All For Jesus

“All for Jesus,” Sister William had said in the ward, pulling on the rubber gloves. “Say it, my dear students, every time you are called upon for what seems an impossible task. Then you can do anything with serenity. It is a talisman phrase that takes away the disagreeable inherent in many nursing duties. Say it for the bedpans you carry, for the old incontinents you bathe, for those sputum cups of the tubercular. Tout pour, Jesus,” she said briskly as she bent to change a dressing foul with corruption. “Gabrielle, Jeannine, Charlotte . . . come closer and watch how I do this. You see how easy. All for Jesus . . . This is no beggar’s body picked up in the Rue des Radis. This is the body of Christ, and this suppurating sore is one of His Wounds . . .”
-Kathryn Hulme, The Nun’s Story, pp 11 -12.

Like the sisters, we strive for holiness, the best of all goals. People who take holiness seriously are good friends of Jesus because they let him have full reign in their hearts. ‘All for Jesus’ should be a maxim for all who strive for holiness. The holiness challenge and lifestyle are distinctive to each individual. Jesus is everything and his holiness draws us to authentic living. In Jesus, we lose ourselves in someone greater than ourselves. The apostle Paul said that all treasures and wisdom dwell in Christ. Deep down, we thirst for those treasures and that wisdom.

Before we do anything for Jesus, we must have a sound knowledge of him. Deepening our knowledge of Jesus leads to a deeper love for him, and to a greater appreciation of his presence in every aspect of our lives. We learn about Jesus in many ways, most importantly in prayer, receiving the sacraments and reading scripture and other good Christian books. Jesus, the unsettling incarnation of God, stands at the center of humanity and beckons all to learn of him and follow him. Jesus is the most powerful confirmation that God exists. A Christian can have a friendship with Jesus that is more intimate and nobler than any friendship on earth.

Keeping “All for Jesus” as a frame of reference is a great asset. This phrase consoles us when we do unpleasant tasks. It connects us to the one who is most essential in our lives and in this world. It shifts emphasis from dwelling on the negative aspects of a disagreeable activity, to doing it for the love of Jesus. When we step back from an initial negative response to an unpleasant task, we become receptive to unexpected graces that assist us in doing the task. We connect with his great love for us when our love is at low ebb because the kids are screaming, we just lost our job, or everything seems to be going wrong. His love takes over when our love seems non-existent while doing distasteful duties, or receiving bad news.

Our soul is the most precious part of ourselves. It’s matchless beauty has yet to be discovered by most of humanity. Soul care grows in importance as we move closer to Jesus. In her spiritual masterpiece, the Interior Castle, Teresa of Avila describes the importance of the soul, and the necessity to keep it beautiful. Teresa tells us that Jesus is at the center of our soul castle. He patiently waits for us to come to him. We come to him through prayer. Teresa explains how we grow in prayer. Prayer is a journey of love. On this journey, we can linger in love with the Lord, and let ourselves be loved by him. Prayer gives us the push to know God better, and to trust that he will help us in our needs. Prayer is a haven of the heart where we strive to see ourselves through God’s eyes of love.

The Spiritual Journey
Faith is like a great cathedral with beautiful stained glass windows. Standing outside we cannot see or imagine the beauty of those windows, but standing inside every ray of sunlight reveals a harmony of multifaceted, unspeakable splendors. Deep faith has certitude and mystery. God’s truths can be partially understood through analogues, parables, metaphors, and allegories. The mysteries they reveal are like describing different colors to a blind person. Paul, the apostle, says that what we see now is like looking through a glass darkly. When describing the mysteries of God, we speak about what is unspeakable. In awesome silence, we believe. And because we believe, we respect and honor others, and ourselves, as beings made in God’s image and likeness.

Accepting the gift of faith confirms our belief in the highest level of our existence: the spiritual life. God the Father created us, Jesus his son shows us the way to the Father, and the Holy Spirit guides and inspires us. Belief becomes more important than understanding when questions are replaced by a wonder in the mystery of the Triune God. The beauty of faith is unexplainable. It is said that the greatest attribute of God is mystery. God is beyond the boundaries of the mind. Since the truths of faith will be fully understood in heaven, a sense of awe overrides a restless search for that which cannot be known.

