A long, long time ago I heard a story about a devout little boy named Jimmy who walked past his parish church everyday on his way to school. Remembering the presence of Christ in the tabernacle of the church, each day as he passed by Jimmy made the Sign of the Cross and said simply, “Hello Jesus, it’s Jimmy.”
One day while crossing the street, Jimmy was hit and seriously injured by an out-of-control car careening down the street. The bystanders quickly called for an ambulance and waited anxiously for help to arrive. Unfortunately, it came too late. As Jimmy exhaled his last breath and peacefully passed away, however, witnesses said that they heard a voice from heaven saying, “Hello Jimmy, it’s Jesus.”
The story may be little more than a pious little parable, but it reminds us of an important truth – that during our time on earth we have to develop a firm friendship, a personal familiarity with the Lord, and that, in fact, our reception into heaven will depend on the strength of our relationship with Christ.
Jesus himself invited us to be His friends. “I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.” (Jn 15:15)
Therefore the goal of our journey on earth is to nourish our friendship with Christ, so that He will know us, recognize us and welcome us into His Kingdom. Or, as the venerable Baltimore Catechism taught us so well, “God made me to know Him, love Him and serve Him in this world and to be happy with Him in the next.”
But, the question is, how do we establish and nourish that friendship?
The first, of course, is by developing a regular life of prayer – frequent, personal, intimate prayer – that “lifting up of our hearts and minds to God.” It is in prayer that we stay in communion with the Living God, that our spirits are united to His. Our prayers can be solemn, formal, liturgical expressions, public devotions, or very simple personal aspirations like, “Hello Jesus, it’s Jimmy.”
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta was asked about the secret of her profound spiritual life. She responded simply, “My secret is a very simple one: I pray. To pray to Christ is to love Him.”
For Catholics, the most intimate encounter with Christ is in the Seven Sacraments, and on a regular basis, the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist. Even the best of friends need to say “I’m sorry” once-in-awhile and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Confession, gives us the chance to say that to Jesus in a very personal and effective way. And the Holy Eucharist is, of course, the ultimate expression of our friendship with Christ as we become one with Him in an intimate union of body and soul.
We nourish our friendship with Christ by our active participation in the life of the Church, for the Church is much more than a fraternal organization or social club. The Church is the Body of Christ, founded by Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit to the fullness of truth. Yet it is in the Church that we enjoy the companionship of other “friends of Jesus,” brothers and sisters who share our spiritual vision, our moral values and our faith in the Lord.
We nourish our friendship with Christ by keeping His commandments, for we demonstrate the authenticity of our friendship by doing what He asks of us. If, on a human level we expect our friends to be loyal, in the same way Jesus expects loyalty and consistency from His friends too. As He said, “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love.” (John 15:10).
We nourish our friendship with Christ by loving and serving one another, by sharing our gifts with those who are not as blessed, not as fortunate as we are. There, too, we discover the real presence of Christ for He said, “Whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers and sisters you do unto me.” (Mt 25:40) The poor are the special friends of Christ and if we love them He will love us in return.
We nourish our friendship with Christ, finally, by fostering our daily love and devotion to our Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary. Authentic devotion to Mary always leads us to Christ, for she was close to Christ in a unique and intimate way. Pope John Paul II mentioned this in his beautiful letter on the Rosary: “No one has ever devoted himself to the contemplation of the face of Christ as faithfully as Mary . . . Mary’s gaze, ever filled with adoration and wonder, would never leave Him.” (#10). And if we’re ever spiritually lost or confused, we can learn from Mary who points to Jesus and says “Do whatever He tells you.” (Jn 2:5)
Someday, dear friends, like Jimmy in our little parable, we’ll stand face-to-face before Jesus. The question is, will we be total strangers to Him, or will He recognize us and welcome us as His friend? That friendship with Christ is a beautiful thing – strengthening it should be our goal each and every day.
For information on ‘Effective Faith: Faith that Makes a Difference’ the new book published by Bishop Tobin, please click here.