Good Shepherd; Bread of Life; Lamb of God; the Way, the Truth, and the Life; Light of the world; Alpha and Omega; Principle and Foundation; Christ, Son of the Living God; Redeemer and Savior; Faithful Friend; Son of the Father; Son of the Virgin Mary—all of these are Christological titles, titles that each reflect a single but glorious aspect of Jesus. He is Lord, God, and Savior and so ardently yearns to be our Best Friend in time and for eternity.
Therefore, we would like to offers some concrete steps that we can take starting right now towards building a strong, dynamic, permanent Friendship with Jesus who indeed is the Friend who never fails us, and who longs to be our Friend in Heaven for all eternity.
Common sense teaches us that it is utterly impossible to love a person if that person is totally unknown to us. For that reason, in the composition of the Spiritual Exercises, the full month Retreat, Saint Ignatius encourages the Retreatant to spend 11 to 12, or even 13 days with the sole purpose of contemplating the life of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Thus, the Retreatant may spend from four to five hours per day contemplating the Public Life of Jesus for close to two weeks. The grace that Saint Ignatius insists the Retreatants beg for is the following: “Intimate Knowledge of Jesus, that we may love Him more ardently, and follow Him more closely.”
Imagine spending 50 to 60 hours over two weeks contemplating the Public Life of the Lord Jesus in silence with an open heart, what would be the fruits of such a Spiritual Exercise??? No doubt: a personal, dynamic and profound relationship of Friendship with Jesus.
This being said let us drop the nets in the infinite abyss of the Person of Jesus the Lord, Jesus our God, Jesus our Savior, Jesus our Redeemer, Jesus the Son of Mary, and Jesus who desires to be and indeed will be our Best Friend in time and for all eternity!
1. GET TO KNOW THE GOSPELS. The starting point for getting to know the Lord Jesus must be with the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Saint John. They should not be read like literature, poetry, or as a mere pagan or secular pursuit of knowledge. Quite the contrary, the Gospels should be read, better yet, meditated and prayed over to get to know, love, and follow Jesus.
2. A PRAYER METHOD? Yes, there are many prayer-methods, but we would like to suggest a short, simple, and practical method to open the door to knowledge and friendship with Jesus through pondering the Word of God in our hearts—like the Virgin Mary.
a) PRAY FIRST. Before even opening the Gospel, pray to the Holy Spirit for light and love in your Bible meditation.
b) READ. Read slowly with the docility of Samuel in the Temple: “Speak, O Lord, for your servant is listening.”
c) THINK. Like the Blessed Virgin Mary think, ponder, ruminate over the Word of God. In other words, accept the struggle that it takes to understand the Word of God.
d) OPEN YOUR HEART: TALK. Then open your heart and talk to the Lord Jesus. Let the sentiments of your heart flow freely as you talk to the Lord.
e) FRIENDS. St. Teresa of Avila compares prayer to friendship. Talk to Jesus about what is on your mind and in your heart related to the Word of God that you are reading.
f) NOTES: After you have finished your prayer time, then for a few minutes write down in your prayer journal the lights, thoughts, insights, inspirations, consolations that God gave you.
g) ACTION. Then try to put into practice what God has given to you. In other words, go from the heart and mind to the feet—put the Word into practice!
3. BIBLE COMMENTARIES. Another very useful tool to get to know Jesus better and to love Him with great passion is to get hold of a good Bible commentary. There are many, but I would like to offer simply one source—PATRISTICS!!! By this is meant, delve into what some of the Fathers of the Church have preached and written on the Life of Christ. Who are the Fathers of the Church? There are both the Western (Latin) Fathers, as well as the Eastern Fathers of the Church. Some important names among the Western Fathers: St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, St. Gregory the Great. Some important names among the Eastern Fathers: St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil, Saint Gregory of Nicaea, St. Athanasius. You are on solid and safe ground with the Fathers of the Church—both from the West and the East.
4. MODERN CLASSIC: IN SINU JESU—When heart speaks to heart: The Journal of a priest at prayer, a Benedictine monk. This modern classic can ignite a fire in your heart for love of Jesus the Lord as your Best Friend. Listen and meditate upon one short passage from this most inspiring text: “Listen to me. Open to Me the ear of your heart and I will speak to you as I promised. My Heart has so much to tell you. I will instruct you. I will teach you. I will show you the way in which you are to go. My heart yearns for you. I so desire your company.” (In Sine Jesu: page 21). Beyond the shadow of a doubt, a slow, prayerful meditation of this text will help you to get to know Jesus as an intimate Friend, and you will truly start to fall in love with the Lord Jesus.
5. MARY: THE SHORTCUT TO THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS. Jesus is happy when we get to know and love the ones that He knows and loves best. The first of Jesus’ friends and lovers is His own Mother—the Blessed Virgin Mary. By getting to know Mary, pondering her words and exemplary life, we will be motivated to turn to Jesus. Our Lady never blocks union with Jesus; rather, she fosters deep union with Jesus. In fact, the last words recorded of Mary in the Bible are in the context of the Wedding Feast of Cana. Mary’s lasts words in fact were: “Do whatever He tells you.” (Jn. 2:5) The best advice in the world. In sum, grow in knowledge and love of Mary, and she will place you in the Sacred Heart of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in time and for all eternity!