With Jesus, My Lord and Savior
by Fr. Jack McArdle
My friend, yes, I call you my friend.... You are my friend, because I came to be your friend. The religious leaders condemned me because of my friends! You didn't choose me; no, I have chosen you. I have called you by name, you are mine. You are very precious to me, you are precious in my eyes. If you were lost, I would leave the ninety-nine, and go to find you, and bring you back, so that where I am you also may be. I want you to be with me, and I want to be with you. I want to live in you, so that I can continue my work through you. I want to speak, to touch, and to listen through your senses. I walked this world like you do now. I had a mission entrusted to me by my Father. When I had completed the first part of that mission, I returned to my Father, and, through the power of my Spirit, I entrust the second part to you. That's how important I think you are. I spoke of a farmer who sowed good wheat in his field, and, when the wheat appeared, there were many weeds there also. The wheat is the good work of my Father's creation. After creating something "He saw that it was good". The weeds of sin, sickness, and death, were not part of my Father's creation, but were planted by Satan, the father of lies. I came to destroy those weeds, wither them at the root, as it were. All I ask now is that you accept that fact, live with the knowledge of that victory, and pass on that Good News to others. I don't ask you to save anyone! All I ask is that you personally come to experience my salvation in your own life, and, as a result, you can witness to that salvation, for the sake of others. I never want you to speak to others about being saved, or about how to be saved, until you yourself have personally experienced my salvation in your own life. I need you, because you are essential to the completion of my plan of salvation.
I know you through and through. I do not condemn you, because that is not why I came. I came to take on human nature, with all of its brokenness, so that I could undo the harm that sin effected, and make all things new again. When I took on human nature, I took on yours, and it is very important to me that you believe, and always remember that. The greatest sin in this world is the fact that so many don't believe me, or believe in me. I'm not speaking of those who, through no fault of their own, have never heard of me. As you yourself know only too well, it's your friends who can hurt you most. Belief in me does not mean accepting a list of facts. It has very little to do with history, which could attempt to prove or disprove that I ever walked this earth. It is about being invited on a journey of faith, where many are called, but not many choose to follow. The shepherds at Bethlehem were told of my arrival by a group of angels. They responded to that news by saying "Let us go to Bethlehem, and see this thing for ourselves, which the Lord has made known to us". If you could imagine the Gospels opening with the words "I invite you all to come and see these things for yourselves. Don't believe anything just because it's in this book. Take the message, put it in practice, and find out for yourself just how real, how transforming, and how life-giving this message is". It might help you to think of the Gospel being in between two sentences "Come and see" and "Go and tell". I certainly need people who are prepared and willing to go and tell, but I cannot use people who have not come and seen for themselves. Being one of my disciples, one of my followers, is about living in a certain way, it's about responding on a certain level, it's about having a certain hope, because of what I have said to you, and done for you. I came to change your human condition utterly and totally. I want to be your source of strength, your inner life, your constant travelling companion on your way back home to the Father. The actual human body I had, the body that was nailed to a Cross on Calvary, that I brought back with me when I returned to my Father. You are now my body, my hands, feet, and voice. I myself continue to be with you, to live in you, and, if you let me, to work through you. If you marvel at some of the signs that accompanied my mission on earth, please remember my words that "greater things shall you do if you are my disciples."
Because I want to lead you, to accompany you, to travel with you, it is very very important that we have a sense of closeness, and an awareness of being together. I think of you all the time. My Father sent me to find you, and to bring you home, so how could I possibly let you out of my sight for one second? If I were to sum up what I want you to know, it would be that you should trust me. I offer you everything you need for now, and for eternity, but nothing happens unless you accept my offer. I respect you totally, and I would never wish to compel you, or to force you into anything. I stand at the door and knock, but the only handle on the door of your heart is on the inside, and I cannot enter until you invite me. I will tell you a secret that will help you understand what I have in mind. You know the stories about Bethlehem, Nazareth, Calvary, Pentecost, etc? If you were out in the Holy Land today, you could visit all those places; you could walk in my footsteps. However, that is not what I really want. What I want, more than anything else, is that your heart should become my Bethlehem, my Nazareth, my Holy Land. That is where I want to live now. There were many closed doors and closed hearts on that first Christmas night. I cannot enter where I am not invited, nor can I make my home, feel at home, or be at home where I am not welcome. That is why I still repeat the words "I stand at the door and knock". I'm sure you often heard it said that I came to save the world, to take away the sins of the world. You also have heard the words "For God so loved the world, that he sent his only-begotten Son...." These words will never come alive for you unless you apply them directly and personally to yourself. Again and again you need to hear the words "For God so loved me that he sent his only-begotten Son..." "Jesus came to save me, and to take away my sins."
