The first time I heard His Voice I was 16 years old and had just arrived home from Mass. As I sat in my backyard on that sunny summer afternoon, I noticed the yard and everything in it more golden-hued than usual. It was quiet and peaceful. At that moment I heard Him ask, “Do you love Me?” It wasn’t a vocal sound, but something much more intimate, more pressing, more heartfelt. It came out of nowhere. I felt overwhelmed and surprised, so I remained silent.
Years passed and I did not hear from Him again. Perhaps my lack of a response was enough of an answer. I busily achieved the milestones of a young adult finishing college, an MBA, and first jobs. I was in a steady relationship that was the sweetest part of my life. Still, I felt unsettled. Unfinished. I did not feel that I was enough.
A Voice Inviting a Relationship
Once my work schedule became more established, I began to occasionally attend a daily Mass after work. A new adoration chapel opened next to the church and welcomed scheduled adorers. I signed up. It was here in this adoration chapel that I began to hear from Him again.
He always spoke of Love. I could no longer keep my response from Him. As I sat through more and more adoration hours, I found myself moving away from formal prayers and toward conversations with Our Lord that were full of gentleness, respect, and joy. I began to see myself in a new light. For the first time in my life, I began to feel loved just for who I was. I didn’t need to bring Him good grades or work achievements. I did not need to give proof that I was a dutiful daughter. He only asked for my love, never for anything else. How could I not give Him this one thing? He had been so patiently waiting for years—waiting for my response. Finally, I could say, “yes” with conviction. “Yes, Lord, I love you.”
Jesus did not ask Peter if he loved Him after being together for only a week or two. He asked this of him after the crucifixion, after walking, talking, and eating together for three years (John 21:15). It’s the same with us lesser saints. Jesus does not expect us to honestly answer His question with strong conviction if we don’t really know Him. He may pose the question earlier in our lives, but our authentic response can come only after we have been in relationship with Him. We have to come to really know Him. Adoration is a wonderful way to get to know Jesus by spending time with Him.
Getting to Know Our Friends
According to Professor Jeffrey Hall over 200 hours of quality interaction time are needed for two people to become close friends.* Time and quality interaction are the keys to moving from casual acquaintance to best friend. Friendship doesn’t happen by sitting for hours on a park bench without conversation. The continuous and reciprocal acts of vulnerably sharing activities, thoughts, and dreams with someone else create the possibility of true friendship.
What about our relationship with Jesus? How do we come to enjoy a loving friendship with Him? I think we can agree that it is extremely challenging to love someone you can’t see, so stepping out in faith is paramount.
In faith we can read the Gospels and see that Jesus has left us evidence of His personality and spirit. He liked to meet people and talk with them. His ministry was not one of quietly writing books or preaching only in a synagogue. He walked from town to town to meet people. He used grassy hills and boats as His stages so all could have access to Him. We can begin to understand Him by the footprints He left behind in the Gospels.
Our relationship with Him can deepen when we come to accept the many proofs He has given as to how much He loves each of us. Nothing seemed to come between Jesus and people. Tax collector, adulterer, leper, public sinner, children or the elderly, the list is long. He never turned anyone away. If He is the same Jesus today, why would He change how He relates to modern man?
His response was made to measure for each person in front of Him. To Pharisees He was equally cunning (Matthew 12:34); children He welcomed them with open arms (Matthew 19:13-15); to the lame man at the pool at Bethesda He asked him if he wanted to be healed (perhaps showing the ultimate respect not to perform a miracle if the man wasn’t ready (John 5:2-9)).
Jesus Pays Attention to the Details of Our Lives
One of my favorite things about Jesus is how He notices the smallest of details like the widow who put two mites (very small copper coins) into the Temple treasury (Luke 21:1-4). I imagine Him standing near the Temple doorway watching people walking in and out of the massive structure. It is a busy scene with many people milling about, perhaps made more chaotic by showy pharisees making a big deal about their religious practices and donations. A small, elderly woman, poorly dressed, catches the eye of Jesus. Why? Because she gives from the heart.
