"Anything you ask me in my name I will do." -John 14:14
Before Lent began this year, I was going through a grocery list of all the ascetical practices I could do. I thought about how much fasting would be healthy, how many hours a day in the chapel would be practical, better ways to give alms, and a more intense boot-camp-like prayer routine. However, in the depths of my heart I knew that this was all not really the end in itself I was looking for but rather a way to distract myself, a way to lose myself in the means to the end. In the end, right before Lent began, I figured out, or rather discerned, what the central focus of my Lent would be. I was going to give up as much theology as possible. As your jaw hangs open in disbelief please take a minute to close it (you may use a free hand if necessary) and let me explain. After much prayerful thought, I came to a very startling conclusion, or rather a question that shook the foundations of my faith.
Do I really love Jesus Christ?
Sure I love scriptures, prayer, I love meditating on the mysteries of His life while saying the rosary. I love the nature of God, exploring the concept of the trinity, and many great theological mysteries. I love the face of Christ in the poor, the lonely, the heartbroken. I love reading the lives of the saints, and learning about the many ways they would connect with God. I love God in nature, I love the healing miracles Christ has worked in my life. Yet, this does not answer my question. I am beating around the bush. So I will say again, do I really love Jesus Christ-- not just circling around Him, but as an end in Himself?
An affirmation of this Lenten goal came about while reading the Word of God. I opened up to 1 Corinthians 13 (the chapter on love) but not to the part I am typically accustomed to hearing. I only read the first three verses which go as follows:
"If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all that I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing." -1 Corinthians 13:1-3
This again shook the foundations of my faith and again caused me to ask, do I really love Jesus Christ? Well what is love? (And don't say baby don't hurt me). And more importantly, who is Jesus Christ?
In Book I of The Confessions (I will put the theology fast on hold for just a little while longer), St. Augustine asks the Lord, "Must we know you before we call upon you?" He goes on and expands on this but the main point is that we need to ask whether we should know the Lord first or first call upon our savior.
Jesus does tell us that anything we ask in His name He will grant to us (Jn 14:14). But for me, this still is not enough. I want to love Jesus with all my heart, mind, and soul.
Back to St. Augustine's question of whether we should know the Lord before we call upon Him: I think this varies by the person. I think it is impossible to not know the Lord in some way, shape, or form. Yet I think it is impossible to get to know Christ better without calling upon Him. We must do both.
Who is Jesus then? I could go into a long discourse about may aspects of Jesus, but to what end? He is the way in which I hope to go, He is the truth which I hope to know, He is the life which I hope to obtain. He is the reason I wake up in the morning, the reason I draw in every breath, the reason I can gaze at the stars, the reason I can feel blades of grass between my toes. Jesus is the center of my life, which nothing else can replace.
Yet I live on the fringes most of the time, not in the center. I think that is why he asks Peter three times if he loves Him. Not so much as a question for Jesus to know the answer, but so Peter will constantly ask himself this question.
Why do I bring this up? I think that I need to constantly reaffirm that Jesus is the center of my life, and that my baptism tells the world this. I need to also evaluate if I am living in the middle, or if I am circling the outside, fearful to truly dive in.
Something that I can practially do is make the name of Jesus central in all aspects of my life. As often as I speak, I should be mentioning the name of my savior. All I need, want, or hope for I should ask in His name. I should have the utmost faith in Jesus, so that one day when we meet face to face I may not have to have this faith anymore but truly see what I believe in. I should hope in Christ's redemption, so that one day I may attain this redemption for my own when I meet my love face to face. And I should have as much love as I can muster, because once faith becomes sight, and hope becomes my gift, love will magnify, expand, and consume my entire being. Love is the greatest of these three (again see 1 Corinthians 13) but love is all we need.
Do I really love Jesus Christ? I am trying.
"He who obeys the commandments he has from Me is the man who loves me; and he who loves Me wil be loved by my father. I too will love him and reveal myself to him." -John 14:21