For Christians today, Jesus is present in an unseen way: through the work of the Holy Spirit, through the sacraments, and in prayer. We find out what Jesus is like through reading and hearing the Bible, especially the Gospels. This means, though, that our exposure to Jesus, who is the heart of Christianity, does not usually come from our daily life in the world: Jesus is unseen. For us to stay Christian, we need to find ways to remember Jesus’ presence regularly, and to pay attention to him, however unseen.
There is a story in the Gospels about the apostle Thomas, who hears that the other apostles have seen Jesus after he rose from the dead. Thomas refuses to believe them. He tells them that he not only needs to see Jesus himself, he needs to personally verify the wounds from his crucifixion. He says, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe”. A week later, Thomas is with the apostles when Jesus comes to see them again. Jesus says to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas does not need to touch the wounds. He simply replies “My Lord and my God!”. Jesus tells him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” [John 20:25-29]
The people Jesus is talking about, “those who have not seen, and yet have come to believe”, are all the Christians in the world today, myself included. As Christians, we know Jesus not from seeing him and hearing him, but through being told the truth about him (especially the Gospels), and through our own experience with Jesus in prayer and in our daily lives. Jesus is real, not just as a historical figure, but he is living and active in our lives today. But it is not as easy for us as it was for Thomas, because unlike Thomas, we do not see Jesus face to face. For us to remember and live according to this unseen truth, that Jesus is real and active in our lives, we need to find ways to remind ourselves that he is there. But the daily cares of our life are distracting. Increasingly, this includes distractions from the online technological world, such as social media, and also the distractions we give ourselves through videos, movies, shows, music and video games. In the modern world, very little of this is a reminder of Jesus. Some of it is opposed to Jesus and what he teaches, but most of it simply doesn’t consider him at all. To keep Jesus present enough in our mind to live as a Christian, we need to take active steps to make room in our lives to pay attention to him. This is one of the reasons that Christians go to church once a week. But according to oberlo.com, in 2022, the average person spends about two and a half hours a day on social media alone. How can an hour or two a week in church compete with this? It can’t.
To be a Christian in the modern world, we need to creatively make time for Jesus, or he will be crowded out of our lives. Here is my advice. Schedule some time for Jesus every day. Perhaps it can be when you get up, or when you go to bed. Around meals can also be good. After all, we are all human beings: we need to sleep and eat. But there is no one way to do it: people differ. Find times that work for you. Use this time in two ways. First, use some of it for prayer, which is direct contact with Jesus. Use the rest of it for learning more about Jesus, such as reading or listening to things about him. The Holy Scriptures are a must, especially the Gospels. Read and listen to other things about Jesus too, from good and trusted sources. I do not mean here things that may involve Jesus indirectly but are primarily focused on current issues, politics (even church politics), or various critiques. Jesus himself needs to be the topic. Choose things that focus on Jesus: who he is, what he is saying, and what this means. This way you will be able to better remember Jesus’ presence in your life and live as a Christian. The goal is to be able to say to Jesus, as Thomas did, “My Lord and my God”.