“It is not a relationship with Jesus that I want…” I read those words from a little booklet written by a priest named Fr. David Vincent Meconi. I decided I didn’t want to read such rubbish and I tossed the book aside. Some years later I saw that same book on my stack of things yet to read (do you have one of those stacks?). I decided to give Fr. David another try.
When I read the rest of his thought, I was drawn in: “It is not a relationship with Jesus that I want…With Mother Mary and with you and with all the Saints I want relationship, but with Jesus I want union. I desire something even more intimate than relationship. I do not simply want to be face to face with Jesus, or side to side; I want his face to become my face; his heart to beat in perfect harmony with mine… I want Divine Union.”
This is what God wants as well. The very first paragraph of the Catechism of the Catholic Church says “God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life.” God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit created us to share in the blessed Life that they share. God created YOU. God created ME. Why? For union, for an eternal relationship of joy.
The Bible is loaded with this theme of union. St. John the Evangelist has a thought that runs throughout his Gospel: Jesus wants us to abide in him. That is sometimes translated as “remain in him.” To walk with, live with, and stay with Jesus. St. Paul uses the term of being “IN” Christ Jesus throughout his many letters. As a fish is in water, Christians should be in Jesus. St. Peter says that God wants to “share his divine nature.” God wants to share His godliness with us.
All of this is to say that God wants to make us, His creation, more and more like Him.
On this Holy Week just ahead, we participate in the greatest moments of human history: when Jesus, God-made-man, takes our sin to the cross and trades places with us. He kills sin, taking it to the grave. But the greatest miracle and ultimate hope for all of us is that he did not remain in the grave. He rose to new life, with the promise that we can follow him. We can follow Jesus into new life and into total union with God, if only we say YES to his offer. If only we participate.
As Catholics we have the beauty and power of the Sacraments to help us along this journey. Most especially Confession and Eucharist after the initiation of Baptism. Sacraments REALLY do something; they truly are real encounters with Jesus and moments of union. The experience of 2,000 years of Christianity attests that intimate union with God IS possible; broken people and corrupt societies CAN be transformed. Becoming a living Saint IS a reality. We see it in the daily life of the Church, this union is happening all around us.
Is there a secret to this union? A formula? Seven Steps to Union? The great Saints, mystics, and ordinary disciples of our rich heritage suggest the best way to insure union is with a life of prayer. There are many dozens of great books, apps, videos and programs that aid us in prayer. The most important element is to just DO IT. Talk with God. And listen. Allow time for silence. Some pray the Rosary or a Chaplet, novenas or the Psalms; others sing or meditate, walk or kneel. In any instance allow time to listen. And make a consistent commitment. How about giving God just 15 minutes of time in your morning? 15 minutes is just slightly over 1% of your 24 hour day. The 1% Challenge: Pray for 15 minutes a day. Listen to what the Lord wants to say to you; just let Him love you. Invite Him, ask Him into union.
We will formally launch the 1% Challenge from our friends at Evangelical Catholic later in the year!
Bishop Barron wrote a book some years ago called “The Strangest Way” in which he mentions how the classical pianist Daniel Barenboim, the Jazz saxophonist John Coltrane, and the rock guitarist Eric Clapton all said that their best performances happened when they are no longer playing their instruments, but when their instruments are playing them. “They realized they played the most beautiful sounds, only at the limit of their striving and accomplishing, when they let the music carry them away.” Let’s do the same with God. Let Him carry you away.