In honor of this holy day, I have re-edited and re-posted this.
It happened on Palm Sunday.
One moment I was listening to the sermon, the next I was standing in a white void. I was not alone. Jesus was there. He opened His arms and beckoned me. I ran to Him and was enfolded into a tight embrace, my cheek pressed against His chest.
He was not spirit. He was flesh and bone. I could feel muscle, feel the strength in His arms as they held me closer. Surprisingly, His white garment wasn’t smooth, soft, as I expected. It was coarse, like burlap, and I could feel the cloth pressing into the flesh of my cheek.
The thought was fleeting, overpowered by a joy unlike anything I had ever experienced. I wanted nothing, needed nothing. There was no sorrow. No tears. No pain or anguish. The World didn't exist, only Him, only the ecstasy of being in His embrace. There are no words in our earthly language to describe what I felt and saw. This feeble attempt falls far short of the experience.
Unbidden and unwelcome, my past transgressions paraded against my closed eyelids. I wasn’t worthy of His embrace. How dare I touch Him? I drew back, my head hanging in shame.
Gently, He urged me to look up. His eyes held no accusations, only unconditional love. He loved me just as I was, flawed and imperfect. It didn't matter how many times I failed, only how hard I tried. It was the effort that mattered.
The Man of Sorrows directed my gaze to my left. A huge pit of white-hot flames roared beneath black, roiling smoke. I could feel the intense heat from where I stood.
“Marie, you must walk through the flames.”
“I can’t! The pain will be too great.”
“You must, not as a punishment for your sins, but as a natural part of your life. You will endure great pain.”
Fearfully obedient, I stepped into the inferno and braced for a horrific blast of heat. I felt none. His hand reached through the flames and grasped mine. As long as I held onto Him - my faith - the flames would never burn me and He would be waiting on the other side.
The next moment I was back in my pew. I touched my cheek. The impression of His garment remained on my skin. The aura of peace, ecstasy, still lingered.
From that moment, He was with me in ways I had never experienced before. He was everywhere - in the smallest details of my life as well as the crises, the trials - the infernos. Granted, I felt a little heat now and then, but I was never burned. I set my eyes toward the other side, where He was waiting - for me