One of my grade ten students recently asked me: "Why doesn't Jesus come down once in a while and just, you know, chill with us?" The class found this very amusing.
Without a doubt, he asked a great question. Because the fact is, he has come down to each one of us at our schools to do just that, namely, to chill with us. Where is he? He's in our school chapel. Christ is sacramentally present in our chapel, as well as every chapel or Church that has a tabernacle containing the body of Christ. But isn't he present everywhere? In our living rooms? In our homes? In our hearts? No more than He is in a garbage can -- and who can deny that God is present in a garbage can, at least as First Cause. But the kind of presence referred to here is not a natural presence, but a sacramental presence, a presence that results from the words of consecration. That is why it is so important to spend a lot of time before the Blessed Sacrament, "chilling", so to speak.
"Yes, but he doesn't talk back", replied my student. And this reminded me of Dan Rather, who once asked Mother Theresa about prayer:
"What do you say to God when you pray," he inquired.
"Nothing," replied Mother Theresa. "I just listen."
"What does God say to you?" he responded, rather derisively.
"Nothing," replied Mother Theresa. "He just listens."
I guess this is what it means to chill with Jesus. "God speaks in the silence of the heart," Mother Theresa always says. But His speaking is a listening, and you can hear him listen. That is how Mother Theresa knows that God just listens; she hears Him listen. And we too discover that He is listening to us as well, the more we spend time alone with Him. Sitting before the Blessed Sacrament is like sitting in the sun. It may not appear that anything is happening, but later on, after a time, it becomes rather evident that we've spent time out in the sun. So too, it may appear to be a waste of time, sitting in the quiet of the Church, but the rays of the Son are penetrating us and changing us and bringing much more color and beauty to our lives.
Not only will we discover that He is listening while we are before the tabernacle, but we come to know that He's listening to us all the time, at every moment of our lives. The reason is that as we spend more time "chilling with Him", so to speak, we begin to acquire the ability to see and hear, for this time alone with God opens up our "eyes" and "ears" so that we may begin to see and hear him outside the walls of the Church. St. Augustine writes: "Our whole business therefore in this life is to restore to health the eye of the heart whereby God may be seen. To this end are celebrated the Holy Mysteries; to this end the word of God is preached; to this end are the moral exhortations of the Church made, ...To this end is directed the whole aim of the Divine and Holy Scriptures, that that interior eye may be purged of anything which hinders us from the sight of God."
One of the effects of genuine prayer is that we begin to sense that we are known, and we carry this sense with us everywhere we go. This is important, because many people go through life without a sense that they are known, and so they go through life experiencing a profound loneliness. This leads to an experience of a chronic and underlying anxiety, something that modern existentialist philosophers highlight -- although they haven't a clue as to its solution. In other words, without prayer, we cannot hope to find peace. That is why people look for peace elsewhere, such as in the accumulation of wealth, or in being known and honored, or in sexual satisfaction, etc. But history shows that these never succeed in bringing people the peace for which they long.
Remember St. Augustine's famous line on the first page of his Confessions: "Oh, Lord, you created us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You." So, we really have to begin to chill with God more often. We really ought to begin now to rest in God. The more we do so, the more we will discover who we really are. The more we will come to know ourselves. For it is through the Word (Son) that all things came into being (Jn 1, 1ff). God is our origin and our end. The more we return to God during the day, the more we discover who God intended us to be. The more we discover our true self, that is, our true identity. And we know all sorts of people who do not know their identity, but need to know. So what do they do? They create one for themselves. We see this especially in young teens who have not discovered who they are. They may spike their hair, wear chains hanging down from their pockets, poke things through their eyebrows, smoke cigarettes, try never to smile, etc. Recently I drove by a car driven by a young teenage girl, and on the windshield of her car was painted in bold white letters: "BAD GIRL". This is how she wanted to be known, as a "bad girl". This was the identity she wanted for herself. Now I'm willing to bet that on top of being a "bad girl", she's probably not a very happy girl. And there's no doubt that she'll eventually grow up and get herself a new windshield. But it is sad indeed to see people needlessly missing out on their true identity. One message that we ought to try to bring to young people is that if we really want to feel like our life is "all together", we have to pray more, that is, begin "chilling with Jesus".
McManaman, Douglas. "Chilling with Jesus." (September 2004).
Reprinted with permission of Douglas McManaman.
Doug McManaman is a Deacon and a Religion and Philosophy teacher at Father Michael McGivney Catholic Academy in Markham, Ontario, Canada. He is the past president of the Canadian Fellowship of Catholic Scholars. Deacon Douglas studied Philosophy at St. Jerome's College in Waterloo, and Theology at the University of Montreal. He is the author of Christ Lives!, The Logic of Anger, Why Be Afraid?, Basic Catholicism, Introduction to Philosophy for Young People, and A Treatise on the Four Cardinal Virtues. Deacon McManaman is on the advisory board of the Catholic Education Resource Center. Visit his website here.Copyright © 2004 Douglas McManaman
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