There I was in Rome, in a church I had not expected to go into since it was not on our itinerary, staring at the face of Christ. It wasn’t like gazing into the Eucharist and picturing Jesus’ face, and it definitely wasn’t like looking at an artist’s interpretation of what Jesus may have looked like. I was staring, speechless, at a replica of the Shroud of Turin. In that moment, I had an overwhelming reminder that Jesus is real. He’s a man who walked this earth for 33 years and was buried in a cloth similar to the one I was looking at. It was like I was looking at a picture of a deceased loved one, trying to remember what they were like while they were here with me.
Have you ever met someone who talks about Jesus the way they would talk about their closest friend or relative? During the homily at Mass a couple weeks ago, as the priest spoke, I knew he was speaking of someone he knows - a real person who spent time on this earth like the rest of us, a friend, and I wanted to know that person better. Sometimes the reality of Jesus’ humanity is difficult for me to remember. It somehow seems easier for me to understand Jesus as God, as someone who loves me unconditionally, someone who can do anything, and someone I can go to for help.
It’s harder for me to understand that He is one of us. He came into this world the same way we did. When I hold my friends’ babies, I sometimes think about how Jesus was also once that small. I think of how Mary must have felt holding God in her arms. I love the scenes from The Passion of Christ depicting what “everyday life” would have been like for Jesus – His Blessed Mother running to His aid when He tripped, showing His Mother the fruits of His carpentry, joking with her and kissing her on the cheek. It helps me reflect on what life was like while Christ was growing up.
It can be wonderful to reflect on the “missing” years of the Bible between Jesus’ parents finding Him in the temple and when He began His public ministry, and I really believe the Holy Spirit can lead that reflection so that we can get to know the person of Christ better. However, I have found that the best way to get to know Jesus as a person is to read about what He did and said. I especially like to read the Gospel of John to get to know Christ better. John was right there with Jesus during His ministry and while He hung on the cross. As I read John’s Gospel, I can sense the love He had for Jesus, and it helps me to grow in love for Him too.
I wish I had more moments full of awe like I did that day in Rome, and I want to be one of those people who talk about Jesus like my best friend. Advent is the perfect time of year to reflect on Jesus’ coming to earth in human form (also known as the Incarnation). This Advent I will be spending more time with scripture, trying to know my friend better. I will also be praying this prayer daily as part of the St. Andrew Christmas Novena Chaplet to prepare my heart for Christ’s coming at Christmas:
Hail and Blessed be the hour and moment
in which the Son of God was born of the
Most Pure Virgin Mary
at midnight, in Bethlehem,
in piercing cold.
In that hour vouchsafe O my God,
to hear my prayers,
and grant my desires,
through the merits of
Our Savior, Jesus Christ
and of His Blessed Mother.
Join me in prayer and reflection this Advent season so that we may come to know our God more fully – He who is truly God and truly Man.