There’s meeting someone and there’s meeting someone. In the course of the day, never mind in our entire life, we meet numerous people: in the street, in the shops, in public transport, etc.. That’s one sense of meeting someone. But there is another sense in which we say, “I’ve met someone.” Certain people you meet make an impact on you even at first sight. The attraction can be purely physical, purely spiritual in terms of shared outlooks, or both. When you meet someone like that, you remember the place and time and probably many of the details of the encounter. You also remember the feelings which the meeting brought out in you and, you hope, in them. And, of course, you remember wanting to meet them again, to establish a relationship of friendship or more.
Another take on this is when someone tells you that there is someone who has seen you and wants to meet you. A shy person might ask a friend to be the go-between and approach you. Presumably, you will be flattered or at least curious, and a meeting will be set up. It may come to nothing, but it may blossom into a deep relationship of love.
Jesus wants to meet each one of us in this sense. He wants the encounter to be real and personal. He also wants it to develop into deep friendship, and even into deep union of mind, heart and body (the Eucharist). He came in the flesh and lived as a human being in every way that we do (except sin), to prove to us that He wants to meet us all. True, he only lived for a short time in a small geographical space, but that proves He was in those respects the same as us. Yet, His death, resurrection and ascension don’t remove him from our space and time. Rather, they make Him present in the Holy Spirit to all space and time. He wants to and can meet everyone everywhere, as truly as He met Peter and Andrew on the shores of Lake Galilee.
Like the shy person who uses an intermediary to set up a meeting with someone they are attracted to, Jesus is attracted to each one of us and longs to meet us in a one-on-one encounter. Sometimes He uses intermediaries to get that. For example, this past week we remembered St. Ambrose of Milan. Ambrose attracted to Jesus the future St. Augustine. How? By his preaching and teaching and by his own witness to his love for Jesus. People who are already in love with Jesus are powerful magnets to others. Our own St. Albert attracted St. Thomas Aquinas to a deeper knowledge and love of Jesus.
At other times, Jesus makes Himself present directly to someone with great power. Think of St. Paul, thrown to the ground when Jesus revealed Himself to him on his way to Damascus. Paul was left bowled over by the experience, to the point that he later says, “I no longer live but Christ lives in me.” What Augustine and Thomas and Paul discovered, although they had never met Jesus like Peter or Andrew, was that Jesus knew each of them intimately. In the Old Testament, King David at one point goes into pray to the Lord after the Lord has foretold the bright future of his dynasty. It is a very moving prayer. “Who am I, Lord Yahweh, and what is my lineage, for you to have led me as far as this? Yet, to you, Lord Yahweh, this seemed too little, and now you extend your promises for your servant’s family into the distant future. Such is human destiny, Lord Yahweh. What more can David say to you, since you, Lord Yahweh, know all about your servant?” (2 Sam, 7:18-20).
The physical absence of Jesus is not an obstacle to his knowledge of us, his love of us or to his desire to meet us personally and be present to us in the whole of our life. He now does this through the Holy Spirit. And when I say He wants to be present to the whole of our life, I mean both for as long as it endures and every aspect of it. He wants to engage with us as a friend engages with his friend. His friendship is enduring and faithful. He takes nothing away from us; rather, he gives us everything and makes everything about us grow and flourish. Through thick and thin he is there to hold us, to encourage and challenge us, to comfort and console us. If we turn our back on Him, He will stand firm and will work and hope that we remember Him again and turn back. Yes, He will correct us sometimes, in the way a true friend does when the one he cares for is losing the plot. He will not magically preserve us from the misuse of our freedom. He respects our freedom too much for that. He will challenge us to accept responsibility for our sins and mistakes so that He can then help us recover our freedom by His mercy and His truth. The dreams He has for us are only a shadow of our dreams for Him and for ourselves, as the hymn says. The same is true of his love. His desire for our friendship should surely be all the encouragement we need to respond.
Jesus and I are friends, though it has to be said He is more a friend to me than I am to Him. My history with Jesus goes way back. We have had our moments, both good and bad. At times I throw tantrums, at other times His love overwhelms me. I’ve not always understood His behaviour with me, as I am sure He has, and is, often exasperated at mine. He has seen me through some very difficult times. At other times when I felt He was most absent, I later discovered He was more present than ever. And I think that word presence hits the nail on the head for me. I experience Him as always there, more intensely in certain moments such as the Mass or in prayer, less intensely, but still truly, when I am working or doing other matters mundane. What I know is that He will always catch me when I fall or run away. Perhaps most of all, as with my namesake in the Gospel, I know His strong arm will lift me up from the stormy waters when I am sinking. And that has been the case not just once.
In this Jubilee Year of the parish, and in this Advent time, I want to challenge all of you either to start a real friendship with Jesus or to renew it. He is eagerly waiting for you. He knows all about you and loves you beyond all telling, despite sin or anything else you may feel ashamed of. The word Advent makes me want to say that He desires to have the advent-ure of real and lasting friendship with you.
Go to Him. Say, “Lord Jesus, I am here. I am glad You are here, too. I want to be your friend. Show me how.” Spend time with Him, silently sitting in His presence, maybe just saying His Name now and then, or reading a little of the Gospel and then turning to Him and asking Him to teach you what it means for your life. Share with Him what’s in your heart. Yes, He knows it, but it moves Him to hear you tell Him. The Bible says somewhere, “pour out your hearts before Him, for God alone is our refuge.” Sometimes you might feel like crying: well cry! Sometimes you might feel like laughing: then laugh! Bring to Him and reveal to Him all the wealth of your heart and soul, your feelings and emotions, joys and cares. Then calm yourself, be still and listen. If you have shared with Him, He will want to share with you. And He will. And it will be wonderful.
When you relate to Jesus in this kind of way, He will reveal Himself to you, and as He does so, you will be transformed by His love. He will give you a peace and a joy that no-one else can give. He will give depth to your mind and heart and other relationships. He will make your life fertile with rich and abundant virtues, both human and Christian. He will make you rejoice that you are you and that you are His and that He is yours! What is that if not the grace of baptism alive and kicking?
To sum up. Let the adventure begin! To be good friends with Jesus: go to Him, spend time with Him, share with Him, and let Him share with you. You will never regret it.