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Jesus - Listen and Pray

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Jesus - Listen and Pray

Jesus : Listen and Pray
“Keep watch with prayer, so that you may not be put to the test: the spirit is ready but the flesh is feeble.”
Matthew 26:41 (Basic English Bible)
“He remained for some months in this state of tribulation, and bore it all with great courage, and with the firm hope that God would eventually console him in this grievous trial ... Though God permitted the devil to torment Joseph at this stage with various temptations, especially with that of mistrust, the Saint, nevertheless, remained steadfast, and always relied more upon God’s goodness. After he bore this desolation with patience and resignation and courageously resisted all the attacks and temptations of the evil one, the more did it please God to relieve him and reward him for his faithfulness.
As he was praying one night in his distress, Joseph perceived the Divine Voice itself, telling him of His love for him, and asserting that He had never forsaken him, but had always been at his side, assisting him by means of His grace. The voice was permeated with a remarkable sweetness, and in the fullness of his consolation Joseph gave way to tears. His mind was very much enlightened during this manifestation, and he gave praise and thanksgiving to God for consoling him in such a sublime manner, and for restoring him to his original state of peace.”
Maria Cecilia Baij, OSB (1743-1766)
The Life of St Joseph, page 38
After my heart collapse on 27 April 2012, I had open heart surgery on the feast of St Norbert, June 6. As a 19 year old Novice, I requested to see a therapist at St Louis U and it turned out he was a Behaviorist following the controversial work of BF Skinner. He asked me if I wanted to try shock therapy (now called “conversion therapy”) to change my sexuality. I thought to myself if God wanted to change me I could submit to Him and in 1968, this was my limited wisdom, and therapy was completely new to me. Luckily, the doctor placed the electrodes on my ankles, not my head. During one of many sessions, I received over 70 shocks, 110 volts. To make a long story short it didn’t work. An older kind Jesuit Father and mentor told me to stop; that God had made me this way, and I’d learn later, that he was trying to say, I’d have to wait to see all the gifts that would come from just being myself; accepting who God made me to be. The doctor told me I had the strongest resistance to pain he’d ever seen. I think that’s enough about that for now...
I remember telling the brilliant heart Doctor that morning in June 2012, that I had a very strong resistance to pain and I’d be okay. He gave me a look I’ll never forget, as if to say, you have no idea what you’re saying. He was right. But a week later I was back in my studio in Arroyo Seco, New Mexico (17 miles north of Taos) and some weeks after, in July I was longing to paint Jesus. I did this small 5”x7” image, based on a beautiful illustration I’d seen on a greeting card, I added three stars for the Trinity. It was such a joyful experience to be back to painting. I knew I had to keep it simple and I knew the scripture (watch and pray) was connected to the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, so I changed the title to Listen and Pray because, once again, I was longing to hear from God - “Why did I come back ? What hadn’t I finished ?” What kept coming to me was that I hadn’t gotten the images and icons into the world yet, they were still sitting on a website, most, unseen. I kept asking, listening, and it was always the same answer. So (thankfully) my sister Marjory McNichols Wilson, a professional artist, took two months and put all 300+ on Fine Art America. I’ve taken some “close” criticism, that I’m pushing myself, but the message I heard was that the images and icons do not belong to me. God gave them to me to give to whoever needs them, or whoever wants to receive them.
Then many things came my way without me doing a thing. My friend Christopher Summa wanted to make a film about the icons and images, and my friend John Dadosky wanted to write a book for UNM Press, Kathy Hendricks my childhood friend and I collaborated on a book called “Heavenly Friends.” All this happened and many more gifts have come my way ... right now my friend Christopher Pramuk and I are working on a book about the drawings and images, with a few icons too. All of this is about now...I mean this time in life. Inside the continuing pandemic of Covid and inside the continuing pandemic of an attempted insurrection, by sadly misled and some vulnerable people, and when I watched them, I thought I “know” some of these people, they’re not really monsters. I also saw some fatally proud people who’d rather see bloody mayhem than admit they made a wrong choice; following a cult of lies. I actually painted an icon of Jesus around this theme called “Jesus Christ Holy Forgiveness.” It’s so simple to say you’re sorry and have made a mistake, but I know some people are incapable of that simplicity. And while I was living in Manhattan, a wise Franciscan told me in Confession, that you must forgive everyone but if someone is continually abusive, you don’t have to let them back into your life. In fact if you do, you are contributing to their sin, against you. Almost all accounts of Near Death Experiences contain a story of a “life review” of every single moment of your life, including every far reaching good effect of your actions and every far reaching effect of your negative actions. They say, in these accounts, Jesus is with you and yet, you judge yourself . I’ve always loved the quote from Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see, in the world ...” but I like all of us, I am capable of self-deception . During this time I’ve been going through this life review, on purpose, to try and look at both. The point is not to wallow in your past faults or sins, but to see them honestly as well as your gifts and ability to love; and keep trying to love. Now at 71, I clearly see we are here for such a brief time. I see this year of St Joseph as a healing balm. The “hidden years” or hidden life of Jesus, is part of the good we are being given now. I am so grateful to Pope Francis that to honor and invoke St Joseph, he didn’t make it just a week or month but a year. I’d like to close with another poem from the Hospice years...
Of the Tao/ Of Jesus
Of the Tao
it is always said:
“Those who speak
do not know;
those who know
do not speak.”
One marvels at
the cleanliness of
this crisp seed,
this secret chamber
of transformation.
One feels a reverence
for the mystery and
anxiety over the
discipline of initiation.
Of Jesus
there is no end
to the speaking.
His name is cast about
today as currency ...
Indeed for some evangelists
He is only profit.
But for children
of the kingdom
there are no words
to describe
being near Him.
He is comfort
He is safety
He is solitude
He is communion.
There are no words
to describe
being near Him.
His discipline is light -
followed from crib to cross.
This intimacy with God
awakens transfiguration.
Fr Bill McNichols 💮 January 2021