Maybe they never made eye contact, maybe she never heard of Him, it didn’t matter. Her varicose and gnarled hand shakily drops her two coins in the charity box. No husband to support her, no social security to sustain even the most basic of livelihood, she lived her life doing her best with what she had. I think she melted Jesus’ heart.
We are no different in Jesus’ eyes. He notices the details of our lives, too.
Making Time for Him: Practicing the Presence of Christ
Our relationship with the Lord can become our deepest friendship if we make the time for Him and if we bring ourselves to Him in faith, sharing the details of our lives. Quality time does not mean time spent only in a church or a chapel. Any time we turn our thoughts to Him is important to building our friendship.
Perhaps we are at home doing chores, or driving children to school, or even getting ready to give a presentation at work—in each of those moments turning our mind and heart to Him builds our relationship. Over the course of days into weeks, into months, into years, this constant turning to Him strengthens our friendship.
Carving out time to invest in a friend can be a challenge, especially in our busy lives. However, the effort can lead to something amazing. Currently, can we say that we enjoy quality time with Jesus? If not, next time you are in a crowd, think about Jesus for a moment. Be intentional about a quick thought of Him: just mentally say His name.
Maybe you are in the checkout line at Walmart or are walking into a baseball stadium for a big game, just think of Him. How many other humans around you are doing this at the same time? Probably few. Jesus has a disadvantage when it comes to modern friendships. We can’t visibly see Him. So, the old adage often seems to prevail: out of sight, out of mind. He doesn’t TikTok, and isn’t on Instagram or Twitter. We can’t follow Him on social media, only in our hearts and minds. It is hard to focus on Him because the glitter of the modern world is too much for us—we are so distracted by our phones and screens. Is it any wonder, He still thirsts for love today?
Invitation to Intimacy
Let us move beyond the thought of Him in formal prayer and invite Him into our everyday lives. Imagine that He is walking next to each of us but as a silent Presence. In the course of our day, we can turn to Him and converse with Him friend to friend, using words as casually as we would speak to a friend. He once asked Gabrielle Bossis, a French Catholic laywoman, mystic and nurse, to address Him as, ‘My Jesus’, not as ‘Jesus’ (He and I, 2/23/1938). He prefers that we claim Him as my Jesus. How tender is that kind of love? How rich is the intimacy in His invitation? For many of us it is hard to let go of formal prayer to a God we do not see, but often fear. Jesus surprises us by preferring a more intimate friendship, asking for a dialogue based on love.
In my own life, on days I remember to keep close to Jesus, I find myself surrounded by deeper peace and patience. I awaken, and before I sit up in bed, I greet Our Lord and thank Him for the gift of a new day with Him. “My dearest Jesus, thank you for the hours of rest. Help me to keep near You throughout my day. Let my love for You be obvious in my actions toward those I meet. Help me to see You in their faces.”
As I go through my day, no detail in my life is too small to share with Him. I call to mind people that may be having a hard time and I ask that He wrap His Presence around them. “My Jesus, my friend is suffering with his illness. Please wrap him and his family in Your Presence. Let them feel the warmth of Your loving Presence. Thank you.”
Plenty of times I have imagined Him working alongside me in the kitchen as I bake bread or prepare a meal. Whatever helps to give me more one-on-one time with Him. Whatever keeps me aware of His Presence.
We Are Always Loved
Sometimes I get scattered, and I forget about Him, but not for long. And when I return to His Presence, I imagine looking into His face and seeing Him smile. He seems to be saying, “Mmm, did you forget about Me for a minute? No worries. I’ve been right here, all along. I will never forget about you. I love you.” It is at that moment my joy is renewed.
No matter the events of my life, I am always in the Presence of pure Love. And He wants to share as much of His love with us as we will let Him.
If you hear a gentle voice asking you if you love Him, do not be afraid. Accept it for the invitation it is and invite Him into your life—every minute of it.
* Professor Jeffrey Hall’s 2018 paper How many hours does it take to make a friend? was published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Vol 36, Issue 4.
Serafina’s perfect day swings between teaching loud middle schoolers and finding peace in an adoration chapel. A strong cup of Colombian coffee, a bite of Swiss chocolate, and the music of George Michael are the fuels that keep her going. A daily Eucharist makes everything possible.