During my first year of theological studies at St. John’s Seminary, my Christology professor asked the class to write an essay answering the question “Who is Jesus to me?” Admittedly, some of us thought this was a bit corny and a little too touchy-feely. We were intellectually eager to delve into the doctrines of Jesus Christ, however, in the process of writing and sharing our thoughts with one another, we came to see that it is indeed vitally important to be able to answer the question “Who is Jesus to me?”
True, our answer to that question does need to be informed by proper doctrine, namely that Jesus is God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, and our Lord and Savior. He’s not just another good guy in history, a role model, or a guru of sorts. He’s a divine person. He became man and united our human nature to himself.
When we have this proper theological foundation, however, we can then reflect on the more personal question: Who is Jesus to me? It truly is important to think about this question if you’ve never pondered it before, and I’d like to propose an answer that you can reflect on in your personal prayer: Jesus is our friend.
This might sound overly simplistic or childish, but it’s actually rather profound. Pope Benedict was fond of speaking and writing about friendship with Jesus. A friend is someone we love and who loves us. A friend is someone with whom we share our lives and hearts, a person with whom we converse. A friend is someone we have a personal relationship with. So the question that we must ask ourselves is, “Do I have a real friendship with Jesus Christ?”
You see, there’s a difference between knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus personally. One is head knowledge, the other is heart knowledge. We need both. But how do we come to know Jesus personally, as our friend? I propose two simple ways.
First, we should have a prayerful familiarity with the gospels. We can do this by reading a small section of the Gospel each day and by meditating upon what we read.
Second, we should have a devotion to the Eucharist, especially by making Sunday Mass a priority. We should receive the Eucharist often with love and devotion, and try to spend time in prayer before the Eucharist when possible.
If we devote ourselves to these two spiritual practices, we will come to know Jesus in a deeper way. We will then understand the words Pope Benedict spoke in his inaugural homily:“If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing…of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation.”
Father Michael Najim is Spiritual Director of Our Lady of Providence Seminary, Providence, as well as Catholic Chaplain at LaSalle Academy, Providence.