I stood at the steel railing, looking down at the vast, textured canyon. It was “Grand” indeed. A Masterpiece. Endless vistas, stupefying grandeur, layers of red and brown earth cut by a ribbon of river so far down that words and pictures fail pitifully. The ‘Visitor’s Center’ was crowded that hot August day, with food, souvenirs and the typical tourist crush of this popular National Park. Grabbing my attention off to the right was a home-made cardboard sign. It read, oddly, “Just Say Thank You”. I steered clear, thinking it was a pan-handler. I looked for a plate, a box with cash; No, no one was looking for a hand-out. Rather, a telescope, a large, reflector-type, was poking through the railing, with a line of people waiting to peer into the black eye-piece poking out of the top of the long, fat, white tube. I still hesitated, unwilling to join the ‘herd’ in line.
“There must be a catch”, I thought.
But no, just a man sitting in a low beach-chair, there next to the telescope. His back was to the rail, his arms folded. He tweaked my curiosity with the touch of pride in his expression; ‘I told you so’ written on his face. Drawn in, I went back to the railing and looked down, way, wa-a-ay down, in the direction the telescope was pointing, down at the Grand Canyon floor. The distant walls were multi-terraced, and maxi-colored, in layers of purple, brown, grey and green. I could see with my naked eye a silver thread, a river, I knew it to be the Colorado, snaking, slicing through at the very bottom. I wondered what the telescope could possibly reveal that I could not see already with my naked eye. Still reluctant to be duped, I paused, to see if there was any money exchanging hands. No, not a penny! Instead, their ‘payment’ to the man seemed to be exactly what the sign requested. Everyone who stood up after looking into the telescope turned to the man and said “Thank You”. Obviously, by the sound of their response, every person who looked in the telescope was physically awed at what they saw. The responses varied in style. Some people said, “Wow”. Another person who peered in the eyepiece raved, gasping, said, “Amazing”. Yet another looked once said “Fantastic”….but they all then then dutifully turned to the proud owner of the telescope and offered the prescribed words he had requested in his sign; “Thank you”, they all humbly said, to which he replied majestically, “You’re welcome”.
Wearing a Hawaiian shirt, wrap around shades, a pony-tail, shorts, and sandals, the keeper of the telescope then lifted his hand like a king to beckon the next of the curious multitude from the queue. I surrendered, and got in the long line. I waited my five or ten minutes. As I got closer I could hear the rave, comments, and hushed ‘Thank You’s’ of the ‘telescopers’. Finally, my turn arrived, I bent over and squinted into the eyepiece. Removing my sunglasses, it took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the scene. I was amazed at the scene that unfolded before me. It was a camp full of people, walking in colorful shirts and shorts; bandanas and tents, bright yellow rafts pulled up on the river shore. There were kids throwing frisbees, smoke was curling up from campfires, swimmers splashing next to the rafts. I was so stunned, I hogged the telescope. I stood up, looked down with my naked eye again at the river, now knowing where to look, but to no avail. I could not see a trace of the camp; nothing with my naked eye, except for perhaps, an occasional reflection. I looked back into the telescope to gaze again at the simple camping scene of people, tents, fires and splashing. The miracle of the distance, the implication of the size and the grandeur suddenly hit me. I said, “Wow, amazing” as had the others before me, and turned to the gloating keeper-of-the-scope and dutifully said, “Thank You”. He bowed his head with a knowing, secretive air. “You are welcome” came the reply.
I walked away, and peered over the railing for one last look; to ponder this ‘religious experience’. As it sunk in, I realized how delighted I felt to be so humbled by this man; this visionary whose only request was to be thanked. Now I understood his expression; it wasn’t arrogance, it was joy and confidence. By pointing his telescope into the abyss, he would ‘humble them all’, reducing proud men into the tiny specks he knew that we really are. He had discovered that he could reproduce the joy, awe and majesty that he had personally experienced as he stared down into the vastness and majesty of this ‘church’, this Cathedral not made by hand . He had found his ministry, his vocation in this dry desert place. He had a simple tool, a plan: he owned a telescope. He could convince his fellow man both sweetly and surely, by sharing this Glory with the multitude. Perhaps he thought to himself, “Let them ponder the mysterious force that carved this massive, mysterious, monument so, very Grand. And let their Thanksgiving flow.
Author’s Note: When the Lord Jesus Christ broke bread with his disciples and “gave thanks”, the word ‘Eucharisteo’ is the Greek word used in most Bible translations. That is why the Catholic Church uses the word ‘Eucharist’ to describe the breaking of bread. May we encourage others to look through the ‘telescope’ which is the Mass, and with its’ aid, peer into the grandeur of the ‘Grand Canyon’ Who Is Christ. It is truly ‘right and just’ to give Him thanks, and to revel in the awe and majesty of God.