Category Archives: Friendship with God

Opening the Door to God

a56e43d9021bd6bcd50f01ab4fae112dAre we opening the door to God in our lives?  Jesus provides a continuous invitation.  He says, “Here I am!  I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me.” (Rev. 3:20)

I recently came across a beautiful reflection from St. Augustine about how he had put God off for many years, and then he reflects:

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you!

     You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you.

     In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. 

     You were with me, but I was not with you. 

     Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you, they would              have not been at all. 

     You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. 

     You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. 

     You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you.

     I have tasted you; now I hunger and thirst for more.  You touched me, and I

     burned for your peace.  (The Confessions of St. Augustine, Book Ten, XXVII)

While I will never attain the depth of Augustine’s spirituality and wisdom, I relate to his early struggles in resisting God’s invitations to have a personal and intimate relationship with him.  In my early adult years, I went to church every Sunday, participated in the sacraments and loved my wife and children.

There were times when I would experience a whiff of God’s special fragrance, but for the most part, I kept him at arm’s length, particularly when it came to moving forward in my career as a young attorney.  I allowed myself to be influenced more by the ways of the world than the ways of God.

Then one October evening, through God’s grace and the influence of my wife and other spirit-filled Christian friends, I met Jesus in a way I had never experienced before – just the two of us.  In the solitude of his presence and gentle love, I was inclined to ask him to take the sin and mixed priorities in my life, and before I could finish the request, he responded with an affirmation that words are inadequate to describe. 

It was a watershed moment.  If you ask my wife, she will tell you that from that point forward all my priorities began to change.  Jesus gave me a new thirst for reading scripture and spending time daily with him.  He gave me a new love for the Church and his sacraments, and a desire to share his presence with others.  Yes, I am still capable of failing him, but repentance eventually follows.

Like Augustine, we thank you, Lord, for breaking through our deafness, for dispelling our blindness and breathing the fragrance of your Spirit on us.

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Jesus Fixing Our Mistakes

Have you ever experienced someone fixing a problem that you created?

That is what Jesus did for Peter when Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant at Jesus’ arrest.  “When his followers saw what was going to happen, they said, ‘Lord, should we strike with our swords?’  And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.  But Jesus answered, ‘No more of this!’  And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.”  (Luke 22:49-51)  John’s gospel identifies Peter as the one who struck with his sword, and Malchus as the name of the high priest’s servant.

It was God’s will for Jesus to be arrested and crucified, which was necessary for the atonement of our sins and Jesus’ subsequent resurrection to demonstrate God’s victory and authority over evil.  Peter’s actions, though well intentioned, were mistakenly getting in the way of God’s will for Jesus and his plan for the salvation of all of mankind. 

Jesus reverses Peter’s mistake with a miracle in touching Malcus’ ear and totally restoring it.  This is a miracle that doesn’t get a lot of commentary, but think of its impact on Peter and Malchus.   For Peter, Jesus is not only reprimanding him for resorting to violence, but miraculously healing the enemy.  It may have kept Peter from being arrested for attacking the high priest’s servant.  For Malchus, it is likely that he later became a follower of Jesus as evidenced by John being able to remember his name when he wrote his gospel sixty years later.

We all make mistakes, and sometimes a friend, spouse or colleague is able to step in and take action to minimize the consequences.  A classic football example is a fellow team member who recovers our fumble.  Other examples include a work colleague who spots a mistake we have made in a report and corrects it before it gets submitted to the boss; or a friend who saves us the embarrassment of not remembering the name of an acquaintance in a social situation.

One of Jesus’ many titles is “Wonderful Counselor.”  When we make mistakes of any kind, we can go to Jesus and ask for his counsel in how we should remedy the mistake and ask for his grace to do what is necessary.  If our mistake involves a sin, we can ask him to forgive us.  If our mistake has offended someone, we can ask him for the grace to seek reconciliation.  We can even ask him to prepare the heart of the person with whom we need to be reconciled.

I am reminded of the old hymn, O What a Friend We Have in Jesus. He is available to us 24/7.  As Isaiah says, “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.”  He delights in helping us fix our mistakes when we humble ourselves and ask for his assistance.

Friendship with Jesus

Do you have a friendship with Jesus?

St. Paul considered his friendship with Jesus the most important thing in his life.  It exceeded his ministry, preaching, miracles, prophesies and every aspect of his life.  He said, “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ.”  (Phil. 3:8)

Jesus seemed to confirm this priority in his final words to the disciples when he prayed, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)  The knowledge that Jesus was referring to was not just knowing about God and himself, but knowing the Father and the Son as a person and friend.

Is it possible to have a real friendship with God who we can’t see, or Jesus who died as a human person 2000 years ago? 

The disciples and the 500 other people who saw Jesus after his resurrection (1 Co.15:6) would likely say yes.  Paul, who had been persecuting Christians met Jesus in a vision on his way to Damascus and was given specific instructions about what he was to do next.  Paul later describes how he was taken up into heaven to hear indescribable things.  Various saints throughout history have had similar experiences.

Many years ago I was at a Christian gathering in which a priest asked us to engage our imagination to experience Jesus.  You may think this sounds phony, but Jesuit author, William A. Barry in his book, A Friendship Like No Other, says that the principal way in which God communicates with us is through our imagination, memories, insights and thoughts.  Whether they are from God is a question of discernment, which is often determined by the fruit of what follows.

At that gathering, I imagined that I met Jesus on a lonely country road, south of Kansas City, Missouri on the way to my wife’s grandmother’s farm.  I asked Jesus to take a particular burden from me.  He did.  And my life has never been the same since.  I can describe every detail of that encounter – the gravel road, the farm house nearby, where the mailbox was, and what Jesus looked like and said.  It was so real!

For almost 40 years I have been meeting with Jesus nearly every morning for coffee.  We are friends like my best friend who is my wife; like a few Christian brothers who know me inside and out.  The change and fruit in my life following that encounter would indicate that it was authentic, though I am still capable of messing up.

Jesus told the disciples, “I have called you friends because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.” (John 15:15)  We have the benefit of scripture to learn about the Father and the Son, and their offer to dwell within us. (John 14:23) We also have our God-created ability to think, imagine and receive insights.  This, in combination with the anointing of the Holy Spirit, enables us to establish a friendship with the Father and the Son.   

Friends share knowledge and experiences.  A husband and wife share intimate details about their lives.  Good friends share joys, sorrows, and the mundane.

God the Father and God the Son invite us to do the same.