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January 1975

Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears my voice and opens the doors, I will come in to him, and eat with him, and he with me. (Rev. 3,20)

Our everyday problems, our work, and our many activities, make it easy for us to forget this basic truth: that each one of us is called personally, and invited to meet God and to converse with him.

This personal call is expressed very beautifully in this month's Word of Life, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, eat with him and he with me". This is a phrase from the Apocalypse of St. John, spoken by Jesus to the Church of Laodicaea, one of the cities of Asia Minor.

These words have a universal significance. Jesus is speaking generally - "If anyone..." The Christians of Laodicaea, from what we know of them, were ordinary people, sharing in the activities of the town, in its banks, shops, textile industry, the medical school, stadium and theatre. Likewise today, the "anyone" refers to the busy housewife, the factory worker, the strap-hanger on the tube, the hospital patient, the farm worker, the executive, the teenager at life's threshold, the student buried in his books, the youngster mad keen on sport. The phrase applies to all, and it is possible for all to live it because we can truly be called Christian only in so far as we have the capacity to respond to this personal invitation from Jesus.

The sentence says Jesus is near. If someone does not know him, it is because he has never sought him, or has ',shelved the problem" because he is too busy. It could be that someone believes in him, partly by tradition, partly by conviction, but has never experienced this personal encounter and conversation with him. Such a person is "neither hot nor cold", Jesus' original reproof to the Christians of Laodicaea. There are also those who know their religion well, go often to church, and study theology, but have not "centred" their lives on this continual, personal rapport with Jesus. To all these Jesus repeats that "he stands at the door and knocks". There are many ways of meeting him, but we are most interested in the simplest, a way available to anyone at any time: that of searching "within ourselves" if we can put it that way.

This is something that is easier to do than to describe. If we want to understand it we have to consider certain basic realities of Christian life. We have to remember that Jesus has sent his Spirit to make us aware of all that he has taught us, and to help us understand it; that the law of Christ is written in our hearts by the grace we have received; that the whole of our conscious life, and our conscience, is affected by our participation in the life of God . Because of this the voice of Jesus, which is the voice of God, makes itself heard within.

Our real interest is to live this word of Jesus. We know that, if we turn to Jesus, to God, with purity of heart, recollecting ourselves, in any of the circumstances of our lives, we can be illumined, orientated, impelled towards doing good, and that we can find light and peace. We can also say, using technical language, that in the depths of our soul we receive impulses of light and energy, but only a very small proportion of these are utilised and bear fruit, because we are not on the same wavelength as them, or we break contact with them. Or, putting it in Jesus' language we can say that he in effect is knocking, but sometimes we keep the door firmly shut.

To "open the door" means clearing our hearts of the obstacles between him and us. These can be the fear of having to change some aspects of our lives, or of having to give something we do not feel disposed to give. Or we may have a false picture of him, which makes us shy, or be immersed in so many things that we do not think we have time to think of him. For each of us there can be a different obstacle, for each human heart contains its own mystery, but there are no obstacles that cannot be removed sooner or later, and no door that cannot be opened.

"To hear his voice" means that we have to learn to turn to Jesus in the most varied situations in life. We can consult with him before taking a decision, we can recollect ourselves for a moment before starting a piece of work or meeting someone; at the end of an activity we can entrust it to his mercy, so that he may make up for our failings. We go to him in temptation, we pray to him in need, we thank him in times of joy and unite ourselves to him in times of sorrow. We can spend our time with him in prayer.

We come to realise that "hearing his voice" is not just a manner of speaking, something sentimental, but a profound reality. We can live, work, and speak with Jesus, or we can leave him "outside the door" at the fringe of our life. The resulting difference is astonishing.

The most important consequence of this is indicated by Jesus at the end of the phrase: "I will come in to him, I will eat with him, and he with me". The whole life of union with God is contained in these words. They remind us of the Last Supper and the Eucharist, and all the parables where the kingdom of God is compared to a feast, and of our final meeting with Jesus at the end of our life. But these words are already valid for the present life-they are valid now. The more we have learnt to "hear his voice" the easier it will be to hear his final invitation to come with him and eat in the kingdom which has no end.

This was confirmed for me yesterday when I went to visit someone in hospital. He had one week to live, and he knew it. There was no sadness in his room, none in his extraordinarily luminous smile, and none in the simple direct way he said these words which struck my heart. "I'm getting weaker and weaker" he said, "weaker in body but stronger in spirit. In my soul I have only a great joy, and a great yearning ... for this meeting with him." Jesus was truly there, at the threshold.

Fede

 

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