Month 1: Contemplate the Face of Jesus
Our pastoral initiative Contemplate - Launch Out! begins where our faith begins: with Jesus Christ. We can 'put a face to' Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Ours is not a remote, alien God but a God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That same Son lived and worked and suffered as we do and lives still where we hope to go. When the people said, 'We wish to see Jesus' (Jn 12: 21) they did not want a lecture or a sermon: they wanted Jesus himself, they wanted to look directly into his eyes. (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 16)
The Church speaks of 'revelation' which means that God has 'shown himself' to us. Contemplation begins 'face to face' with Jesus who shows us the way to the Father. Jesus's gaze is the most loving and the most challenging encounter we will ever face. With total love he asks us to give up everything and to follow him. This is not just to ask a great deal: it is to ask everything. In return, however, he offers more than we can dream of. He offers the truth, healing, and above all, joy with him for ever.
To come to terms with this we must spend some time alone with the Lord. The Pope wrote in Ecclesia in Oceania (37) that modern people are so caught up in busyness that he fears they do not arrange their lives so as to think and to spend time alone with God. He suggests we in Australia may have much to learn here from indigenous people about the love of silence, contemplation, and the appreciation of mystery.
Pope John Paul II calls us all to make a real change in our lives. We can become over-focussed on activism, on rushing around, attending committees, working hard for good causes. This work is our Christian duty but it is not our focus: our focus is on the face of Jesus Christ. The Pope reminds us that if we are to work for Christ, we must know what he wants us to do. We can only know this if we spend time contemplating, praying, thinking about Jesus's mission and all he has taught us.
As life becomes more complex it is increasingly difficult to find time and resources to think and to pray. To contemplate we need some leisure time - time for ourselves which can then become time for God. We should strive to protect our leisure time. Shops and entertainment centres now open around the clock; Sundays and Holy days are not respected as they once were. People often feel pressured or tempted into being active on these days. In his Letters to us the Pope is inviting us to resist this temptation, to maintain some leisure time, and to use this not just for footy or films but also for contemplating Jesus and our destiny with him.
We all find ourselves thinking deeply, often anxiously, about the great problems of life. Is there any meaning to our existence? Why do we experience hurt and loss? What are we to do with our lives? Is there any truth out there or is it all just opinion? These questions can trouble us, as well as intrigue us. The answers become clearer if we contemplate Jesus. This will involve prayer, the development of an interior life and relationship with Christ, and study of his teachings. The Pope suggested some years ago that all people are philosophical at heart, everyone seeks ultimate truth. (Fides et Ratio, 4) We cannot deny our minds, we cannot live only for deeds, we are made for truth and for Christ.
There is no more beautiful sight than the face of Jesus, a face that was once that of a baby, then of a young man, and then of a dying man. Risen and Ascended, that same face is turned towards the world now, beckoning us all to come closer to God.
+Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.