Where is Jesus at this moment in our lives? The simple answer is – where we have put him – but our deepest need is to have him at the centre of our lives.
That was a question posed – and answer suggested – by Auckland auxiliary Bishop Michael Gielen to those viewing the New-Zealand-organised Evangelion – In His Name virtual conference, held from October 9-11.
Bishop Gielen was one of 16 speakers from New Zealand and overseas who spoke at the conference, which was aimed at helping people evangelise this country.
Much of Bishop Gielen’s talk concerned how people should and could centre – or recentre – their lives on Jesus.
The bishop said that all people are made to be in relationship with God, “and this is the answer to our sleepless nights, to our anxiety about what the future holds. It is the answer to our increased alcohol consumption, our binge movie watching, our struggling relationships.”
The perennial temptation is to fill one’s life with distractions, which do not correspond to living in accord with the fundamental truth about our true nature. Bishop Gielen said that being preoccupied with distractions is not unusual – “I have done myself and I continue to be tempted to do”.
But filling one’s life in this way does not ultimately satisfy, so “we find ourselves searching for more. But if we fill it with God, we find a peace”.
The disruption to many lives caused by the Covid-19 pandemic “is an opportunity to return to the start again for all of us, to review, to refresh”.
Bishop Gielen spoke of hearing a homily by Pope Francis at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome some five or six years ago.
The Pope referred to the Gospel passage where the risen Jesus instructs the women on the first Easter morning to “go and tell my brothers to return to Galilee – there they will see me”. (Matthew 28:10)
Going back to Galilee, in this sense, is to return to the place where one first encountered Jesus, where one first felt his love and responded to his call.
Bishop Gielen said that going back to Galilee in this way takes him back to when he was 13 years old, when he surrendered to Jesus.
“I asked the Holy Spirt to bring the love of Jesus into my life.”
As an aside, Bishop Gielen remarked: “Isn’t there something special about young people, where they don’t have the attachments? They are much more willing to give of themselves.”
Returning to his theme, Bishop Gielen said that, “Pope Francis, in that homily, called us to remember our Galilee – the experience of our personal encounter with Jesus. He [Jesus] called me to follow and to share in the mission. In this sense, returning to Galilee means treasuring in my heart the memory of that call.”
This involves going back, as it were, to “when you saw Jesus as your saviour – when he caught your eye, he gazed on you . . . you look into his eyes, and his eyes [are] full of love, and his eyes are calling me beyond myself, out of myself, out of my anxieties and my fears, out of my fears of the future and my regrets of the past”.
And, in that “place”, we should talk with Jesus and invite him back into our lives again, giving him centre-stage and surrendering to him again.
Bishop Gielen acknowledged that some people might not have a specific Galilee “moment” to which they could return; rather their experience of encountering Jesus is over a season or a period of time. The bishop invited those people to return to that period or season in their lives.
And for those who did not have a moment or a season to which to return, Bishop Gielen related a story he once heard concerning the British author C.S. Lewis.
“Of how he said his Galilee, his surrender, his conversion, his metanoia, what happened, he said, when he sat at his desk one day, a rather innocuous day in his life as an author, his life as a lecturer, he said he gave up – I love this – he said, I gave up fighting, I admitted that I was loved by God, that I knew God existed and I gave up. Isn’t that beautiful?”
“We know what flowed from that.”
Bishop Gielen invited those viewing him to set aside a “technology-free” evening at some point during the following week to sit down and reflect on their Galilee occasion, to talk to Jesus about it, and to recentre themselves on him and to commit to giving Jesus centre-stage in their lives.
The bishop finished his talk by inviting people to pray a surrender prayer with him.