We need the human face of Jesus
If we are to contemplate Christ, we must know him. The Pope writes (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 16) that all Christians will have been helped to know Christ better by the celebrations of the Great Jubilee. During the Jubilee it was as if the Christian world stopped, took stock, took heart, and now begins again, full of enthusiasm and with greater understanding of its Lord.
It can of course be difficult to maintain the intensity of the encounter with the Lord that took place during the Jubilee. We need now to renew that spirit. Recently we had a chance to do just that in the Archdiocese during the celebrations for the pilgrim visit of the relics of Saint Therese. It was anticipated that this much-loved saint would draw crowds, but no one could have predicted the numbers and the enthusiasm. Thousands gathered at the host churches in the different quarters of the Archdiocese. Meanwhile, traffic came to a standstill in Kew as the saint visited her Carmelite sisters.
The message of this great event is clear: we respond to the human presence of the saints; we need the human face of Jesus.
What can we do to draw our own attention and that of others to Christ's presence in our lives and in our world? First, we can find some time for him. We all know how difficult it is to find time amid the busyness of life for family, holidays, recreation. In some ways it is easier to spend time with God - because he is always there! But often his very availability means we forget him, or turn to him too late or only in great need or fear. Contemplating Jesus requires spending time with him.
Secondly, we need to share Jesus. He himself gave a wonderful example of balancing private time spent instructing his disciples with public time in which he gave freely to all who sought him. People seek him today still, they seek him sometimes without knowing who it is that they seek. The New Evangelisation called for by Pope John Paul II is the call to speak of Christ in all places and at all times. This is not always easy, but Jesus's presence is needed by our brothers and sisters. This presence is strongly felt when we introduce him with love and confidence.
Thirdly, we need to act for Christ - to 'launch out'. The need for extra hands and generous hearts to help with the old, the housebound, the sick, the dying, the confused, the addicted, the angry, the despairing…. is immense. We do this out of love, and we continue to do it even when it costs - because of the example of perfect love which Christ has given. Jesus healed as he taught, and taught by healing. Our works of charity now help teach Christ to others, and to ourselves.
Time spent with Christ, time spent sharing Christ with others, time spent helping others for Christ's sake. These will help keep him at the centre of our lives and our thoughts, and on the 'agenda' of wider society.
But what can we do if we, or others, grow indifferent to Christ and his Church? Much so-called atheism is not strong belief that there is no God, but a growing indifference to God, a 'practical atheism'. When someone grows indifferent to spouse or family, to work or health, indifferent to whether they live or die, we try to rekindle their love of these things by recapturing their original love in a new way. It is the same with Christ. Taking time to read a new book about him, visit a religious site (or internet site!), go to a theological talk, inquire about programmes running in religious houses, get involved in a parish - these and other things can help to recapture the love of the Lord in our hearts.
Jesus is present always: present particularly Sunday by Sunday in Holy Mass, and present in every church. Perhaps, however, we contemplate Jesus most immediately when we encounter him in the Gospels. This is the next theme of Contemplate - Launch Out.
+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.