It is very central to my whole plan of salvation that you bring this down to a personal level. "Who do you say that I am? Will you also go away? Do you love me more than these?" Salvation is balanced in such a way that your freedom of choice is not interfered with in any way. It is my blood and your faith. I have done my part. Quite often, in your prayers, you rightly use the past tense when speaking of my work of salvation. "Dying, you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life.....By your cross and resurrection you have set us free..." Yes, my part of the work has been done, and, on the cross, I was able to tell my Father that the work he had entrusted to me was now complete. The second part of the programme is the work I entrust to you. Because of my respect for your free-will, I just have to stand outside the door of your heart, and await your response. I offer you salvation, life, healing, and eternal happiness with me, but I can do absolutely nothing about it if you refuse to accept my offer.
I came on this earth to carry out a mission entrusted to me by my Father. That mission was to the lost sheep, to all those who had wandered away from the Garden of Paradise. When Adam and Eve believed the lie of Satan, they came under the control of the father of lies. And they were afraid. I came to invite people back to the Garden, where there was a big hug waiting for them from their Father, the Father of the prodigal children. Again and again, I used the words "Fear not, do not be afraid. Why are you fearful, oh you of little faith?" I came to lead you back home to the Garden, to where the Father lives, and no one can come to the Father in any other way. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I came that you should have Life, and have it to the full. It is not my Father's wish that any of his children should be lost. I take great care of those entrusted to me by my Father. That is why I compared myself to a good shepherd. I have been willing to lay down my life for my sheep. Once again, I remind you of the nature of salvation. I will lead you home, but you must follow. Sheep follow the shepherd, while the goat-herd has to drive the goats, because, by nature, they are not followers. At the end of time I will separate the sheep from the goats. The Gospel is a personal invitation that has R.S.V.P. written all over it. It is an invitation that always calls for a response, even if the response is refusal or indifference. You are either for me or against me. All down the years there have been many debates and discussions about me and what I said, and all the time I am waiting for a decision.
Please continue to think of the Gospels as something that is happening right now, and that you yourself can be every single person there. It is today that I come to you, that I meet you, that I invite you to follow me. Every single day of your life is a new invitation. Today I await your Yes of today. I know you, and understand you through and through. I know that it is not possible for you to maintain the same level of commitment day after day. To be human is to ebb and flow, to fall and rise, to slip and slide. Please do not look for consistency within yourself, or of yourself. The only thing that is consistent in you is my presence, my Spirit, my love for you. By your very nature, you are always changing, always evolving, always in the process of becoming. I am leading you towards something, rather than to something. To the day you die you will always be a human being, someone who fails because you're weak, and not because you're evil. I know you through and through, and the only barometer in which I am interested is the readings on your goodwill chart. It is never about prefection; it is about goodwill, and it is to such people that I promise peace on earth. When I went looking for others to follow me, when I called the apostles, I certainly wasn't searching for perfect human beings, who had it all together, who knew all the answers, and who were both willing and capable of saving the world. I looked for people who were human, who were searching, who were lost. I looked for those who had no one to lead them out of the slavery of their human condition, for those who were in bondage to others, or to themselves. I didn't come to condemn, but to save. I came to bring good news, but I always knew that I would be heard only by those who listened, and wanted to hear. My word, my invitation is issued afresh with every new morning. The only yes I am interested in is your yes of now. Following me is never a once-off decision, but a decision that must be renewed with each new day. That invitation will never ever cease, right up to your last breath on this earth. It is never too late. There was a man beside me on another cross on Calvary. He may never have said a prayer in his life, but, with his final breath, he asked for help, and I offered him heaven. "Today you'll be with me in paradise".
