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Devon Wattam Ink Slingers Spiritual Growth

Jesus In A T-Shirt

I love being Christian. I love the peace that it brings. I love what the Church stands for. I love the history it holds. I love how it’s timeless, pulls out the best in people when fully embraced, and makes all things new.

Sometimes Jesus feels so far away, though. He seems more like a distant figure, sitting in a robe on a cloud, who couldn’t be more removed from the twenty-first century and all of its problems than a loving companion or friend. 

I am guilty of falling into the lifeless routine of going to Mass, reading the Bible, and reciting my prayers all out of habit, obligation, or (dare I say) necessity than out of love or friendship with him.

I forget that Jesus was a man. A real life, flesh and blood person who walked the same earth that we are on now, facing many of the same types of people, problems, and circumstances. I forget that he was fully God AND fully man. 

In an effort to embrace this idea more completely, I’ve been spending time meditating on the idea of Jesus as a real man who wants to know me personally. What would I say to a friend if I were sitting on a park bench next to him? What if I hadn’t seen him in a while or I had hurt him recently? How might my prayers be different than they are now?

Even then, it can still be difficult to wholeheartedly accept this idea of Jesus being a relatable person. After all, he didn’t dress like we do now. He didn’t drive or have social media. Heck, we don’t even know with certainty what he looked like—spoiler, he probably wasn’t blond-haired and blue-eyed. But to the people of his time, he appeared to be an average guy, nothing special at all. He wasn’t rich, he didn’t have an important job or a well-to-do family. He was just average

With that in mind, I try to imagine if he lived in 2019 and was just an everyday man, like my husband or brothers-in-law or friends. How weird it is to consider that he would probably dress like most people do now, in jeans and a t-shirt. He could have a beard, but maybe not, long hair or short. He’d have neighbors and friends and customers and maybe even co-workers he’d work alongside. 

It seems like such a ridiculous revelation, but it’s not revolutionary at all. Jesus did have all of these things. To the people of his time, he was just like anyone else, which is what makes it even more extraordinary that he turned out to be who he said he was: the Son of God.

In this simple epiphany, so much spiritual growth and peace are held. When I am able to remember who Jesus truly was and is, my prayers are more heartfelt, sincere, and powerful. It’s easier to open up to him about the most mundane concerns in my mind or share with him even the smallest joys of my day. The obligatory prayers melt away, replaced with honest conversation and an actual relationship is fostered. 

Just as with any relationship, though, it requires time and effort for it to develop and thrive. When I feel myself slipping into a spiritual dryness where the Lord becomes more of a figure than a friend, I imagine myself sitting right there on that park bench next to Jesus in a t-shirt. The guy who fished with his friends and got tired after long days. The guy who cried when people died and went to weddings with his family. The guy who had a mom and a job and feelings. Who lived centuries ago, but who knows what it means to be human as much as anyone else and not only wants to share it with each one of us, but wants even more to save us from it. To make us holy. 

That’s the guy I want to know. The guy in the t-shirt.

 

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Ink Slingers Michelle Hamel

Going Deeper

 

Going Deeper

Recently I was in adoration and opened my Bible to the story of the Rich Young Man.

“As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’”He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.”Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.” Mark 10:17-22

“Jesus, looking upon Him, loved him.”

I was trying to imagine what that “look” must have been like. Can you imagine the depth of Jesus’ eye contact? Was there a gentleness in Jesus’ eyes and face? Was there a small smile on his lips? Did Jesus reach out and touch the rich young man warmly on his shoulder?

What Jesus tells the rich young man after that loving look isn’t what he expects to hear: “At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful.” The NSRV version translates that sentence as “When he heard this he was shocked and went away grieving.” I wonder what the young man was looking for when he went to see Jesus? Was he just looking for approval or affirmation that he was “good” and what he was doing was “enough”? Whenever I hear or read this passage it always leaves me feeling a little sad. That rich young man had such an amazing personal encounter with Jesus, and yet he went away sorrowful.

I wonder what happened to this rich young man. Even though he didn’t receive the response he wanted, he still had an encounter with Jesus. No encounter with Jesus leaves us unchanged. He thought he was doing pretty well. The man had a relationship with God. He was a good Jew. He attempted to get closer to Jesus And Jesus loved him. He loved that man enough to want him to grow closer and go deeper. Jesus exposed the young man’s weakness.

There are lots of times that I am like that rich young man, (minus the “rich”), in my attitude towards God. Just like that rich young man, part of me reaches out and tells Jesus, “I love you”…but I still hold onto my own perfectionism and my own way of doing things. It’s not easy to admit that my trust has limits. Even though I desire to give much of my life over to God, I’m still grasping to control parts of it.

I trust….but not completely.

God exposes my weakness. He has shown me that I have placed limits on His omnipotence. I have a broken understanding of God. I believe on some level that there is only so much help, so much love, so many times that He will touch my heart deeply. I have put limits on His love and favor, as if His graces for me are filled in a jar that needs to last my whole life and every time a prayer is answered, big or small, I use up some of that grace. But that’s not how God works. I know that in my head, but somehow that truth has not made it to my heart. There is a disconnect.

