Our faith in Christ can exist on many levels, from the most superficial to the deepest and most intimate. We see this same spectrum present in the Gospels. Some people encountered Jesus and went about their merry way, taking nothing from the experience and, as a consequence, remaining unchanged. Others, like the Apostle Thomas who encountered the Risen Jesus or the Roman Centurion who stood by Jesus during his crucifixion, came to a deep realization that Jesus was Lord: the Son of God.
How is your relationship with Jesus? Put in the form of the question Jesus asks his disciples: “Who do you say that I am?” (Mk 8:29) This is a question we must ask ourselves daily. If we are committed to the belief that Jesus is the Lord of the Universe and, therefore, the Lord of our lives then we must make a choice to allow this truth to unfold throughout our day. How do we do this? We begin our day with real prayer. Real prayer is the kind of prayer that finds its source in our gut–a gut level prayer. Ancient Jewish piety often referred to this kind of prayer as beginning in our bowels, from the very depths of our being.
With our gut as our starting point we then open (surrender) ourselves up to God’s lordship, to his grace, by inviting him into every part of our life, especially those thoughts, attitudes and actions, physical and psychic spaces that are a cause of shame, frustration, and/or disappointment for us.
As we go about our day, we continue to connect with the Risen Lord through real conversation. Real conversation is the act of inviting Jesus into your daily decision-making, asking for his guidance and his peace. It involves real talking to God and real listening, even when all we hear is silence. God speaks to us in many ways. Often God speaks to us in the images and thoughts that come to mind during prayer. Take note of those.
Regardless of our profession or state in life–regardless of the state of our soul–there is no decision or choice we make during our day that is off limits to God. Jesus has sent us the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth and to lead us on a path of peace and joy. Make Christ and his Holy Spirit a part of your daily decision-making. You won’t be disappointed!
Finally, if we are really committed to the belief that Jesus is Lord of our lives then we ought to strive for a real awareness. This is a hyper-awareness of the needs of those around us. Real awareness begins with real prayer and real communication. It involves our conscious and intentional attempt to set ourselves aside and observe those around us, seeking to help out where we can. At the least, real awareness involves listening to others and making a commitment to pray for the needs they voice. At a deeper level, real awareness becomes a spontaneous and natural effort to help those in need and in real time.
I remember being at the Cathedral downtown for Mass; and a woman sitting in the first pew got up and hurried down the main aisle with her two little kids in tow. The tykes were kicking and screaming all the way and Mom looked so distressed. I happened to be in the last pew–with all of the good Catholics!–and I decided to see if I could help. I walked into the gathering space and introduced myself to the mom, who was trying to change her daughter’s diaper. At first, she was embarrassed to see me. I quickly told her that I was a father of four, and asked if I could hold her son while she finished changing the diaper. I held her boy and rocked him back and forth. He began to calm down. After the mom finished changing her daughter, she looked up at me with tears in her eyes and said “It’s just so hard!” She was talking about how hard single parenting can be. I told her how my mom was basically a single parent for most of my childhood, and how much respect I have for women in that situation. Embarrassed by the raucous exit she made from the church, the mom wanted to leave Mass, just sneak out the door. I told her not to go and that I would be happy to walk her back to her pew. And that’s what we did. Jesus entered into that ordinary but difficult situation that day because I wanted to really be aware of those in need around me.
To be sure, I am no saint. There are plenty of times I have missed the opportunity to help or just flat-out ignored it. I am always in need of Christ’s grace and mercy. He is the Lord of my life. And because of this, I turn to him when I need help. He is always there for us, ready for some real prayer, real conversation, and ready to help us become really aware of those in need.
I will end by simply repeating myself: How is your relationship with Jesus? Put in the form of the question Jesus asks his disciples: “Who do you say that I am?” (Mk 8:29) This is a question me must ask ourselves daily. It’s time to get real!