One afternoon, I stepped into the Church of All Nations in the Garden of Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives. With its dark purple windows, little light penetrates this building, so called because people from all over the world contributed to its construction. On this day, I sat down on a folding chair and after a short time noticed a young man in his twenties directly in front of me. Evidently an American, he leaned forward in his chair with his eyes fixed on the sanctuary and the dimly lit altar.
Apparently, he had traveled a long way, with a serious purpose on his mind, to this holy place of Gethsemane where Jesus had waited on His Father for consolation and strength. Not a sightseer, as so many visitors to the Church were that day, this man at the beginning of his adulthood was, like Jesus, “waiting on the Lord.”
What was on his mind, I could only guess, perhaps a wonderment what to do with his life, maybe seeking an answer to the kind of work he should do. He may have been experiencing a dissatisfaction with his lifestyle and was looking for a better way of serving God.
He had come to this holy Temple of God to await the enlightenment of the Lord, for inspiration from God, looking for His consolation and strength. Just next door in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus had sweat blood in His agony of “waiting on the Lord”, saying, “Father, if You will, take this cup of suffering away from me.”
This young pilgrim went away from this Church a different person after spending several hours before the Lord. His spirit of faith, his willingness to give time to God in this sacred place of Gethsmane brought a change in his attitude towards life.
Everyone has the chance to “wait for the Lord” in this Advent Season. You may agonize in a spell of darkness and dryness of spirit, your soul filled with the tedium of living. Perhaps, a crisis has risen in your marriage; those close to you have broken your heart. Sickness has claimed you and dear ones. Like this young man in the Temple, “wait for the Lord.” Refuse to give up or allow happenings to overcome your faith in the Lord Who never disappoints those who wait for His coming with His strength, consolation and hope.
Fr. George Mc Kenna
One afternoon, while wandering through the elegant Jeu de Paume Museum in Paris, I came upon a self-made portrait of the distinguished French artist, Paul Cezanne. Underneath the painting, the inscription read: “Paul Cezanne (1839 – 1906), Painter of the Emperor”, a singular role of excellence for any artist of that time. In his day, only Cezanne had the commission to paint the portrait of the Emperor Napoleon of France. In this Jeu de Paume Museum hung many of Cezanne’s oil paintings showing his amazing ability to portray people on canvas as if living and breathing.
As followers of Jesus of Nazareth, we have the commission to paint the image of Jesus to the world with the materials of our own life. Like Cezanne, we too possess a title: “Painter of the Christ”, a role of importance and opportunity. Seeing us and the qualities of our life style, people will instinctively say: “This is a good image of Jesus of Nazareth.”
To the people of His age, Jesus especially showed these values: joy, peace, love, hope and forgiveness. To carry out this commission, base your life style on these personal traits of Christ. Turning your back on this seemingly difficult work could lead to a life of tastelessness and futility.
This reminds me of the time I ordered bouillon soup, a clear broth, in the Christ Hospital coffee shop. Taking a spoonful of the clear liquid the waitress brought me, I thought to myself: “Not much taste in this soup.” On finishing this unrewarding meal, I discovered a little packet on the tray with these words on it: “Pour this bouillon power into hot water.” I had merely drunk plain water and the not the real thing – bouillon soup.
To live without trying consciously to carry out this commission to be a painter of the Lord Jesus in life, we act the same way. We are going through the motions of living, but we aren’t tasting the real thing.
Say out loud to yourself these days when you are alone, “Joy, peace, love, hope and forgiveness.” Psychologically helpful, these ways of living found in Christ will become part of your way of thinking.
Wishing all my readers a very Happy Thanksgiving this week.
Christ’s peace and love to you and your families.
Fr. George Mc Kenna