May 18, 2003
Remain in Me
This week, I had two visitors, two young Jesuit novices. When you enter
the Jesuits, after a few months, they send you off with a bus ticket to
some far off place, and give you only a bus ticket back and a bible, and
that's it, no money, nothing, and you are supposed to beg and pray and
be with God for a month.
So these Jesuit novices were on their holy pilgrimage, one came from
Toronto and the other from St. Paul, all the way here to New Mexico. They
came separately, by themselves, a few days apart. I asked how they were
doing, and they said they were great, hitchhiking, begging for food, sleeping
outdoors, that they had gone to the monastery of "Christ in the Desert" near
Abiquiu, and they each told me they were trying to be completely with
God, to pray non-stop, to walk with Jesus, to be one hundred percent focused
They were trying to do what Jesus asks of us in the Gospel. This week
and next week, we hear the last supper speech of Jesus from John's Gospel,
where Jesus says, "Remain in me," and I thought I could talk this week
about prayer and next week, about love.
"I am the true vine, God is the vine grower, you are the branches, God
takes away ever branch that does not bear fruit, God is pruning you, God
wants you to bear fruit, and so, remain in me as I remain in you," Jesus
says. "Those who remain in me and let my words remain in you, can ask
whatever you want and it will be done for you and you will bear much fruit
and become my disciples." His whole message, his last words on the night
before he is killed comes down to: "Remain in me."
There are many things we "remain in." We prefer to remain good citizens
of America, to remain in patriotism, militarism, racism, sexism, selfishness,
greed, violence, despair and sin. But Jesus wants us to put all that aside
and first and foremost "remain in him." So the question is: How do we "remain
in Jesus"? I have three little suggestions.
First, we have to take time to be with Jesus every day, somehow, to go
and sit with Jesus, to take quiet time with Jesus, to talk to Jesus, to
give Jesus our problems, our burdens, our pains, our concerns, our worries,
our fears, our health, our family, our heart and soul, and listen to Jesus,
and let Jesus talk to us and hold us and guide us. This is how we remain
in him, by being with him, every day and throughout our days, to put ourselves
in his presence first and foremost.
So you're saying, "Well, that sounds fine, but how do we do that?" There
are all kinds of ways of praying, from the rosary and to being at Mass
to going on a pilgrimage to fasting. But I encourage you to try to take
15 or 20 minutes every morning or evening, where you sit in silence and
imagine being with Jesus. Imagine him sitting right there before you.
What does he look like? How do you feel in his presence? If Jesus is sitting
right there next to you, what would you want to say to him? What would
he say to you?
Try to hear him say, "I love you, I am with you, I want you to stay with
me, I want you to follow me." I promise you if you do this, and keep doing
it, if you take time with Jesus and be in his presence and talk to him
and listen to him, you will not only be blessed, you will remain in Christ.
The next thing to do is to read some of the Gospel every day. Don't read
the Hebrew Bible and maybe even don't read St. Paul. Concentrate on reading
a little of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John every day, and don't worry about
not being an expert. Just take up one of the Gospels, and slowly read
a few verses or a chapter a day, maybe in the morning or in the evening,
and talk about what you read with your families, and see what you like,
what you don't like, what challenges you, what moves you and what inspires
you. If we want to remain in Jesus, we have to know his story by heart.
We have to be familiar with the Gospels.
Lastly, I hope we can remain in Jesus more and more by becoming more
and more a community that remains in Jesus, a community that helps one
another return to Jesus, a community that is centered and rooted in Jesus,
a community of prayer, a community that lives and breathes the story of
Jesus, a place where Jesus would feel at home. We have to help each other
follow Jesus and be with Jesus.
If you don't like these three options, you could also try a holy pilgrimage
and go off somewhere for a month without any money and beg and pray and
walk with Jesus, like the Jesuit novices!
The more we can be people of prayer, Gospel study, and community, the
more we can remain in Jesus, then the more we will be able to be good
productive green branches on the vine of Christ, bearing good fruit for
God and really becoming disciples as Jesus desires.
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