I often find myself trying to micromanage God. I bring what’s on my heart to prayer, but at the same time I’m trying to tell Him how to bring about the outcome that I want. I might even try and tell Him the steps to get to that preferred outcome. I somehow think that He needs my suggestions. I think He might miss an important detail.

In reality, I’m just afraid that God won’t give me what I want in the way that I want it so I try to “help” him. That is definitely not trust.

Even though the rich young man went away sorrowful, he had a choice of what to do with that encounter with God. I like to think that he went home and wrestled with his issue of over attachment and wanting to control his physical possessions. That young man received an invitation to go deeper, but he had to work through the weakness Jesus exposed. That takes time, effort and grace.

One thing I don’t struggle with is believing in the infinite mercy of God. He does not grow tired of us in our struggles. He waits for us to take those baby steps that will bring us closer to Him and will bring our lives closer to His plan for us. He is always there to pick us up when we fall again and again…(and again)…and gives us unlimited opportunities to begin again.

Our faith is a lifelong journey towards a home that is not on this Earth. As long as our hearts beat, we will always be growing and changing.

Where is God inviting you to go deeper this summer?

 

Categories
Faith Formation Ink Slingers Kerri Prayer

Lectio Divina: Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (2017)

Technically, today is the Epiphany, but for many of us this solemnity is moved to Sunday. So we will be celebrating the Solemnity of the Epiphany this coming Sunday. I have to say that I enjoyed reflecting on this Gospel passage and praying with it. It really forced me to think deeply about relationships. Particularly human relationships versus our relationship with the divine.

I won’t say much more, I don’t want my thoughts to color your own reflections. There is a lot that can be contemplated in this Gospel passage. I initially had thoughts that led me down one path but then God turned me a different direction by the time I read the passage through a second time. That’s part of the beauty of lectio divina: the ability to really listen for what God wants to tell you through the passage you’re reading, which is sometimes different than where you might have gone on your own without listening for God’s guidance.

So let’s get ready. Be sure to have the Gospel passage in front of you, here is an easy link: Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord 2017. If you need a brief review of the steps for lectio divina you can find a nice description from the Saint Meinrad Archabbey Oblates website. Remember to read the Gospel reading before each of the next four sections below and take some time to reflect on the questions before reading my responses. I hope you’ll share some of your thoughts in the comments.

READ

A word or phrase that stuck out to you during your first reading. Mine were:

  • Overjoyed
  • Prostrated

REFLECT: What is God saying to you?

The magi arrive in Jerusalem looking for the newborn king of the Jews so they can pay him homage. When they finally find him they are overjoyed! I really locked onto the word, “overjoyed.” I’m trying to picture what their reaction was when they finally found the right house. How did they express their excitement and joy when they finally got to their destination? The word overjoyed has a sense of celebration to it, and then they immediately prostrated themselves before the baby Jesus to pay him homage. I can’t help but feel that I should be following their example.

While I do regularly visit Jesus at my local Adoration Chapel, am I overjoyed each time I go? I’ll go ahead and say no. I love that I get to go, but it’s definitely a routine. Can you imagine being overjoyed at the prospect of seeing Jesus each and every time you enter an Adoration Chapel or see Jesus in the Eucharist at an Adoration Hour or at Mass? It all really comes down to relationship. Think about all those relationships you have that give you that feeling of being overjoyed when you see the person. That person you just started dating, your spouse when you see them after a long day apart, that brand new baby that your sister/best friend/neighbor/internet friend had, or that brand new baby that you just had. What about a loved one that lives far away? It’s always exciting when we get a chance to see them in person. And these are all human relationships. How much more important is our relationship with the divine?

God wants a relationship with me. Me! And I want that, too. I want to have that overjoyed feeling when I enter into his presence. Each and every time. Like any relationship I need to spend time with him, I need to bring my own treasures to him (just as the wise men brought treasures to the newborn king), and I need to use my talents for his benefit. This should be my most important relationship, above any other human relationship I have. Developing this relationship needs to be my primary vocation in life.

With the magi as examples, I need to bring that overjoyed feeling into my relationship with Jesus.

RESPOND: What do you want to say to God?

(I wrote the following while sitting in the Adoration Chapel at my church.)

Jesus, I sit here tonight before you and I don’t feel overjoyed. I love being in your presence and I treasure this time, but I want to feel excited each time I’m here. Propped up against the glass surrounding your monstrance a child has left a letter to you. I imagine that child was overjoyed to be so close to you and I can only imagine what he or she has written for you. Help me, Lord, to have more focus to spend my time with you first as my primary relationship. I pray that my time with you will lead to that deeper relationship I seek and my excitement will steadily increase as I spend more time with you. Like the simple, joyful attitude of a child, I pray that I too will be more joyful each time I am here and each time I have the privilege of receiving you in the Blessed Sacrament. Amen.

REST

Read the passage one final time and spend a few moments in quiet contemplation, rest in the words of the Gospel.

YOUR TURN

What do you feel God is saying to you in this passage? How would you respond to him? Share your thoughts in the comments.