Lord Jesus, you are my friend. You told me that you were my friend, and you invited me to be your friend. I have listened to your words of love, and my heart is bursting with excitement at the thought that my God should speak to me, and call me friend. I know I'll never understand this, but I am happy enough that I don't ever have to understand it. All I can do is accept it, and respond to it. Lord, you know me through and through. I don't have to tell you what is happening within my spirit. I don't have to tell you about the guilt, the fears, the shame, and the brokenness that is within my spirit. I don't have to tell you, but neither must I try to deny any of it. All I can do is open out the canvas of my spirit before you, right out to the very edges; to expose to you my inner soul, just as I am, as you see me. I do this with total confidence in your acceptance and love. I know that you will find there the very human conditions you came to set right. I know that you took on our humanity, and I now declare my willingness that you should take on my own personal share of that humanity, with all its brokenenness, and with all its demons. I stand before you now, and, in my heart, I consider myself as being each and every person in the gospel. I invite you to enter my heart, and bring the whip of cords with you. I ask you, please, to rid the temple of my heart of everything that is not of you. I ask you, please, to proclaim your victory, to exercise your authority over each and every demon you find lurking within my spirit, whether that be fear, guilt, resentment, or addiction. Please touch my eyes that I might see again; touch my ears that I might listen again; touch my inner being that I might rise up and walk in your ways again. The strongest feeling in my heart at this moment is one of gratitude. I have every reason in the world to be in the depths of despair, but, as I stand before you, all of that falls completely away. I have a great sense of being found, of being safe, of being saved. There are times when the burden of my humanity gets to me, and I feel that I'm sinking beneath the lot of it. There are times when my powerlessness discourages me, and my helplessness becomes hopelesssness. At a saner moment, like now, I can see much more clearly why and how this happens. I keep forgetting the most important Good News ever announced, and, that is, that you came on earth to join me in my humanity, to accompany me on the journey, and to bring me safely home. When I hear your words about the Holy Spirit "He will remind you of all I have told you", I realise just how much I need to be reminded. I am particularly grateful for the completeness of your message. What I mean by that is that you offer the invitation, and you also offer the grace to respond to that invitation. With the call comes the grace to respond to that call.
I am truly grateful that you know me through and through. So many times, in the Gospel, you show that you can read the human mind like a book. Nathanael asked you how you knew him, when he had never met you before? You asked the apostles what they were talking about, as they walked along the road, even though you already knew the answer. You read the minds of the religious leaders in all their attempts to entrap you, and you left Judas in no doubt that you were very aware of what he was up to. I remember this as I come before you, and I am grateful for the knowledge. There was a time in my life when, like Adam and Eve in the Garden, I wanted to hide. Because of my calling as a Christian, I carry you within my heart, and, wherever I go, you are there as well. I often forget this, of course, and becoming more and more aware of this is a very central part of the journey towards conversion, the journey towards truth, freedom, and openness. As far back as I can remember, as a child, I could never disguise my guilt. Even if it didn't show on the outside, I always suspected that the other person must, at least, suspect. I can only trust your Spirit, and the leadings of the Spirit, but I have begun to notice that, when I am in your presence, I am less and less aware or conscious of guilt. I certainly don't ever want to become callous, indifferent, or to take your love for granted, but all I can do is trust you not to let this happen. I don't want this to happen. I ask you, please, never to let this happen, and then I just leave the rest to you. I have learned over the years that I have no reason to trust myself too much, because I have a mind that can justify or rationalise anything! All I can offer is my goodwill, my sincere prayer and desire, and trust you to protect me from myself.
I am also grateful how you respect my freewill; how you stand at the door, and await my invitation to enter my heart. I am often more conscious of your trust in me, than of my trust in you. Thank you for that, and for the extraordinary love that is expressed in this way. I know I believe in you, but I'm often puzzled when I consider that you believe in me. We say that hope springs eternal in the human heart, and, I believe that that comes directly from the fact that you are living in our hearts. The only honest claim I can make about you being in my heart is my firm conviction that I must surely be one of those you came to save. It has taken me a long time, and I have wandered down many other roads, but, at this moment, I know and believe that, without you in my heart, I am a lifeless human being, wandering the face of the earth, without purpose, direction, or hope. I often reflect on my own journey of faith. I heard the message, and I was told about you from a very early age. It took years, however, to work my way through to some real level of acceptance and belief. Because of my training, I was running to Confession, because I wasn't supposed to be a sinner, and that was something I had to get rid of! As the years went by, and there was no great noticeable difference, it began to dawn on me that this had more to do with my condition than my actions. Once I came to believe I was a sinner, I then came to accept that fact, and I'm only now coming to undersand it. This, in turn, has helped me see the great need for you, as my Saviour. Thanks for the patience that is required by all slow learners! I put my hand in yours now, and I want to cling to your grasp, and, through thick and thin, I trust you to bring me back safely to the embrace of your Father and of mine.
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It's Me Again, Lord... copyright © 2004 Fr. Jack McArdle. All rights reserved.