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In today’s Gospel, Luke 9:7-9, we hear King Herod Antipas ask about Jesus, “Who then is this about whom I hear such things?” I don’t think Herod wanted to simply see Jesus to identify Him, rather, I think he wanted to know more about Him. Certainly, his ego probably made him feel threatened by the attention Jesus was receiving, but he could also have been curious to know what made Him so popular. What was it about Him that enthralled so many?

As I meditated on this passage this morning, my mind wandered back a few years, to Saturday, 14 April 2012, when I attended a Christ Renews His Parish weekend. I was present not because I felt I needed to grow in my spiritual life – I didn’t have a spiritual life – rather, I was there to find some rest and solace from the grind which my life had become; to seek clarity on what I needed to do to improve my relationships with those whom I loved; and, possibly, to meet new men and make new friends.

My life had recently become almost oppressive from difficulties at work and work related travel that kept me away from home and family. Like it was for Qoheleth, the author of today’s first scripture reading, Ecclesiastes 1:2-11, life seemed to be just vanity with little hope nor purpose. I was working and making good money, but coming up empty on the happiness meter. Life had become just a “chase after wind” (Eccl 1:14).

Each day was a dread and, if I had been a Christian, the prayer from today’s psalm, “Fill us at daybreak with your mercy, that all our days we may sing for joy” (Ps 90:14), might have been my mantra.

As I listened to men talk and give witness that day, I, like Herod, began to wonder who this Jesus was about Whom I was hearing such things? Listening attentively, I heard how they found happiness through their faith in Jesus in spite of many trials and tribulations, and even in the midst of severe tragedy, that made my problems in life seem insignificant. The love they had for Jesus, Whom they could not see much less hug, as well as the friendship they shared with each other, made me envious.

The men presenting that retreat were infected with something I did not have. It was something good and I hoped it was contagious. These were regular guys like me – they had jobs and families, heartbreaks and headaches, struggles and deep seated desires – but they had something more. They had prayer. They talked to Jesus like they knew Him, like He was their best friend, someone in whom they could confide and trust.

That night, bedded down in the church undercroft, sleep would not come. My mind was racing from what I’d experienced during the day. I knew that the only way I might catch their disease was to talk to Jesus myself, to pray and ask Him to help me. So, I rolled off my cot and went upstairs into the sanctuary. I took the third pew from the back on Joseph’s side and I knelt and truly prayed for the first time in my life. I spoke to Jesus and I called Him by name. I prayed to feel loved and that my family would know my love for them. Even though I got no response, I thanked Him for listening to me, and I went back to bed and let sleep overtake me.

The next day, I received dozens of cards and letters from my wife, children, parents, siblings and people I didn’t even know but who would soon become some of my closest friends. Each letter was one of love and encouragement, and the ones from my wife and children let me know that they felt my deep love for them as well. I had received all I had prayed for, plus some. In His mercy, God showed me His love for me, totally unexpected but as tangible as the love letters I held in my hand. I had never heard the scripture that is today’s Alleluia, John 14:6, but in that first inkling of naive faith I knew that Jesus is, “the way and the truth and the life”, and that I would follow Him from that day forward.

“Dearest Jesus, thank You for patiently waiting for me all those years. Thank You for revealing Yourself to me when I finally sought You and knew I needed You. Thank You for showering me with more love than I knew was possible, and for the grace to love You more every day. Thank You! Amen.”

(I Am the Way and the Truth and the Life was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

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