Thursday, August 27, 2009

Jesus is My Bestie?

Yesterday, I linked to Darwin Catholic's musings in Jesus is Not My Pal. Darwin was prompted by those who like to get reassurance that we know Jesus "personally" to considering the concept of Jesus as "best friend." Which he rejected.
... The ways in which I would normally envision Christ are not guy-next-door, my-buddy-the-savior kind of images. Christ the King, enthroned in eternal splendor into union with whom all Christians wish to enter for life everlasting. Christ Crucified, pouring out his blood for the sins of the whole world. Christ Risen, triumphing over the reign of death which had doomed humanity since the Fall. Christ in the Eucharist, kneeling before the glittering monstrance in which the Body of Christ forms the center of a sunburst of golden rays, with the crucifix above and the tabernacle behind.
I could relate to this. One of my favorite meditations, and I know I am not alone in this, is Psalm 139.
O LORD, you have probed me, you know me:
you know when I sit and stand; you understand my thoughts from afar.

My travels and my rest you mark; with all my ways you are familiar.
Even before a word is on my tongue, LORD, you know it all.

Behind and before you encircle me and rest your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is beyond me, far too lofty for me to reach.

Where can I hide from your spirit? From your presence, where can I flee?
If I ascend to the heavens, you are there; if I lie down in Sheol, you are there too.

If I fly with the wings of dawn and alight beyond the sea,
Even there your hand will guide me, your right hand hold me fast.

If I say, "Surely darkness shall hide me, and night shall be my light" --
Darkness is not dark for you, and night shines as the day. Darkness and light are but one. ...
I think about this and then I reflect upon all life and creation coming to be through Jesus' creative power.


That fills me with awe.

Thinking of that all-creative being stooping to befriend me? Even more awe. And thankfulness. Natch.

Jesus being my bestie though? Nope. I'm not feeling it.

However, Darwin's meditation galvanized Diana, the Faithful Traveler (who makes some great videos of American shrines, y'all ... check them out), into commenting at length about her conception of what a best friend really is and how this translates into her relationship with Jesus. She put her comment both here and at Darwin's, where there are also some other good reflections, though none with the passion which Diana feels and communicates beautifully. I especially liked the prayer she shared, written by St. Augustine (his feast day is tomorrow, btw) which is clearly destined for my quote journal. I have long had a special affection for St. Augustine who is my first saint "bestie."
Prayer of Saint Augustine

O Jesus Christ, you are my Father, my merciful God, my great King, my good Shepherd, my only Master, my best helper, my beloved friend of overwhelming beauty, my living Bread, my eternal priest. You are my guide to my heavenly home, my one true light, my holy joy, my true way, my shining wisdom, my unfeigned simplicity, the peace and harmony of my soul, my perfect safeguard, my bounteous inheritance, my everlasting salvation.

My loving Lord, Jesus Christ, why have I ever loved or desired anything else in my life but you, my God? Where was I when I was not in communion with you? From now on, I direct all my desires to be inspired by you and centred on you. I direct them to press forward for they have tarried long enough, to hasten towards their goal, to seek the one they yearn for.

O Jesus, let him who does not love you be accursed, and filled with bitterness. O gentle Jesus, let every worthy feeling of mine show you love, take delight in you and admire you. O God of my heart and my inheritance, Christ Jesus, may my heart mellow before the influence of your spirit and may you live in me. May the flame of your love burn in my soul. May it burn incessantly on the altar of my heart. May it glow in my innermost being. May it spread its heat into the hidden recesses of my soul and on the day of my consummation may I appear before you consumed in your love. Amen.
I was plagued by this question after reading Diana's defense of Jesus as her best friend. I did not want to bother with it, truth to tell, but it recurred so often that I finally stopped what I was doing and just sat there considering how I would define my relationship with Jesus. I am truly indebted to Diana for her passion as otherwise it wouldn't have occurred to me to so something as simple as just sit and think about how I feel about Jesus. It's a good thing to do. I highly recommend it.

I possibly have shared before that I actually was moved to go on my CRHP retreat (gosh is it really over 5 years ago?) because I realized that I didn't know Jesus well enough. Or how about at all. I was reading book after book where saints and authors were going on and on about knowing Jesus personally. Finally, it occurred to me that I really ought to look into this if I was a Catholic. Certainly I never turned to Him in prayer.

God the Father, sure thing.

The Holy Spirit? Well, no. But no one I was reading at the time was rhapsodizing about the Holy Spirit so He was low on my radar. Ironically enough, I came out of CRHP formation realizing that I had a solid beginning to being in love with the Holy Spirit. That is a love and trust that has lasted and grown. It is a rare day indeed that goes by without my reaching out in prayer several times to the Holy Spirit.

However, this is about Jesus. I did experience Jesus during that CRHP retreat. Not as a friend, whether best or otherwise. As one of the three in one, working hand in hand with the Father and Holy Spirit. I realize that sounds vague but just trust me on this. It was the Trinity in force, albeit also individually, that I encountered. The Jesus I encountered was someone to know, love, and trust personally. But not a best friend. No.

Pondering, I realize now that the person I met in Jesus then and the person who I have become more and more fond of, trustful of, in love with, if you will ... is more than a best friend could be. He is my Master. And you know what? I'm ok with that.

He is my Master in the best possible way, in a way that we really have no equivalent for here on earth. He does embody all those qualities that we love and treasure in best friends. But there is so very much more. What comes to mind are two examples, both from The Lord of the Rings and both of which are better realized in the books than in the movies. Frodo and Sam are a wonderful example of a loving, trusting Master-servant relationship, that transcends best friend. The other that comes to mind is Gandalf and Frodo. I know that Tolkien's letters mentioned Gandalf as a guardian angel, but the loving, protective way that Gandalf guides Frodo and sacrifices himself for the others, while leaving Frodo free to make his own decisions, is for me an aspect of Jesus as my Master.

Clearly, our human language and relationships are all going to fall short of what Jesus means to each person. For Diana, he is "my best helper, my beloved friend of overwhelming beauty" and that is what speaks to her soul. I love that.

For me there is so much more that St. Augustine captures that rises above and goes beyond ... and they are all true for me as well. If I had to pick one sentence from that prayer that makes my heart sing and thrills my soul with recognition it would be this:
... my one true light, my holy joy, my true way, my shining wisdom, my unfeigned simplicity, the peace and harmony of my soul, my perfect safeguard ...
There is no word except the name of Jesus that means these for me. As we are human and must settle for words, however inadequate, I will settle as did St. Peter, St. Paul, and so many other greater souls before me ... my Lord and my God. My only Master.

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