewhat of a challenge for me, I would expect it is and has been for anyone who has taken part in this immersion. There have been so many instances in which I’ve felt overcome by the Spirit, and it’s impossible to know what moment God will draw my attention to in the future. Yet, as I take more time to reflect, it is the people of the LA Immersion 2016 that have made the deepest impact on me. First and foremost I must mention the amazing people with whom I shared every step of this experience. From my fellow Flyers to my incredible new friends from St. Mary’s and Chaminade, I am tremendously blessed to have shared such an amazing journey with them, and to have witnessed their thoughts, reflections, and responses to the experience. It was beautiful to see the bonds we were able to build upon the foundation we all share, the Marianist charism, and how that allowed us to enter deeply into this immersion experience with one another.
My encounters with individuals did not stop with my fellow participants. I encountered so many different people during my short week in LA. Many of their faces will stick with me, and I will continue to hold them in my heart as my brothers and sisters in Christ. Yet there are two people from this experience who have had a profound impact on me, and allowed me to experience Jesus in an amazing way. My encounter with the first of these two individuals, José, continues to blow my mind. We were blessed to basically stumble into the presence of Christ when we entered into a church will the sole purpose of taking a look around when we found ourselves in the loving presence of Jesus in the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. We all instinctively found our place in a pew and spent a few short minutes after this unexpected epiphany in prayer and adoration. After our time of prayer, we all eventually exited the church and in a matter of minutes we encountered Jesus in a different way when we met José just outside the church. Our encounter with José, who had once been through some of the programs offered by Homeboy Industries, will stick with me for a long time. Through the stories of his own experiences he showed me what true love, humility, and abandonment to Christ really means. I felt as if I was truly in the presence of Christ.
My other personal encounter was with a young man named Giod at the Union Rescue Mission located on Skid Row. Giod, a 21 year old (22 in February), had gone through some pretty rough times, and hearing these stories from a man who is pretty much the same age as myself moved my heart. Despite having experienced the types of hardships that could easily lead someone into despair, Giod radiated a pure and infectious joy that could soften even the hardest of hearts. My entire time with him I experienced a man who was so incredibly self-giving, and who placed everyone else before himself. Before he took his own morning break he made sure that everyone else had everything they needed, including plenty to drink. This man, who has dreams of traveling the country, was an image of Christ and a true blessing to meet.
Having had a number of weeks to reflect on and hold many of my experiences in my heart, it has been difficult to know how exactly I am to move forward. I often find myself overwhelmed standing in the face of many of the injustices and struggles that exist not only in the City of Angels, but throughout the world. Yet, I am also filled with much hope and inspiration having seen the work of God in so many different people and organizations. While I am still unsure what long-term plan God has for me in the wake of this experience, I do know that I am called to allow a change to occur in my daily life. For me this will not come in some glorious change, rather I will try to focus on the little things in my daily life. I will try to be more joyful and humble from day to day, especially when I am faced with a situation that would usually be frustrating and cause me to get angry or upset. I am really trying to imitate the graces I experienced in José and Giod.God Bless,