As we begin a new semester our students are encouraged to embrace the challenge of being a member of our Catholic community and our desire that they seek to develop a personal relationship with Jesus.
St Ignatius offers us a simple yet perfect way to proceed in his instruction to ‘find God in all things’. What is true of our God is that he is in all things and visible in the ordinary; so much so that we often do not see him.
The disciples fleeing Jerusalem for the safety of their home in Emmaus illustrate this truth perfectly. They had known Jesus, they followed him and saw him crucified on the cross, yet when they encountered him they did not recognise him. In the Mass Jesus is present in the Word proclaimed and physically in the Eucharist but often we fail to experience his presence fully. In our daily lives we find Jesus everywhere, in creation, in people and in experiences. Jesus is sneaky.
The work sneaky is often used in the negative. People who cheat are sneaky. People who lie and manipulate are sneaky. But Jesus in all his sneakiness again turns things upside down. Jesus is sneaky because he waits for us to realise what he is revealing. Jesus does not force us to believe. He does not appear without us seeking him. The perfection of Jesus is that he uses sneakiness for good. He changes everything and in knowing of his sneakiness we are challenged to find him everywhere.
TRUTH AND DIVINITY
The Bible repeatedly proclaims Jesus’ sneakiness. Jesus was born in a stable to ordinary people. He lived a ‘normal’ life until he fully understood his mission. He always wanted to keep his identity under wraps. He came as a lamb rather than a lion. He used death and humiliation to announce his victory. He revealed himself first to women. He entered a locked room and appeared among the apostles. He was truly sneaky in the way he offered his truth and divinity to the world.
After his ascension the Apostles and the early Church realised how sneaky Jesus was. St Paul, St Peter and the Book of Revelation announce that Jesus will come like a thief in the night. Silently, without warning and at an unexpected time and therefore we need to be ready for his coming. The best preparation is to seek him everywhere.
Jesus deliberately disguises himself. He wants you to find him. He is right there next to and in front you. So close you don’t notice him. He lives within you and through you but even knowing this we don’t see him. The world around us, our busy lives and our desires obscure him. We do not need to change who we are or how we live to see him more clearly but when we do he will sneakily change our lives for us! He is truly sneaky.
CALLED TO SEEK HIM
Jesus was an excellent rabbi. One of his key teachings was that he wants you to be just as sneaky as he is. You are called to seek him and understand him in his sneakiness and then emulate this in your life.
Jesus teaches us to be just like him to stay hidden but not be hidden under a bushel. This paradox is the perfect illustration of being sneaky like Jesus. Do good things always, forgive and give to those in need, raise others up, pray without ceasing, heal the broken, fight against corrupt leaders; and do all this in secret. Do nothing for your own benefit or ego.
In being a sneaky disciple you fulfill all that Jesus came to reveal to the world; who he truly is. Jesus lives in and through you. You are called to live like him and become him for and to others. This can never truly happen, but throughout your life if you live as Jesus taught you will offer glimpses of him more and more often to those you encounter.
St Patrick lived one thousand years before St Ignatius. He understood how sneaky Jesus was and tried to describe this in his beautiful prayer.
“Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me”.
JESUS HOLDS ME
Consider these points as you evaluate the challenge being offered. When I wake up I see my family. This perfect love is of my family members and is at the same time Jesus holding me within his love.
When I drive to work there is so much beauty. As a member of the Trinity, Jesus is seen in Creation as completely as God the Father. His desire to create world of and out of pure love for me and all people is right in front of me – but often I am in a rush and see only the clock ticking toward 8.30am.
At the College I am surrounded by Jesus. I meet him minute by minute. Sometimes he is clearly visible when I see students become aware of him in my Religious Education class. Often though he is often being sneaky again and waits for me to see him and value him in a difficult encounter with another person.
When I play music I find him there in the harmony, in the perfection of something created. I try to find him and so often let life cloud my vision.
As our community returns we enter routines, courses and participate in rituals designed to help us develop our faith. But although these explicit things help us as a community Jesus waits for us individually. Sneakily he waits in the big moments and rituals and is more easily found because we enter with an understanding that he is there but these moments are infrequent.
SEARCH FOR JESUS IN ALL THINGS
Jesus is sneaky because he told us who he was, how he would go about his work and because today he continues to hide in plain sight. He is visible all day and every day, if we wait for the ‘big’ moments we have missed the point.
Jesus is so sneaky that so often we don’t see him because he patiently waits for us to find him in the ordinary. Once you do accept this challenge though you will never stop trying to find him. Start today. Search for Jesus in all things. Patrick and Ignatius were on to something, listen to them.
Brendan Nicholls is liturgy coordinator at St Ignatius College, Geelong.