Monthly Archives: January 2014

Do You Hear Jesus Say Your Name?

On the first day of the week following Jesus’ crucifixion, Mary Magdalene had gone to the tomb where Jesus had been laid. She sees that Jesus’ body is not in the tomb and she is distraught. She encounters Jesus, but does not recognize him, thinking he is the gardener. Though she does not recognize him by sight, she does by the way he says her name. “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’” (John 20:16) It was a sound familiar to her and exclusive to their relationship.

When I was a young boy, my mother called me, “Billy.” When I heard her call me, I didn’t have to see her to know that it was her. My father used to call me “son.” Again, I didn’t have to see him when he addressed me to know that it was him. There was a special relationship and familiarity there. The same is true with my wife, members of my family and close friends.

That is the kind of relationship Jesus wants to have with us – one that is so close, so familiar, so intimate, we don’t need to see him to know he is there. At every moment he stands at the door of our heart waiting to be invited in, ready to embrace us and to offer his friendship, ready to listen to our deepest concerns and offer his wisdom — ready to say our name. “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them…his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” He says, “I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” (John 10:3, 4)

How close is your relationship with Jesus? Do you hear his gentle whisper in your thoughts? Do you recognize him when he calls your name?

Why Faith Is Not Private and Separate from Life and Work

The idea that faith should be separated form living out most of the rest of our lives appears to have become conventional wisdom over the last 50 years. We hear the phrase, “separation of church and state” and apply it to other venues in our lives such as the workplace and the public square. We are told that that our faith should be private and personal, not to be shared with others.

This perspective is 180 degrees contrary to God’s intention as evidenced in the words of Scripture and Jesus. For example, St. Paul said, “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17) Paul’s exhortation is not confined to what happens at church on Sundays, but he is applying it to everything we do. Later he says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as if you are working for the Lord.” (Colossians 3:23)

This is a 24/7 exhortation meant for Monday as well as Sunday, the workplace as well as our prayer closet or church. There are no boundary lines to Christ living in us, and we in him. Once we invite him in, he is present in everything we do – working for our employer, taking our children to soccer practice, helping with the dishes, assisting a sick friend with yard work, testifying at a City Council hearing, helping our children with their homework, listening to a work colleague share a personal problem – “whatever you do in word or deed.”

God created us to work and take care of the garden of his creation, including the physical world and one another. (Genesis: 2:15) This is how we make ourselves useful to one another and thus to God. It is a divine assignment.

From the time God became one of us through his incarnation in Jesus and the pouring out of his Holy Spirit on the people of his early church, his intention has been to dwell not in temples or buildings, but in us individually and personally, assuming we accept his invitation. I met him one evening thirty-seven years ago in an individual and personal way, and accepted his invitation to dwell in me. Today, I experience his presence in many ways – the sacraments of my church, my prayer time (we meet for coffee every morning), and in many of the people he places in my life.

There are times when I have neglected his presence, or separated my words and deeds form his presence because I have put him in a box. The unfortunate thing when that happens is that his presence may not then be available to the people in my life who would otherwise be blessed by him. God created us with the freedom to accept or reject his invitation to dwell in us, but his desire for his creation and for his created, is that we not separate him from our lives and work.

Do you imprison God, only to be released on Sunday, or do you let him be manifested in every aspect of your life?