(Excerpts from Mother Angelica's larger work)
Each one of us sees Jesus in a different way. To some He was Prophet, for they needed to know the Kingdom was at hand. But most of all He was the Son of God and He came to experience the consequences of the curse the Father had put upon mankind when Adam and Eve disobeyed. He came to redeem them from that curse, and in so doing, became all things to all men. He became a "Man of Sorrows" acquainted with weakness, but never succumbing to it.
He wanted to tell us that He knew what it meant to suffer, bleed, be rejected, misunderstood and hated. He wanted to do all the things He commanded us to do so we would find it easier to forgive, overcome, obey and be humble.
Because He was God and experienced what it means to be human, He merited for us the grace to possess the Divine. Through Grace, bestowed upon us by the Power of His Spirit, we are sons of God and heirs to the Kingdom.
He redeemed us with the Father, showed us how to act like children of God during our earthly pilgrimage, opened the gates of Heaven and sent His Spirit to abide with us as Guide and Teacher.
H is Life had many qualities and virtues for us to imitate. He did not come in an arrogant way to show us up as failures. He came as a humble and obedient servant to show us how to live. He told us to follow in His footsteps with courage from His Spirit and promised us that some day we would share in His Glory as we shared in His Cross
We must look at the personality of Jesus and see Him under various circumstances— circumstances not unlike our own—and then praise Him by imitating Him to the best of our ability.
The ability to attract people is referred to as a Charism. Whenever Jesus appeared in public, He stood out in the crowd. It was something the average person could not explain—they only knew this Man was different. So different was He that He seemed to divide a crowd into two distinct factions—those for and those against. No-one ever met Jesus and went away unaffected. Few realized that before them stood God-made-Man. This divine quality set Him apart and at the same time made Him approachable and understanding.
As Christians we often excuse ourselves and decry our lack of Charism in regard to people and the world. We seem to forget that Jesus merited for us this Charism—the Charism of Divine Love shining through a human nature.
He has given His Holy Spirit to each of us that we might become by Grace what He is by Nature—a son of God—Divine light shining through a human soul, Divine love radiating through a fragile vessel and giving light to all.
As He stood before fishermen, casting their nets, and said, "Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men," the sound of His Voice and the look in His Eye made them drop their nets and follow Him. (Mark 1:17)
These men were fascinated by the loving authority of a Master who asked and did not command, who loved first and waited for a return of love. This Man was a Master worth following, an unusual Man who called and chose and yet left them free to respond.
The ability to ask and wait was a very winsome quality in Jesus. These men knew they could say "No," but His strong and loving request made them follow. They had to know more about One who could command in such a humble way. In their hearts they knew the choice they would make would be final and from that moment on their lives would be different for having followed.
He never promised them greatness. He merely said they would do great things. Somehow there was a difference and they knew it. Their greatness would come from following Him and they were content. His Charism was enhanced by Truth for what He said came from the Father and there was never any speculation in His words. He never left anyone wondering about the meaning of His Words, even though the things He said were often mysterious and difficult to accept.
His humble authority was like a magnet that drew the poor and repulsed the proud. The people of the streets could sit for hours as He taught them in terms they could understand. This, too, was something rare. He brought mysterious truths down to their level without the least sign of condescension. They felt one with Him. Even though He was above them, His humble dignity brought them up from the mud of depravity and permitted them to look at Him, not as an equal, but as a Friend.
He never lost His dignity, but He never made others feel less for it. Every gesture gave them hope and told them of His love and concern.
He stood as a man among men. His Dignity gave Him power to attract the multitudes, because He came to serve and inspired others to serve as well.
As He went from place to place, throngs of people of every class ran to hear Him. He never lost sight of His Mission, though many hailed Him as a Prophet. He was Son, not Prophet, and His Charism shone forth with brilliance as He told believer and unbeliever alike that He was sent by the Father.
His Charism was never in danger from applause and neither was it lessened by criticism. He held to what He was from God and cared little for the respect of the "accepted" people of His day. He never doubted who He was or the purpose of His Mission and this too, astounded the crowds. When they picked up stones to throw at Him, He did not change His stand—He disappeared in the crowd and went to another town.
Jesus was loyal to His Apostles, with full knowledge of their cowardice. He was loyal to the poor, accepting the criticism of the Pharisees, so the destitute would never feel deserted. He was loyal to His Father, accomplishing His Will even unto death.
One day He took a walk through the corn fields and His disciples began to pick ears of corn and eat them. (Matt. 12:1-8) The Pharisees seized the opportunity to criticize these simple men, but Jesus rose to their defense.
He saw through the Pharisees, hypocrisy and reminded them that He was Lord of the Sabbath. Their own priests did not violate the Holy Day as they worked in the Temple; neither did the Apostles break the Law by eating corn. They were with the One who was greater than the Temple, the Son of God.
The Pharisees would never understand loyalty because they used the Law and the people to suit their own purposes. They took advantage of every opportunity to criticize the poor and the lowly because in some way it made them feel important and better than the rest of men.
To them Jesus said, "If you had understood the meaning of the words, 'What I want is Mercy, not sacrifice' you would not have condemned the blameless."
Exterior perfection is easier to attain than interior perfection. To give of one's goods and keep the Law can make a person proud and critical. We have a tendency to judge others by ourselves and when they do not come up to our expectations or ideas of holiness, we are often hard and merciless.
Jesus was telling us that the virtues of compassion and mercy are more pleasing to Him than the material things we offer Him.
