Saint John Paul II once said: “It is along the paths of daily life that you can meet the Lord! […] In this concrete and surprising encounter, described in a few, essential words, we find the origin of every journey in faith. It is Jesus who takes the initiative. When we have to do with Him, the question is always turned upside down: from questioners, we become questioned; «searchers», we discover that we are «sought»; He, indeed, has always loved us first (cf. 1Jn 4:10). This is the fundamental dimension of the encounter: we are not dealing with something, but with Someone, with the «Living One».
Indeed, we seek for the Lord, but more times than not, the Lord is not where we expect. Time and time again, it is where we least expect him. Time and time again it is in the darkness that we glimpse his light. Time and time again, it is before the cross that we must kneel in order to witness his kingdom. This, I believe, was a lesson well understood by Cardinal Francisco Xavier Nguyen van Thuan (a vietnamese bishop that was incarcerated for 13 years under the communist regime). Jesus came to his encounter in captivity, amongst the shadows. In prison, Francisco suffered a daily existence of solitude; but it was there that he discovers the presence of “Another” as never before.
“All prisoners, myself included, constantly wait to be let go. I decided then and there that my captivity would not be merely a time of resignation but a turning point in my life. I decided I would not wait. I would live the present moment and fill it with love.” – Cardinal Nguyen
Fruit of this profound encounter, Cardinal van Thuan wrote various books. One of them is called “Testimony of Hope” where we find the spiritual exercises that the Cardinal presented to Saint John Paul II in 2000. In that address, Van Thuan declared that he had “…met the living Jesus; he fascinated me. I followed him – because I love the defects of Jesus.” We hope that the following will serve as an excellent resource for your apostolate!
**Evidently when we are speaking of “defects”, we are referring to what a human mentality would consider a “defect”, a “weakness,” something that we struggle to accept in the one is the “Messiah”. Christ is perfect in all ways, but, because our ways are not like His, this perfection many times looks like a “defect.” We are thus invited to revise our understanding of what is “perfect” and allow it to be conformed with the words, actions, and words of Jesus.
During his agony on the cross, Jesus heard the voice of the thief at his right side: Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom. If it had been me, I would have answered him: “I won’t forget you, but you must pay for your crimes by spending some 20 years in purgatory”. On the contrary, said: Today you will be with me in Paradise. Jesus just forgot all about his sins. As for Mary Magdalene, Jesus never questioned her about her scandalous past life. He simply said to her: Your sins have been forgiven you because you loved so much. When the father sees his prodigal son coming home, he runs to meet him, embraces him and does not even give him time to pronounce the little speech he had prepared. He calls his servants and says: Kill the fatted calf to feast my son. My dead son has returned to life…
Jesus doesn’t have a memory like mine. Not only does he forgive, he forgets everything.
If Jesus took a math examination, he would surely fail it. A shepherd had one hundred sheep; one of them strayed. Without thinking, the shepherd went in search of it, leaving the other ninety-nine sheep. When he found the lost sheep, he put it on his shoulders. For Jesus, 1 equals 99, perhaps even more! Who can accept this? When it comes to saving a lost sheep, nothing can stop Jesus: risk, fatigue, danger … Think also of Jesus’ merciful gestures when he sits at Jacob’s well in order to seek out the Samaritan woman or when Jesus invited himself to Zacchaeus’ house! What simplicity; what love for sinners.
One night, a woman who had ten drachmas lost one of them. So she lit a lamp to search for it. When she found it, she invited her neighbors in and told them: Rejoice with me, because I found the drachma which I had lost. It is truly illogical to spend the night searching for one drachma and then to have a feast in the middle of the night to celebrate having found it. What is more, in inviting her friends to celebrate with her, she spent more than a drachma. Even ten drachmae would not cover the cost of the feast. Here we can truly say with Pascal: The heart has its reasons which reason does not know. It would have been more logical for the woman to go to bed and to search for the drachma in the daylight. But for Jesus, the search for a lost one has priority. He cannot lose a minute. Jesus revealed the secret of his heart. There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.
A person in charge of publicity for a company or a politician seeking election prepares a very precise program with many promises. Jesus promises only trials and persecutions to those who follow him. He warns them that the Son has nowhere to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20). In sending his disciples out on a mission, he tells them to take nothing for the journey: no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money and not to have two tunics (Luke 9:13). He also tells them that they will be blessed when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven… (Matthew 5:11-12).
In this state of absolute poverty, where did Jesus send his disciples? How far were they to go? They were to bring salvation, even to the very end of the earth (Acts 13:47). Have you ever heard of such an adventurer and his word: I am with you every day, even to the end of the world. We are truly disciples of Jesus when we follow him even to the end of the world. We are members of his association of adventurers, without address, without a telephone number, without a fax or website.
The kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard… After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard… About the eleventh hour, he went out and found others standing and he said to them ‘why do you stand here idle?’ They said to him ‘Because no one has hired us’. He said to them ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the householder… But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius?’ (Matthew 20:1-13).
If Jesus were named steward of a community or manager of an enterprise, those institutions would go bankrupt, because he would pay the same salary to the one who started working in the morning and to the one who began in the afternoon! Would he have made a mistake? Did he calculate incorrectly? No, he would do it on purpose: Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last as I give to you.. do you begrudge my generosity? (Matthew 20:14-15).
You wonder why there were defects of Jesus? Because He is love (1 John 4:16). Authentic love does not reason, does not calculate, does not measure, does not put up barriers, does not lay down conditions, does not set up boundaries and does not remember offenses committed… Jesus always acts out of love. From the home of the Trinity he brought us a great love, infinite, divine, a love that reaches–as the Fathers of the Church used to say–even to the point of folly, throwing our human measurements into crisis.
With today’s post, I invite you ask yourself: How often do I wait for the sufferings to cede before I begin to truly hope? How often do I wait for the hate to wane before I begin to truly love? How often do I wait for the darkness to dissipate before I begin to truly shine? In all of this… what I have understood my Christian life to be? I am a Christian? If Jesus promises only trials and persecutions to those who follow him, why do we begin to doubt when they appear in our lives?
The media is in an uproar over the Pope Francis TED talk. Find out why it is resonating with the hearts of so many! Read transcript and watch the TED talk
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