The most exciting and wondrous journey in this life is the spiritual journey. Prayer is an offering of love. It draws us nearer to God, and brings those for whom we pray, closer to him, even though they may not feel it. As we move forward, we understand the importance of prayer, and pray every day if we feel like it, or not. There is greater worth in praying when our prayer seems dull, useless, or cold than when our prayer is pleasant, vibrant, or glowing. Teresa of Avila said we pray because we love the God of consolations, rather than the consolations of God. We can grow spiritually even though our prayers are not answered the way we want. We pray best when we do not realize we are praying. If we experience distractions or dryness at prayer, it does not mean that God is displeased with us. These are common experiences, and part of authentic prayer. When it seems we are unable to pray, we can ask others to pray for us, or hold a rosary, light a candle, listen to favorite hymns or chant, or think of a mustard seed of faith in full flower. We should never feel that God doesn’t love us, or care for us. He loves us more than we could ever imagine.

To Radiate Goodness
A motto is a word, phrase, or short sentence that expresses the ideal, principle, or goal of a person, cause, or institute. Mottos serve to identify and motivate a person, or group. Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, or abbreviated A.M.D.G., (“For the greater glory of God”), is the motto of the Society of Jesus. However, it can be used by any faithful Christian. Ora et Labora, (“Pray and labor”), is the Benedictine motto. The Dominican Order has three mottos: Veritas, (“Truth”), Contemplare et contemplata allis tradere, (“To contemplate and to give to others the fruits of contemplation”), and Laudare, Benedicere, Praedicare, (“To Praise, To Bless, To Preach”). The Visitation nun’s motto is beautiful in its simplicity: “Live Jesus.” The pope, cardinals, and bishops have their distinctive mottos. It would be a splendid idea if each one of us had a motto by which to live.

All for Jesus” is worth pondering as a motto. Jesus is the gathering force of love and mercy, the center of all that is good. We are the distributors of his goodness. Our goodness is a reflection of his. However, we must always be watchful. Our goodness can be dimmed by evil’s divisive force. Insidious evil lurks everywhere, but it can be overcome by good. Conversely, good desires can result in bad situations. A man wants to be happy so drowns his sorrows in alcoholic beverages. A woman wants to ease pain so becomes addicted to opiates. A young adult strives for popularity by over-indulging in consumer trends to the point of dangerous debt. Various addictions can be managed through rehabilitation programs, which illustrate how evil can create a greater good. Our good qualities, and evil inclinations, are clearer when we see ourselves through the eyes of Jesus. Looking at ourselves through his eyes eliminates our need for masks, excuses, evasions, or false securities. The Lord will help us with our difficulties. Yes, we fall into sin, but we quickly get up. How does our behavior indicate Jesus is our daily companion? He helps us look at the positive benefits of that which annoys us. If we are cut off in traffic, we say a “Hail Mary,” instead of cursing the driver. We pray for someone who makes our blood boil, and find it reduces our anger toward him or her.

Our heads are up, and our eyes are on Jesus, in the unsavory characters we meet. We live in hope that people will become what God wants them to be. Trust is our stronghold, especially when difficulties come between us and those we love. We remember that everything we say and do has eternal consequences. God gives us the gift of free will. We choose what is good, or what is not so good. To be rooted in Jesus, and abide in his love, give stability to life’s unstable and changing journey. And this, in turn, will help us be a stable support to others. When our lives are ordered toward Jesus, we are more conscience of his teachings that help us realize that sound choices require common sense, good will, grace, effort, and firm commitment.

At the Foot of the Cross
“All for Jesus” is a comforting thought when we come face-to-face with waiting for diagnostic test results, for surgery, or for other anxious moments in life. Suffering is a great mystery. However, because of Jesus, suffering can be used well. At the cross, it is refined, offered to God, and used to redeem humanity. When suffering is ours to bear, we must trust in God’s plan, and hope in his promise.

