Jesus, Our Guest In Little Things
The paradox of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, baffles the imagination. That’s not terribly surprising, given the immense mystery of God—even so, we have Jesus Who is many things at once. He is our brother and friend, who emptied Himself in order to save us. That is, when we were stuck in the quicksand of our own sins, He jumped straight into the muck to get us out. At the same time, Jesus is God. The winds and the sea obeyed Him (Mark 4:41); He cast out demons with a word, and these beings fled in abject terror of Him (Mark 1:21-28). The divine power that Jesus wielded then, He still has now: Our Lord has the power to heal our wounds and restore our souls. All of these things the Lord possesses perfectly in the Hypostatic Union: that He is fully human and fully divine.
Fr. Ian Ker expresses this well:
“In the unique case of the Incarnation, God doesn’t just come down to our level in an external and momentary kind of way. It’s true He doesn’t cease to be God—if He did there would be no point in the exercise—but He does truly become human. He doesn’t dress up in a sort of disguise, pretending to be human while actually still staying God, as we do when we impersonate somebody. No, God truly comes down to us because He really takes on our human nature, but He also at the same time, by doing so, draws us up into His life, because He doesn’t cease to be God.” –Fully Human and Fully Divine: Understanding the Incarnation
By becoming man, Jesus sanctifies everything in a new way: the human body, work, daily life, families, and more. And the reason for the Incarnation? Jesus wishes to dwell in our hearts and have us dwell with the Holy Trinity for all eternity.
The Mystical Humanity of Christ
Cora Evans’ mystical encounters with Jesus gave her special opportunities to commune with Him as a man. This approach was described to her as the Mystical Humanity of Christ. It’s how we see Him and how we interiorly unite with Him in our daily lives. Cora Evans was a mystic, and most of us are not; but this avenue of spirituality is not an exclusive one. One does not need to be a mystic or a saint to approach Jesus. The only requirement is an open heart!
Cora’s writings are full of reflections on the mystical humanity of Christ. Here is one quote from Gems, a collection of Cora’s writings. The quote illustrates a simple (though not easy) way to draw closer to Jesus in every state of life.
Today at Thy holy banquet I asked Thee, my Jesus, to be my guest for the day in a very special way in Thy Humanity and perfect nearness. It is now in the afternoon, and I must ask Thy pardon and be excused for an hour, for a most severe headache seems to prevent my visiting and loving Thee as I would like to throughout the day. Please permit me to offer Thee my pain in union with Thy sufferings when Thou didst suffer from the crown of thorns for me.
For all its poetic language, its content is very down-to-earth. It also gives us a simple blueprint for attempting to live a holy life. That blueprint begins with a prayer and a desire for the indwelling of Christ in our hearts. It perseveres through struggles, and submits itself to the will of God.
The “holy banquet” that Cora references is the Holy Mass. The entire reason why Jesus sacrificed Himself and instituted the sacrament is the reason Cora mentioned: to be close to Jesus in a special way. Receiving the Eucharist unites ourselves to Him and allows us to commune with Him in a unique way. There’s a part of me that is slightly jealous—wishing I had that same feeling that Cora mentioned, of being spiritually fulfilled every time I went to Mass.
Spiritual experiences remain outside of our control. That is, we cannot will them to happen. That does not leave us adrift, however. We have two ways to enhance our participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. First, prepare for it. We prepare for meetings, kids sports practices, fantasy football drafts, and all sorts of things. Why would we not prepare to go to Mass?
Second, develop in prayer. If Cora’s invitation to Jesus, to be her guest for the day, feels odd or uncomfortable for any reason, prayer is the antidote. It’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg thing. Deeper participation in the Mass and deeper friendship with Jesus naturally carries over into prayer. And the deeper our prayer lives, the more engaged we are at Mass and the deeper friendship we have with Our Lord. Ralph Martin described prayer as “communication, conversation with God, an awareness of Him, a conscious being with him, being present to him and his being present to us” (Hungry for God, pg. 65). That Christ wants to dwell within our hearts only makes sense in a regular life of prayer.
#2 Perseverance in Struggles
This part of the quote comforts me the most: “It is now in the afternoon, and I must ask Thy pardon and be excused for an hour, for a most severe headache seems to prevent my visiting and loving Thee as I would like to throughout the day.” Cora had great plans to carry the fruits of the Mass with her the whole day. Jesus was her special guest, and she likely had a wonderful experience going to Mass and worshipping the Lord. Whatever momentum she had was dashed by a nasty headache.
I think we can easily replace that headache with any number of daily issues that pop up or get in the way. For example, work got in the way, and I did not pay attention to You, Jesus; I even forgot to say grace at lunch. Jesus, taking care of the children today consumed all my time and I hardly had five minutes alone; my plans to spend more time in prayer came to naught. My Jesus, I let myself get sucked into that football game, or that show/movie, and now I am falling asleep and I’ll try to pray again tomorrow. This emotional difficulty in my life right now dominated my thoughts all day, Jesus, and I cannot think of much else.
The list could go on indefinitely; we all have something like the headache in Cora’s quote. The Lord allows these obstacles so that we might pursue Him all the more. It’s easy to focus on the obstacle itself and miss the lesson. The proper response to the second step, persevering through difficulties, does not come with conquering the situation. It’s important to start on the right foot when persevering in these situations: humbly submitting our will to the Lord.
#3 Submission to the Will of God
Cora does not force her way through it or try to overpower the difficulty. Rather, she offers her sufferings to Jesus: “please permit me to offer Thee my pain in union with Thy sufferings when Thou didst suffer from the crown of thorns for me.” It’s a great model for us. Every suffering or difficulty is an opportunity to unite ourselves to the passion of Jesus.
St. Paul struggled with an unknown “thorn in the flesh” and asked the Lord to remove it. Jesus’ response was to ask Paul to get closer to Him. Jesus did not tell Paul to just try harder, or to suck it up and keep going. In other words, Jesus said to focus on Himself, and not on Paul’s own effort. “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, RSVCE).
The beauty of Cora Evans’ simple formula is its flexibility. The process of prayer, perseverance in struggles, and submission to the will of God can transform a day. Jesus is there from start to finish: we pray to commune with Him; persevering through difficulties leads us to desire Him more; submitting ourselves to the will of God brings us even closer to Him. Let us draw closer to Him so that He may draw us closer to Himself.