Knowing Christ

Veronica, by Michael D. O’Brien




WE often have it backwards. We want to know Christ’s victory, His consolations, the power of His Resurrection—before His Crucifixion. St. Paul said that he wants…

…to know him and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Phil 3:10-11)

Someone wrote me recently saying that often the reward we receive on earth is trials. The reason is that these afflictions, if we accept them with a childlike heart, conform us more and more to Jesus, more and more to the Cross. In this way, we are prepared to receive the "power of his resurrection." We have lost this understanding in our times! We have lost what it really means to be a Christian, to be a Christ-ian. We are to be like Christ, which is to embrace the Father’s will each and every moment. And His will is often that the seed must fall to the ground and die first before it is to bear fruit.

But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way. (Luke 6:24-26)



As the Year of St. Paul comes to a close, we would do well to ask his intercession to help us grow deeply within ourselves his spirit and passion for Jesus. St. Paul said that He wants to "know" Jesus. Not merely an intellectual understanding of Christ’s salvific mission; not only an assent of faith in His existence; but a knowing, a living, moving, and being in Christ’s footsteps. It means foremost to be "conformed to his death"—a complete abandonment to the Father’s will, an unflinching embrace of both suffering and consolation. And this is simply to receive in each and every moment whatever comes to us.

We are convinced that our "plans" are God’s will because we’ve "prayed about them." But the next step in your growth in holiness may be that circumstances demand you walk in the exact opposite direction to what you perceive to be God’s will. This is called walking by faith, not by sight. For example, if you thought God’s will was for you to become wealthy in order to do more good, and then you didn’t gain this wealth, or lost what you had, would you judge this to be against God’s will or within His plans of divine providence for you?

It is this mode of walking that Jesus is training you and I for in the days ahead. We will face difficult situations in which we must have the skills to "walk by faith." What may seem impossible or ludicrous to our senses and intellect may nonetheless be God’s will because "nothing is impossible for God." This is what it means to be "conformed to His death": to walk in the spirit of abandonment which Jesus had, from the darkness of the womb to the darkness of the tomb. To taste this abandonment ourselves. To immerse ourselves in it. How serious was St. Paul about this?

I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ… (Phil 3:8)

Many of you are feeling more and more like an alien as the world rapidly abandons God. You are also experiencing an increase and intensity of trials. In many ways, this is the work of the Holy Spirit preparing you to love with a pure heart. You cannot love with a pure heart if it is attached to love of the things of this world, whatever they may be (see Voluntary Dispossession).



God’s will is like a seed which carries the potential of life, the "power of the resurrection." It is a matter then of displacing the seed of self-sufficiency with the seed of God’s will, of discarding self-love so as to love the way Jesus would love. This isn’t something automatic. We have to "think" about this, to love God not only with all our heart and strength, but with our "mind" too. If we are to "know" Christ, then we must be conscious of ourselves and our surroundings. How often do we walk through the day pre-occupied with ourselves, with our "problems," with our anxieties, often thinking that we are busy doing God’s work by simply worrying about things? Yet, this discouragement and anxiety is the very thing which chokes out the "good fruit" which would come from this seed by our simply being docile to the present moment—to moving with the Winds of the Spirit.

Be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. (Rom 12:3)

We have to use our minds, to be thinking consciously as we move through the day how we can respond in the present moment the way Jesus would. We have to be mindful of when we are wasting time; of when our conversations become idle jibber-jabber; of when we are being pulled away from the duty of the moment by the glitz of Twitters, Texts, and whatever is next. At those times, we need to consciously pull ourselves back into God’s presence, into a silent dialogue with the Spirit, seeking how we can better serve God in that moment… how self-love can give way to Divine Love (and remember St. Paul’s definition of what love is (see 1 Cor 13:1-8)).

Jesus said "the kingdom of heaven is near." We find It within ourselves (Jn 14:23) when we consciously seek Him there, remaining with Him the way two friends linger in the other’s company, or a wife in her husband’s arms. This is the deepest knowing that St. Paul sought: a simple being with God. From this being, in fact, comes the strength to be conformed to the Cross, and to suffer all things with patience and love.

Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)



Most of us fail miserably at all of this. Without saying more, I’ll let a beautiful, honest dialogue that St. Faustina had with Jesus say the rest:

    Jesus: I am pleased with your efforts, O soul aspiring for perfection, but why do I see you so often sad and depressed? Tell Me, My child, what is the meaning of this sadness, and what is its cause?

    Soul: Lord, the reason for my sadness is that, in spite of my sincere resolutions, I fall again into the same faults. I make resolutions in the morning, but in the evening I see ho
w much I have departed from them.

    Jesus: You see, My child, what you are of yourself. The cause of your falls is that you rely too much upon yourself and too little on Me. But let this not sadden you so much. You are dealing with the God of mercy, which your misery cannot exhaust. Remember, I did not allot only a certain number of pardons.

    Soul: Yes, I know all that, but great temptations assail me, and various doubts awaken within me and, moreover, everything irritates and discourages me.

    Jesus: My child, know that the greatest obstacles to holiness are discouragement and an exaggerated anxiety. These will deprive you of the ability to practice virtue. All temptations united together ought not disturb your interior peace, not even momentarily. Sensitiveness and discouragement are the fruits of self-love. You should not become discouraged, but strive to make My love reign in place of your self-love. Have confidence, My child. Do not lose heart in coming for pardon, for I am always ready to forgive you. As often as you beg for it, you glorify My mercy.

    Soul: I understand what is the better thing to do, what pleases You more, but I encounter great obstacles in acting on this understanding.

    Jesus: My child, life on earth is a struggle indeed; a great struggle for My kingdom. But fear not, because you are not alone. I am always supporting you, so lean on Me as you struggle, fearing nothing. Take the vessel of trust and draw from the fountain of life-for yourself, but also for other souls, especially such as are distrustful of My goodness.

    Soul: O Lord, I feel my heart being filled with Your love and the rays of Your mercy and love piercing my soul. I go, Lord, at Your command. I go to conquer souls. Sustained by Your grace, I am ready to follow You, Lord, not only to Tabor, but also to Calvary.  —Diary of St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul, n. 1488