2nd Sunday of 2006
Can you think of a person who changed your life? Can you remember how you met them? Was there someone who introduced you? Did this introduction begin a process that would change the direction of your life? There are many people who enter our lives and make a difference for a time but sometimes an encounter can literally change the direction of your life. It may be a teacher who so inspires you to follow a career path, a mentor who opens up your imagination to the possibilities life has to offer or a life-time companion who enables you to see the world in a different way.
I ask you these questions because I believe that this is the dynamic we see in the Gospel today. The encounter with Jesus changes the life of Andrew and especially Peter forever. Would they ever have expected that one day they would meet Jesus and this would be the most important meeting of their lives?
I met Jesus when I was 18 years old. Surely I knew the stories of Jesus from my family. I went to a Jesuit school. Jesus was no stranger to me. But it wasn’t until I made the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius for the first time that I really met Jesus. Why? When I was young Jesus was a person I had heard about and knew that he lived, died and was raised from the dead, a person of great importance. But I didn’t know Jesus as a friend and companion. In the exercises, this was different. What Ignatius has you ask for in prayer is this.” I beg the Father so to draw me to Jesus that my awareness (knowledge of him) may become deeper, my experience of this love more intense, and my desire to follow him more passionate. To know him more intimately, to love him more deeply, follow him more passionate.
For Ignatius, Jesus is not some important historical figure but is the way, the truth and the life. Jesus is in the here and now. Jesus is the present and not the past. Jesus is the one who invites us to come and see where he stays. This is what I began to discover through the exercises. The living Jesus is forever in relation to us as the human dimension of God who enters into a personal dialogue with us.
Listen again to the language that Ignatius uses: I beg the Father to draw me to Jesus that my knowledge of him may become deeper, my experience of his love more intense, and my desire to follow him more passionate. This is not the language you use about an historical figure. You may be inspired by the life of Mother Teresa, or Gandhi or Martin Luther King. You may be moved by their words, their actions, their commitment to justice. But with Jesus there is something else, something so much more. There is the experience of the living presence of Jesus Christ who is for you, for now and forever. This is the kind of experience that Ignatius had: an immediate, personal, life-changing encounter with Jesus.
I don’t know if you have seen the new TV show, the Book of Daniel. For some reason I had great hopes for the new TV program. I had heard that the Episcopal priest in the series, “talks to Jesus as a friend. Jesus “shows up” when his friend is in distress, or dealing with difficult pastoral situations. Religious critics of the show were aghast at the “casualness” of this relationship. As one said, Jesus is meant to be worshipped and adored not ride in the car with you. Unfortunately, the Jesus who “shows up” in the series is more of a caricature. Jesus is like the plastic statue people have on their dashboard. Only this Jesus talks and frankly does not have a lot to say.Does Jesus, the living, Risen one “show up” for you? Do you hear his voice asking you “what are you looking for”? Do you hear his voice inviting you to “come and see” who he is for you, for now, forever?