I recently attended a funeral for an old college professor of mine. Fr. Robert Madden taught English Literature to generations of students, and was well known for his knowledge, wit and kindly way. Perhaps greatest of his gifts, as noted at the funeral, was his ability to be a true friend.
Students and faculty alike would turn to Bob for advice, encouragement and his delightful company. Fr. Madden had no short memory. A brief undergraduate stay has led many to a lifelong friendship with him. Bob knew you and had a personal interest in how your life was going.
It got me thinking how it might be that same way with Jesus. Why should Christ be any less of a friend? (He calls himself that, by the way (Jn. 15:15). Is it possible to have a personal friendship with Jesus? If so, how does one go about getting it/experiencing it?
Let’s use Fr. Madden as an example. I had heard about this short, round, red faced professor from all the upper class students. I knew he was a good lecturer, a master of his subject, and perhaps best of all, very funny. I heard how he was a demanding grader for both essays and tests. And I heard how he was always ready to help any struggling student in his class. I knew all these things “about” Madden.
I was so envious of those who had had him in class and could call him by name and hear him speak theirs. Mad-den was a “figure” about whom I knew much but some-one I’d never met. That was about to end as I began his American Lit class my sophomore year. It was there that I learned first hand about him. I finally met the man.
Isn’t this like Jesus for so many of us? We’ve heard the bible stories. We’ve got a painting of him in beard and sandals. We say the prayer He told us to pray. But we’ve never met Him personally, heard His voice, or felt His presence. Is it possible? Can we really meet Him? The answer is . . . Yes!
But how? Our faith teaches He’s “in the Spirit”. We can’t see or hear Him in the normal everyday way we meet others. We need a new way of seeing and hearing. Em-powered by faith in the Resurrection and driven forward by a hunger to know Him, there is a gradual growth in the experience of Jesus present in our lives as friend and Savior.
Where to look to find your friend Jesus:
1. Look closely at the movements of your heart. Moments of love, compassion, sorrow, joy (sometimes accompanied by tears) – these are signs that Jesus is near. Speak to him at such times. “I am sent to heal the broken hearted”. Lk. 4:18
2. Pray! “Lord Jesus, let me see you in my life.” And then remember what you’ve prayed for! God will answer your prayers in some way through the course of the day or week. Generally it happens through events around you.
3. Watch for a “double grace”. The grace of the moment . . . and . . . the grace to know, “hey, I think that was Jesus.”
4. Watch God’s “little ones”, those especially close to Christ: children, the lost, the poor, the mournful and suffering. They have the spiritual presence of Christ all around them.
5. Pray just one thing for awhile . . . “let me see you Lord”, or, “show me you are with me”.
The Eucharist, of course, brings special graces to know Jesus in the “breaking of the bread.”
It’s called asking. And Jesus says, “Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you shall find.” Mt. 7:7
P.S. Remember, we will not see Christ face to face here on earth. Now, St. Paul says, “We see through a glass darkly, But then we shall see him face to face.”