“Christ at 33” (detail) by Hofmann

The Oracle of Delphi was said to have the charge “Know Thyself” written above his door. Socrates discovered that the best way to fulfill this task was through conversation with others. Little did he know that the One who could lead us to our truest identity had not yet come.

We can know Jesus. And it is in knowing Him that we have revealed to ourselves who we truly are. It is in knowing Jesus that we become who we truly are.

Jesus transforms us with grace. We are meant to have an encounter with Him much like the woman at the well found in John 4. The woman experienced Jesus, welcomed His words, and then shared her experience with others.

We are called to do the same. We are called to welcome Jesus, even when things are not as comfortable as we would like. We must allow His words to pierce our hearts, so that we too can go out and proclaim Him to the world. This is what it means to be a Christian. We need to share Jesus. And by our experience of Christ, we can allow others to experience Him as well.

We are made for this experience. We are made for Jesus. We are made to experience His grace.

And Jesus tells us what grace can do, He says, “nothing is impossible with God” and “if you have faith the size of a mustard seed you can move mountains!”

He then shows us what grace can do when He loves those who are despised by others, when He reaches out to the weak, the poor, the abnormal, those who others find uncomfortable, and even those who hate Him, He heals and raises from the dead, both Lazarus and Himself.

Each event of Christ’s grace in the gospel restores, harmonizes, and completes. Each event of Christ’s grace undoes the work of evil in the world, the culmination of which is the death of Jesus undone by His resurrection. In seeing this in the gospels, we can see that we too can be restored, harmonized, and completed. We too can recover from the effects of sin.

It is through Jesus that we find the true beauty and confidence that we all desire. And these strengths are more than what the senses bring us. It is truly the beauty and confidence found in belonging to Jesus the perfect friend.

We look to Mary to find the perfection of this. The Greek word translated to “Full of Grace” in the Archangel’s greeting is Kecheritomene. This word means a fullness of grace that is utterly opposed to sin. It is a grace that allowed Mary to hold Jesus within her much like the Burning Bush of Exodus held the flame without being consumed.

We are called to imitate Mary and maintain a grace filled relationship with Jesus. This relationship is more than the occasional prayer, it is also holding God’s presence within us as we become mystical temples of the Holy Spirit. As in the case of Mary, Jesus is the one who makes this happen.

Mary was given a special grace to do what she did, but she also cooperated with this grace to say yes to God. We too must say yes to God. And what God offers us in reward is more than we can imagine at present.

Our yes brings about a restoration, recovering us from the effects of sin, much like Mary’s yes brought about the Incarnation of the One through whom we can experience this recovery. Our yes also brings about or continues a relationship. It is a relationship that we were made for and so we find a sense of completion through this yes.

We long for this yes. St. John Paul II beautifully says this: 

“It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your heart your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle.

It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.” 

Finding Jesus in the present moment fulfills the words of Ecclesiastes 3:11, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

We are small. But God loves us and He has made us all beautiful. But this is a beauty that goes beyond the senses. While Mary could have very well been physically beautiful, she was even more beautiful for her relationship with God. We too can find this beauty in our lives.

We can further find in our yes to Jesus the confidence found in the saints who gave their lives to Christ. Both in death and in the daily sacrifices of life, many saints who have come before us showed us how to “run the race” to completion. They were able to do this because of their strong relationship with Jesus.

St. Stephen shows us the perfection of this through his own martyrdom found in Acts 7. What Stephen did was only possible due to His profound relationship with Jesus Christ. It was because he knew Jesus that he was filled with the Holy Spirit and willing to die for Him. 

St. Stephen was not confident merely due to his own capabilities, as nice as these might have been, but was confident in his relationship with Christ. It was due to this confidence that he cared not what others thought of him. It was this confidence that allowed him to complete his greatest achievement.

St. Terese of Lisieux was also able to have this confidence which allowed her to offer many sacrifices up for others. With her Little Way she was able to truly love others the way that Jesus wanted her to. Once again, she was able to have this confidence through knowing Jesus and by having a deep relationship with Him.

Both of these saints show us the true beauty and confidence that come from having a real relationship with Christ. This is meaningful to us because what they had is not reserved for merely a select few, but for all of us who truly seek it. This is what Jesus referred to when He said “Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find…” (Luke 11:9).

We are made for this beauty and confidence. We will find it only through Jesus who is our perfect friend. One who will not leave us due to our deficiency, but will come through for us with all His glory if we say yes to Him.

Since knowing Jesus and maintaining our yes to Him is our goal, here are a few ways we can grow in relationship with Him. We see a combination of all of these in the lives of the saints.

  1. Be where He wants you. In prayer we converse with God throughout our day. This is part of being where He wants us, but we should try to physically pray to Him in a church before the Blessed Sacrament as much as possible as well.
  2. Avoid sin. I like the way St. John Bosco puts it, “My children, jump, run and play and make all the noise you want but avoid sin like the plague and you will surely gain heaven.”
  3. Offer sacrifices. One way to make Jesus the King of our hearts is by making offerings to Him. We show Him that nothing comes before Him by giving Him the gift of our sacrifices. This ensures that we do not become overly attached to the goods of this world as well.

Its good to remember that in these we might not find immediate success, but over time we will surely grow closer to God. And just like an apple does not immediately appear on the tree, the fruits of true beauty and confidence might take time as well. But we must remember that good things can be hard.

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