Our humanity longed for and needed a closer and easier communication with God. God responded to this deep longing in our nature and has come near to us in the person of his Incarnate Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
His eyes were open to the beauty of nature. He watched the birds build their nests and listened with delight to their songs. The sowing of the seed, the ripening of the harvest, the plays and dancing in the marketplace; these and all the events of daily life and of human interest attracted his attention and furnished illustrations for his teaching. His heart was alive to feelings for people and sensitive to the obligations of friendship. When the sisters of Lazarus wished for Jesus to visit their brother who was sick, they sent this message, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” When he arrived, Martha said, “Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her, he groaned and struggled with his human feeling and wept. Jesus was moved to pity for the sick and filled with compassion for the forgotten and poor. There welled up in the depths of his heart, words filled with unfailing comfort and support for all the suffering children of humanity when he said, “Blessed are the poor for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven” and “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest.”
God is no longer shrouded in obscurity, but openly revealed in our sight in Christ Jesus. The God Man Christ is now the perfect pattern of life to us all. In taking our nature God has sanctified all states of life, all our truths, struggles, afflictions, temptations, duties and joys.
This was a comforting message for American Catholics in 1864. The Civil War had dragged on for almost four long years and it seemed to have no end. Catholics in the parish of Saint Paul the Apostle in New York had been of a mixed mind about the war. Many of the Irish immigrants who lived in the parish bounds had watched their male relatives, the potential breadwinners of their families, go off to fight for a cause they neither were committed to nor understood. Many had already died in battle. God could seem very far away.
All of us have moments when God seems very far away. No one is immune from this. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta represented God’s presence to the larger world while experiencing God’s absence in her own life. In the moments when we feel the absence of God Father Hecker reminds us that God knows what it is like to be us. Hecker takes it a step further. In whatever situation we find ourselves, in all of the states of life, both the joys and the hardships have been sanctified and can lead us to grace through the humanity of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Paulist Father Paul Robichaud CSP is Historian of the Paulist Fathers and Postulator of the Cause of Father Hecker. His office is located at the Hecker Center in Washington D.C.