Approachable And Available
When John the Baptist sent his disciples to ask the Master if He were the one who was to come, Jesus replied, "Tell John—the blind see again, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor."(Matt. 11:4,5)
Jesus made Himself available to everyone. Unlike former Prophets and the religious men of His day, who often kept themselves aloof, Jesus was easy to approach and always ready to give His help. He was never too busy or too tired to bless little children, touch a leper, or preach to those who longed for God's Word.
He was always at the right place at the right time. Lepers cried out to Him and were never afraid to reach out. For some strange, unexplainable reason they always felt they could approach Him and He would not turn away.
Little children ran to Him and crowded around His knees to ask for a blessing and hope for a tender caress.
Most of all, sinners felt attracted to Him. It was a phenomenon they could not explain. Infinite Holiness made Himself available and approachable to sinful creatures, whose souls were grotesque to behold.
Somehow, in the depths of their degradation, they knew they must get as close to Him as possible. As a flower turns toward the sun seeking warmth, these sinners sought the One who could restore their innocence and purity. They were never disappointed. He would look at them with great love and all the things that seemed so important to them would suddenly turn to straw. They knew they must change and follow Him.
No-one ever imagined God would be so close, so easy to approach, so ready to listen and so lovingly forgiving. People had read about holy men and they had seen John the Baptist, a Prophet of the Lord, but none of them were like this Man—the Son of God.
His eyes seemed to say to each individual, "Come to Me, and you will find peace for your souls." The touch of His hand sent healing powers through their bodies, exalted their souls and made them seek only the Kingdom.
He was simple to talk to and He listened to each one as if He had nothing else to do. They never felt rushed in His Presence. There was a strange feeling of time never ending when they spoke to Him. The Eternity He left seemed to extend itself and make them forget time, place, occupation and their very selves.
They desired to drink in every word He said because those words burned in their hearts and lingered on to keep His Presence with them. His words were different from any other they had heard. No matter where they went after they left Him, His love and desire to forgive made them look upon their weaknesses as something that had to change.
Noble And Generous
We are generous when we give, but we are noble when we share and efface ourselves so others receive the glory.
Jesus was generous with His gifts and His power with finite men.
He gave His Apostles the power to heal, cast out demons and raise the dead and He rejoiced when they returned to recount their deeds—deeds that His power in them performed.
He thanked the Father for sharing His gifts with men. He encouraged them to go out and use those gifts, realizing that attention would be drawn away from Himself and given to them.
They had received these gifts freely and they were to give freely. They were to give the credit for their miraculous powers to God and use the Name of Jesus to assure others of the source of these powers. The power in them would prove Jesus was sent by the Father—the Father who loved them so much.
It is hardly reasonable to think that the God who created man to laugh, never laughed Himself. Although there is no specific passage in Scripture that indicates Jesus laughed, there are numerous passages that indicate He certainly caused others to laugh. At least, they displayed one of those satisfying smiles one sees when a word or gesture expresses something that has long gone unsaid.
We can well imagine the men going home at night and telling their wives, "You should have heard what He said to the Pharisees today! The Master has great wit for He confounds His enemies with their own words."
One such occasion was a day the Pharisees chose to make Jesus guilty of a state crime. "Is it permissible," they asked Him, "to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay—yes or no?" (Mark 12:15) "Hand Me a denarius, and let Me see it," Jesus replied.
Looking at the coin and then at the Pharisees, He said, "Whose head is this? Whose name?" "Caesar's," they told Him. ..Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar—and to God what belongs to God."
When we read this account, we feel almost impelled to cheer and say "Bravo." Looking at this scene brings to mind another occasion when, after performing many miracles and expelling the money-changers from the Temple, He was asked by the elders, "What authority have you for acting like this?" (Matt. 21 :23)
"And I," Jesus replied, "will ask you a question, only one; if you tell Me the answer to it, I will then tell you My authority for acting like this.; John's Baptism: where did it come from: Heaven or man?"
The smiles on the faces of the crowd must have been broad as they all waited for the answer. If the priests and elders answered "from Heaven" Jesus would ask them why they refused to believe John. If they answered "from man" the people would rise up in anger, for they recognized John as a Prophet of the Lord.
Realizing they fell into their own trap, they answered Jesus, "We do not know." And He retorted, "Nor will I tell you My authority for, acting like this."
It is not difficult to visualize the joy of the.: crowds as Jesus once more confounded His: enemies and gave the people a sense of security, as they realized the Master they followed knew what He was about.
These tricky questions that related to politics were soon replaced by theological ones. If they could not antagonize the Government against Him, they would present difficult questions of Law and Morals and thereby change public opinion.
Jesus, Our Model
The Christian's goal in life is to be a perfect image of Jesus, as Jesus is the perfect image of the Father. The beloved features of the Master are ever imprinted upon the Christian's mind. The words of the Master burn in his heart.
He looks at Jesus in His strength and tries to be strong. He sees Jesus gentle to the crowds and he controls his anger. He admires the Mercy of Jesus and he forgives seventy times seven. He feels the Compassion of Jesus and he becomes sensitive to the needs of others. He is humbled by the humility of Jesus and he conquers his pride. He sees Jesus heroic, courageous and unafraid and he is assured. He watches Jesus as He answers His enemies in a serene tone of voice—truthful, without human respect, with perfect self-control and he tries to be like Him. He imitates the Master's sense of loyalty, zeal, simplicity, nobility and loving qualities to the best of his ability. This becomes a way of life for a Christian, for he is not satisfied with giving his God thanksgiving, he desires to give Him perfect praise by imitation. Most of all, he imitates the Master's way of loving—without counting the cost—even unto death.
"And we, with our unveiled faces reflecting like mirrors the brightness of the Lord, all grow brighter and brighter as we are turned into the Image that we reflect." (2 Cor. 3:18)
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