This is the central question of our Christian lives. To be a follower of Jesus, to accept what he offers us, and to accept our mission to make a difference by loving and announcing the Gospel, all take faith in him. This kind of faith is personal, not intellectual. I can know all about faith, all about who Jesus is, and pass every exam on it all, and still not be his follower. Personal faith means I believe in him. I believe he is who he says he is. I believe what he promises. I believe he has power over sin and death - over my sin and death - even over my blindness.
When we think about it, it is a startling realization that we can't make ourselves "see" something, in the sense that we can't will to "get it," to understand and be set on fire with his love for me. That isn't an intellectual conclusion which I can figure out and then commit myself to. Or, to say it another way, we might understand who Jesus is and not have our hearts set free by it. We can even teach others about the Gospel and do lots and lots of very inspiring good works, self-sacrificing things, and still not be on fire, in love, with Jesus.
Once the relational connection happens, once we fall in love, once our heart is captured by Jesus, everything is different. There are so many things that are different, but the simple ones are obvious. We smile more. We breathe more easily. There's a song or two or three that come to our hearts easily. Worries still come. We still exprience pain, hardship, rejection and loss. But, when we are in love with Jesus, because we have let ourselves feel his love for us, all those things diminish in importance. This isn't simplistic piety. This is just the basic reality all the saints knew. It is the reality that most of us have a taste of every once in a while.
With a taste of that wonderous love, with just a hint, a whiff of it, we have enough to feed a desire. And, desire is everything. Once we desire this particular gift of God - this relationship with Jesus based on love - then the desire grows and grows. Once we've tasted it, we really want more. It might start with the desire for freedom, but it grows into a full fledged desire for union - to be with the one who love us, to be with the one we love. The desire to be with, based on love is the strongest of desires. All of us have had it at one time or another for another human being. We call it "real love." It is so far beyond everything else that is called "love."
And, when we cry out, "Lord, let your love fill my heart and come and be with me," our plea preoccupies us. "Come, Lord Jesus, Come." And, then, there is that moment of grace when Jesus asks us that purifying quesiton, "Do you believe I can do this?" Do you believe this isn't going to happen because you are smart or good, because of your social status or your church membership? Do you believe I can bring you and me together in a bond that is "Communion" and "Fire"? Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?
And once we say, even in a quiet, trusting voice, "Yes, Lord," then he always says, "Let it be done for you according to your faith!"
This is Advent desire. It is what enflamed the missionary heart of Francis Xavier and so many other holy people. And, oh, can it let us see and smile.
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook