Does Jesus live in you?

I found myself asking that question repeatedly during this past week.  How does Jesus presence show itself in my life?

That’s what it means to be a Christian, isn’t it?  That Jesus, somehow, takes life in our lives?

I use, in my personal prayer life, The Saint Helena Breviary.  A breviary is simply a book of offices, in this case Matins, Diurnum, Vespers and Compline (- in English that’s just Morning Prayer, Noon Day Prayer, Evening Prayer and End of Day Prayer).  The Order of St. Helena is named after the Emperor Constantine’s mother, Helena, who is supposed to have found a remnant of the cross Jesus died on during excavations she oversaw in Jerusalem.

She built a shrine with two principal buildings where the Church of the Holy Sepulcher now stands.  It consisted of a large basilica used for the Liturgy of the Word, and a circular church known as “The Resurrection” with its altar placed on the supposed site of Jesus’ tomb.  In the courtyard connecting these two buildings, to one side, you can see the Hill of Calvary.  The shrine was dedicated on September 14, 335.  Since then, September 14, yesterday, has been know as Holy Cross Day.

As you might imagine, Holy Cross Day is a big deal in The Order of St. Helena Breviary.  There is a series of 5 antiphons used at Matins and Vespers from the evening of September 13 through the end of day September 14 about, not surprisingly, the cross.  I believe they are all quotations from St. Paul.

“The cross is sheer folly to those on their way to ruin, *
but to those who are on the way of salvation, it is the
power of God.”

“God forbid that I should boast of anything *
but the cross of Jesus Christ.”

“Through the cross the world is crucified to me *
and I am crucified to the world.”

“I have been crucified with Christ; the life I now live
is not my own life, *
but the life which Christ lives in me.”

“Christ died on the cross in weakness, but now lives
by the power of God; *
and we who share that weakness shall by the power of God
live with Christ.”

The life I now live is not my own life.  It is the life that Christ lives in me.  We who share in his weakness by the power of God live with Christ.  The gospel reading from Matins yesterday refers to the incident in Numbers where Moses, by God’s command, made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole.  And everyone in the community who was bitten by a serpent and looked at the bronze serpent did not die, but lived.  It says, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.  For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

And what does it mean to “believe” in Jesus?

It doesn’t mean to think it’s true that Jesus is God’s Son.  The devil, scripture tells us, doesn’t just think this is true.  The devil knows this is true.  And thinking/knowing this does not save the devil.

I want to suggest to you that “believing” is much closer to Jesus living in your life, where it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us.

Not, I hasten to add, in the sense that we do not meet our legitimate needs and those of our family and neighbors.  Jesus certainly wants those needs to be met.  Jesus wishes us fulness of life.

No, I mean this in the sense that if we can look first to Jesus, Jesus will guide our lives and bring us to fulness of life in him.  In a mystical sense, Jesus will not only shape and enrich our lives, Jesus will touch the lives of those around us.  We will be eyes and voice and hands and feet.

And maybe I scare you when I say this.

Because none of us is able to do this with consistency all the time.  All of us will fall short.  But like the woman who found the lost coin in this morning’s gospel, I think we can (and need to) celebrate what we do find and what we are able to do.

We are a work in process.

We cannot grasp or win the prize.

Like all love, it is a gift we are freely given.  Given in a relationship of mutuality, where we look, however imperfectly, to the needs and desires of our beloved.

When we look first to God, other things fall into place.

When we look first to God, our lives are enriched.

When Jesus lives in us, we find our true selves.  We meet our real needs (and the real needs of those whose lives we touch).  We find happiness.  And we find real security.

Unlike the treasures of this world, which rust and rot and otherwise escape our grasp, the love of God is forever.

When God lives in us, we live in God.

In 1983 a core-group of leaders from the Northumbria Community got together.  It was the first time a number of their Roman Catholic and their Protestant members came together in substantial numbers.  There was real anxiety among the members about this.  The meeting was not, in fact, going well.  Several people were acting defensively.

“Alan Andrews picked up a guitar and began to sing his song:

The King is among us
and His glory shall be seen
as we learn to … touch each other.”

A member writes, “… I reached behind me for a small wooden figure that was on the mantelpiece above the fireplace and put it in the centre of the coffee-table.  It was a figure of Christ carrying His cross, painfully stumbling along the road to Calvary.  Alan was still singing, but now I heard the words as if for the first time:

And the government shall be upon His shoulder;
His kingdom shall never cease.”

And the member concludes, “Christ still intercedes for us, and feels the pain of our sin and division:  the cross which was always on the heart of God is still the throne he rules from.”

Paul says:

“I have been crucified with Christ; the life I now live
is not my own life, *
but the life which Christ lives in me.”

“Christ died on the cross in weakness, but now lives
by the power of God; *
and we who share that weakness shall by the power of God
live with Christ.”

And the person from the Northumbria Community says:  “… the cross which was always on the heart of God is still the throne he rules from.”

And I ask, how does Jesus’ life show itself in my life?”

I say this to you in the Name of God:  Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.  Amen.

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