A few weeks ago I was searching for a gift for a young man who was being confirmed. I wandered into Etsy, the online marketplace where artists and crafters can sell their goods. Among the many unique and clever items, I encounter a store selling ‘What would Jesus do’ bracelets. WWJD- what would Jesus do. I was a little surprised because while I remember this phrase as being everywhere a few years ago, I thought that fad had passed.
What would Jesus do? It’s a pious thought, but not quite complete. WWJD implies that Jesus is a reference point, but also far away, a sage perhaps that we can look back to.
Today’s readings are the antidote to ‘what would Jesus do’. In the Gospel, Jesus promised that if you love him and keep his word, the Father will love you, and God will come to make our dwelling with you. This takes the presence of God on earth to a deeper level. He is not just among us. He is within us, dwelling with us who love him. He is within us in his Body, the Church. He is within us in the union of all believers into the Mystical Body of Christ. He is all this and much more. So, the question is not ‘What would Jesus do?’ but rather ‘what is Jesus doing, right now, in and amongst you and all of us?’…
That is the question that the apostles answered in our first reading from Acts. There was dissension and debate about an important theological issue, namely, should non Jewish coverts be told to follow the practices that Moses gave the Israelites. The judgement the apostles gave makes it clear that they did not consider that the presence of God in the world ended with Jesus’ ascension. Speaking in the name of the whole Church, said: “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us”. It was God the Holy Spirit working with and amongst the early Church. That closeness of God to his people is the same today.
God is within each of us. We can speak to God all day, not addressing ourselves to some being “out there somewhere,” not even addressing ourselves to “the man upstairs.” We speak to God wherever we go, we bring God with us. Whatever we do, we do together with Him. God is not ‘the other’ – he is “the presence within.”
We know God’s presence in the Word of God, Sacred Scripture. Deep within the words of the Bible is the Word of God. That is why we read the Bible and are changed and molded by the words on which we meditate. Pope Francis once wrote “The word of God changes us. Rigidity does not change us, it hides us; the word of God changes us. It penetrates our soul like a sword… The scriptures should challenge and disturbs us, reminding us of our inconsistencies. It shakes us up.“
The deepest, most intense presence of the Lord within you is in the Eucharist, the Blessed Sacrament. The Eucharistic sacrifice encapsulates the presence of God throughout human history and throughout your own life. We need this presence. The Eucharist is a sign that no matter how far you may feel from God, or how far you think God is from your life, He is present, for God has made his dwelling within you. Can there be anything more intimate than to eat His Body and drink His Blood?
That is how God is: close. He defines himself as closeness. That is what the incarnation, the word made flesh, is all about. Jesus takes on human flesh to be one with us, to be one for us, to be one with us. In solidarity with the human person. This is how good and how great God is. So, no one can say that God is far away. We no longer need a temple we must travel and in which we offer sacrifices. Our temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb, within our midst.
You can experience God making his dwelling in you, the gifts he has given you. The gift of faith, the gift of understanding. The beauty of nature, the grandeur of the skies, in the love we have for him and for each other. Especially in Love, because God is love. God is present even in the arguments and dissensions that make up so much of our public and even private life today. God the Holy Spirit is amongst us just as in the times of the apostles, guiding our thoughts and actions not in a labyrinth of half-truths and false idols that leads nowhere, to the truth that leads to God.
We can easily forget about this presence. Our lives are busy. They are noisy. Even when we have days off, or a few hours to ourselves, we are busy, or can blind our eyes and ears with social media.
That is why we need to schedule daily prayer. We need to talk to God throughout the day, true, but if we don’t schedule a time for daily prayers, we can get so involved in our day that we’ll forget to talk to the one who is within us. Pick a time and a place that comfortable and familiar and keep that appointment. After a short while you will come to look forward to those moments of intimacy with God. Ask not ‘what would Jesus do’; ask for the grace to see what God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is doing in your life now. Ask for the grace of God to shake you up.
These and so many other ways we experience God are grace, his abundant grace. All this is good, very good. The gateway to increasing grace in our lives is itself the very presence of God. God’s presence allows us to receive the most intense ways that God is present. “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come and make our dwelling in him.”