The crucifix meets all evil with good, all hate with love, and all negatives with positives. “All for Jesus” places dark suffering in the light of Christ. God works in, and teaches us through, suffering. When united with Jesus, suffering is not just ours. We are not alone as we place ourselves, and that which causes us to suffer, at the foot of the cross. Unforeseen graces evolve from suffering. Suffering tests our trust in God, and helps us to see life as it is, not as we would like it to be. “All for Jesus” keeps us steadfast, and we persevere. If we cannot do great or small tasks for others through no fault of our own, or if we must ask someone to do what we can no longer do for ourselves, saying “All for Jesus” is more potent than we can imagine.

In The Nun’s Story, the parting advice from Sister Luke’s novice mistress was that you can cheat me, you can cheat your superiors, and with pretense, all your sisters, but . . . you cannot cheat God. We must stay right with God in order to be authentic with others and ourselves. The more love we have for Jesus, the more truthful we will be. Centering our lives on Christ directs us to a higher vision, and a more noble way of life that benefits all humanity. Jesus matters, and we are our “best” selves when we live as if Jesus were by our side. If we strive toward this, we uproot the things in our hearts that turn us away from his love. We know that the highest joy is not found in doing things our way. It is found in being faithful to Jesus’ way.

Signs of God are everywhere. One day a woman decided to make stew for dinner. The potatoes were in the cellar. She descended into this darkened room. The only light that came into the room was from a small window. Opening the bag of potatoes, she found that several eyes on the potatoes had grown small green branches. How could this happen, since there was no light in this area? Just then, the light from the small window reflected off a polished copper kettle that was hanging in the cellar. This was how the light shined on the potatoes.

Sacred signs around and within us indicate God’s presence in our lives. By acknowledging them, we acknowledge the divinity of God, and the mystery in us.

To experience life with an orientation of love, here and now, is to live as children of God. Jesus’ love is love today, in full flower. Now is the point to which we must return if we make a long sojourn to a past memory, or a future projection. In The Nun’s Story, when Sister Luke was very ill with TB, she found the grace to live from day to day, and keep her thoughts within the brackets of sunrise and sunset. Her sisters demonstrated how life could be simple by seeing each day as a gift from God, with no strings attached, and by trusting that grace would help them over the rough spots.

A Franciscan priest lived and worked for most of his life in Detroit. Because his superiors thought he wasn’t smart enough, he was not allowed to preach a sermon or hear confessions. He celebrated Mass in an unassuming, reverent manner. This priest worked for years as the porter (doorkeeper) at various Capuchin monasteries. He spent his days in prayer, and in the humble duties, that were asked of him. He received an endless line of people who came for his counsel and his prayers. This could be intimidating, but Father Solanus Casey remained serene. He died in Detroit in 1957, at the age of eighty-six. At that time, thousands of people respected and revered him as someone with deep humility and great spiritual depth.

Father Solanus shows how living for Jesus does not require success, wealth, or brilliance. Our love for Jesus glows when we appropriately use God’s gifts, and consider all tasks, like answering the door and phone, as equal in importance. We are loved by Jesus more than we can understand. Faith, more than feelings or intellect, strengthens our union with him. Friendship with Jesus grows by prayer and more prayer. The quality of our prayer is manifest in the quality of our life outside of prayer. We are kinder, gentler, and more compassionate. Service takes Jesus’ love to others. In The Nun’s Story, Sister Luke’s prayer was: “O God, let me do some good.” May it be ours as well.

Jesus, the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills the breast;
But sweeter far Thy face to see,
And in Thy presence rest.
-Bernard of Clairvaux

Carolyn Humphreys, OCDS About Carolyn Humphreys, OCDS

Carolyn Humphreys, O.C.D.S. O.T.R. is a discalced Carmelite, secular and registered occupational therapist. She is the author of the books: From Ash to Fire: A Contemporary Journey through the Interior Castle of Teresa of Avila, Carmel Land of the Soul: Living Contemplatively in Today’s World, Mystics in the Making: Lay Women in Today’s Church, and Living Through Cancer, A Practical Guide to Cancer Related Concerns.

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