One of the features at the heart of both Judaism and Christianity is the idea that God wants to have a personal relationship with his people. The Bible calls this relationship the covenant, and both Judaism and Christianity, in their respective ways, are communities of the covenant.
Jesus makes this even clearer when he says to his apostles, “I call you my friends” (Jn 15:15).
The first of the Ten Commandments prohibited the Israelites from making graven images of God. Indeed, in the time of Jesus, the Holy of Holies was kept empty. All of this was in service of God’s transcendence or otherness from us. And yet in Jesus, God gave us an image of himself (Col 1:15), the Word made flesh (Jn 1:14). As Jesus himself explained to Philip at the Last Supper, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9).
To know Jesus, to accept his offer of friendship, is not only a good in its own right. It is also our point of entry into the inner mystery of love that constitutes the life of the Holy Trinity. The Father loves the Son (Jn 3:35). The Father is in the Son and the Son in the Father (Jn 14:10-11). We are in the Son and the Son is in us (Jn 14:20). Through Christ, we . . . have access in one Spirit to the Father (Eph 2:18).
If thinking about praying in and through and to the Trinity seems too complicated, we can simply pray to Jesus. Most of us have a favorite image of him and this is a good place to begin.
He may seem unreachable for some of us, and this for a lot of reasons. But what if he has reached us? What if he has already initiated the conversation? Jesus is interested in us, in our lives, in our loves. He cares. He loves us. He wants to spend time with us. He wants us to talk to him about what is important to us. He wants us to trust him.
Some of us were raised with too strict an image of God. That God is always keeping score, always criticizing, always in judgment. But is this really the God who reveals himself in the Bible — particularly in Jesus? I do not think so. God the Son, in Jesus, spread his arms wide for us and died in love. That was the last act of his earthly life and that is how we remember him above all. It is the greatest religious symbol of all time.
If someone says to me, “I love you,” and I change the subject, I have failed a challenge, I have turned my back on an invitation. But this is exactly what God is constantly saying to us in Christ.
My awareness of God’s personal presence at Mass is deepened and strengthened by an ongoing life of reflection and prayer. There are many ways to structure this. One very popular way is by reciting the rosary, privately or in a group. Another way is by offering devotional prayers, novenas, or by participating in prayer groups.
The Chaplet of Divine Mercy has grown in the number of its adherents. Many parishes have chapels for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. There are many different ways to meditate, to read the Bible, or to do lectio divina. What matters most, however, is that we simply talk with Jesus, in our own words, and listen to what he says. We need to cultivate a sense of personal interaction with him.
Sometimes I have been asked, “What will we talk about with Jesus in the world to come?” My answer is simple. What are we talking with him about now?