When did you first begin spending time with Jesus? Not going to mass, participating in parish life, learning about Jesus, serving Jesus. Just spending time with him.
I was a senior in high school. My mother had had surgery. She had a reaction to the anesthesia and lay unconscious in the hospital for twenty-eight days. The doctor kept her alive on glucose and waited, because in 1966 that’s what he knew to do. I would go to visit her, but it was all totally overwhelming to me. A teacher suggested that I might go sit in the Catholic Church to pray after I had seen mother, since the Catholic Church was near the hospital and open for walk-in prayer time.
I went, wondering if someone would come in and tell me to leave. In all those afternoons, nobody ever came in. I had God all to myself. As a Protestant, I had no knowledge of the True Presence of Christ in the tabernacle. But I soon knew Jesus was there. I talked to him. I sat with him. Did I know enough to listen to him? Probably not. But there was something different, something good about being in that church.
After twenty-eight days my mother’s body began to work again. In time she fully recovered and lived to be 95. But a change had happened to me. I began to yearn to spend more time with Jesus. I didn’t go back to that Catholic Church (now my parish church) until Christmas morning, 1969, right after I had entered into full communion with the Catholic Church while away in school. In between I attended various churches, as young people often do. I often sat in a lovely courtyard at the Episcopal Church near campus. I prayed. I talked. I searched and yearned.
Now I know that Jesus was looking for me, calling me to Himself, in all my seeking. He searched for me and let me think I found him.
When Andrew Spent the Day with Jesus
This memory comes to mind as I read in today’s Gospel of Andrew and Peter’s initial encounter with Jesus. Andrew, the quiet, but effective evangelist, was a disciple of John the Baptist. When John saw Jesus and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God,” Andrew followed Jesus. He spent the day with him. By four o’clock in the afternoon, he was convinced, “We have found the Messiah.” He went to get his brother, Simon—soon to be Peter.
What did Jesus talk about that day? How did Jesus listen to Andrew? How did a bond between them develop? When I use imaginative prayer (Ignatian contemplation) and put myself in that scene, I so wish I could have been there. It was a day of conversation that changed Andrew, Peter, James, and John’s life. It changed John the Baptist’s life, as he let go of disciples whom he no doubt loved. It was a day that changed Jesus’ life, too, because at the end of it, he had disciples.
Yet it was just a day of conversation, of spending time with Jesus.
Spending Time with Jesus in Adoration
Last night, at our monthly parish Spiritual Life meeting we reviewed our annual all night New Year’s Eve prayer vigil. We expose the Blessed Sacrament for the night. The church, decorated for Christmas, has a exquisite beauty and profound Quiet Presence to it in the night. A couple of people stay all night to anchor and assure at least two people are always keeping vigil. A dozen or so stay several hours. A good number come for an hour or more. We all spent time with Jesus, just like Andrew did in today’s Gospel.
Many, including me, find ourselves naturally spilling over with faith afterwards. “Come and see,” we say to family or friend. “We have found the Messiah.” Last night Father told of one parishioner who was inspired last year to construct a beautiful model of Bethlehem in her home. She spent the year building it. Then this Christmas she invited people to “come and see.” It made our local newspaper, and many people have come to see the model and hear the story of Jesus birth. Many were children who perhaps got a truer picture of Christmas than they have ever had. Some likely would not have come into our parish church (or any church) to worship. Yet, they at least encountered the story of Christmas and may well have encountered enough of Jesus to seek him again.
Effective evangelization–all from spending time with Jesus—like Andrew did in today’s Gospel.
Open Churches: Welcoming Those Who Come to Spend Time with Jesus
Last spring I was working in downtown Philadelphia. I found a church that clearly welcomed anyone and everyone to come spend time with Jesus. There were multiple masses, and multiple public rosaries and shared Liturgies of the Hours. People came and went all day. Many who came in looked like homeless or at least on the margins of life. Others were in well heeled business dress. Some were young mothers with a preschooler or two in tow. All came in to spend time with Jesus. The parish kept someone “on duty” in this downtown place to maintain safety while letting the church be open all day for people to drop by and spend time with Jesus.
I wonder how many lives changed in 2017 because of that parish’s overt hospitality.
Jesus Wants to Spend Time with Everyone
Today’s first reading speaks of sin and its awful effects. I can tell you from experience, being in a state of sin changes spending time with Jesus—but it doesn’t stop the communication. Jesus doesn’t send you away. He doesn’t stop talking to you—though sometimes you can sense a wall.
In those times it is very important to pour out your heart—even if your heart is angry, disturbed, confused, or alienated from God.
Because Jesus hears you and responds to your honest heart, even if you are steeped in sin. You do have to be honest and you do have to be the one to come to him. Jesus knocks at your door, but then he waits for you to open it.
Time Spent that Changes Things
You know the story of what happens after Andrew spent the day with Jesus. You know about curing Peter’s mother-in-law, choosing both Andrew and Peter to be disciples. You know about Andrew identifying the boy with five loaves and two fish from which Jesus fed the 5000. You know the story of the Passion when they ran away scared. You may or may not know that the Eastern Church credits Andrew with taking Christianity all through the Greek world.
Spending time with Jesus changes lives. When is the next time you can spend time with Jesus? No, you don’t have to go in church with the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus can spend time with you anywhere. But there is something wonderful about taking even a whole day to sit in church to spend time with Jesus. What will you say to Jesus? What will he say to you? How will a bond form?
Thank you, Lord, for always being where I can find You. You are always in a Catholic Church, close to the red lamp with candle burning, in the tabernacle. Sometimes you are on the altar, ready for us to spend time together. Call me, Lord, call me to you.