Wherever we go, we bring Jesus with us . . . so that, when others see us, they see Him
By Bob Hunt
Years ago, I attended an evangelization conference in New Orleans where the great Paulist priest and evangelizer Father Alvin Illig, CSP, spoke. Father Illig told us that when those who knew Jesus as a boy saw him running and playing around the streets of Nazareth, they must have remarked, “He looks a lot like His mother!” Father Illig then made the point that “when people see Jesus today, He looks a lot like YOU!”
“God became man that man might become God.” Those are the words of St. Athanasius, the great defender of orthodoxy at the Council of Nicaea in 325 and throughout the fourth century. This transformation by which we become God, by which we come to share in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4), is called theosis, a Greek word that literally means “making divine.” Salvation is about so much more than just getting to heaven. It is about being transformed by God’s grace into Christ, becoming co-heirs with Christ to the kingdom, sharing in everything that Christ is. We become so absorbed in the One Who is completely Other that we are lost in Who God is, and at the same time we find our fulfillment, we become all that we were meant to be in the first place.
How does this happen? First, of course, there is baptism, where we receive the life of the Trinity. Then there is confirmation, where we receive an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Finally, there is the Eucharist, where we receive the Bread of Life that transforms us into Christ. When we eat natural food, that food is transformed into us, it becomes a part of our body, energizing us so that we can live a full and meaningful temporal life. But, when we consume the supernatural food that is the Eucharist, we are transformed into the food we receive—we are transformed into Christ. His being and ours are united in a Communion that is beyond any other we have or could experience in this temporal order. It is Bread for eternal life. St. Augustine of Hippo urged his people, when approaching Holy Communion, to realize this great mystery: “Behold who you are,” he told them. “Become what you receive!” Behold that you are Christ, now become the Christ that you receive.
St. Paul in his Second Letter to the Corinthians, tells the Christians in Corinth: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are living the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless, of course, you fail the test” (2 Corinthians 13:5). How can we fail the test? By not living the faith! Earlier in his letter, St. Paul cautioned the Corinthians not to receive the grace of God in vain (2 Corinthians 6:1). When we present our children for baptism or confirmation, or ourselves for Holy Communion, it is not simply to engage in a worldly ritual, something the family expects of us, or doing what everyone else is doing. Much less ought we to receive the Eucharist out of habit, without “examining ourselves.” The Church desires that we present ourselves for the sacraments with consideration and thoughtfulness, having the right mind and the desire to become Christ and to serve Christ, because becoming Christ is what the sacraments are about, and serving Christ is what we are committing ourselves to.
We are the Body of Christ. We are Jesus in this world. This is not some sappy sentiment for Christmas cards. It is our Catholic faith! We are transformed into Christ, and it is our mission to then transform our world to reflect the Gospel. When we were baptized, then confirmed, and when we receive the Blessed Sacrament, Jesus becomes present in us in a way not unlike His Incarnation into the world by Mary. The Second Person of the Holy Trinity entered history on that day in Bethlehem two millennia ago. He enters history on this day in our city, town, street, workplace, grocery store, office building, parish, or home, wherever we enter having received His grace by the sacraments. Wherever we go, we bring Jesus with us, embodied in us so that, when others see us, they see Him. When people see Jesus today, He looks a lot like you and me.
The question is: What Jesus do others see when they see me? Do they see a Jesus quick to rebuke, eager with a discouraging word, and with little interest in their struggles or joys? Or do they see a loving, compassionate Jesus, who is quick to forgive but also unafraid to speak the truth with passion? Keep in mind that, wherever we go, Jesus looks a lot like you and me.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.
Bob Hunt is a husband, father, grandfather, and parishioner at All Saints Church in Knoxville and is a candidate for the permanent diaconate.