The first time I came across a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (or at least the first time I actually noticed it) was in 2013.
There was Jesus, his Heart exposed, one hand pointing to it and the other extended outwards towards me. It was as if he were introducing me to his Heart. In the midst of pondering this, I heard:
“I want to reveal my Inner Life to you; will you reveal yours to me?”
This is Divine Intimacy.
It’s not just this nice-sounding phrase or a Catholic buzzword; it is an invitation.
To Be Seen
Living Divine Intimacy is living a relationship of being seen by the One who loves us.
At the start of John’s Gospel, one of Jesus’ first encounters with the disciples is this same sort of invitation: “Come and See” (Jn 1:39).
Come, know me; come, know my ways; come, see my Father; come, see the way I see you.
In the same way, we can speak Jesus’ words back to him: Come and see me. Intimacy, then, is nothing other than beholding the interiors of each other. To borrow Christopher West’s clever line, intimacy is “into-me-see.”
However, there may be hesitation in being seen.
The Fall in the Garden reveals how the interplay of distrust and shame shatters intimacy with God.
Blockage to Intimacy
Distrust: Distortion of God
There is a fear to come before God (or anyone, for that matter) when distrust is present. Satan’s strategy was to distort the identity of God, and this became the birthplace of distrust.
Distrust is an issue of perception. A lack of intimacy would be caused by doubt in God’s goodness and in his unconditional love. In the warped perception, we then think his gaze is one of condemnation instead of mercy. Because we have a misunderstanding of God’s identity, we’ll have a misunderstanding of how he will receive us.
Shame: Distortion of Ourselves
When there is an experience of shame, we hide. Shame causes us to run away and cover ourselves with our own sorts of “fig leaves,” like Eve did in the Garden.
Shame accuses and disrupts the flow of love between God and man. It speaks identity-lies to us and distorts our view of ourselves as someone unworthy, unlovable or someone who must appear nice and clean to meet God.
Yet, God’s response is to enter into the chaos and come after his children. He says, “Where are you?”
He beckons us forward, as we are, to be received by his gaze.
We do not have to prove ourselves to God. However, it’s easy to think that divine intimacy is an act to achieve.
What Divine Intimacy is NOT
- Divine Intimacy is not a performance of Christian activity.
- Divine Intimacy is not being “super involved” (though most of us are taught that if we want to be holy people, we just do more in the Church).
- Divine Intimacy is not a collection of holy techniques.
But rather, our Christian activity will be a fruit of our Divine Intimacy! And our practices can help create the environment for a flourishing intimacy with God.
Divine Intimacy at its core is a covenantal relationship lived, an exchange of selves.
And the Church, in her wisdom, has given us tips on how our prayer can be just that.
St. Teresa of Avila, a great Doctor of the Church, gives five steps on how to have intimate conversations with Christ.1
- Preparation: Recalling the Presence of God
Here we pause as we settle into his gaze and recognize who we are coming
before. Come as you are and share honestly with the Lord what you’re
experiencing in your interior.
- Selection of Material: Subject of Conversation with Christ
Choose a scene of Scripture to enter into. The second person of the Trinity is The Word; so when we encounter Scripture, we encounter a person. The Gospels reveal the interior of Christ.
- Consideration: Enter into the Scene of Scripture & Allow Christ to Share Who He Is
Avila says to ask the questions who, what, where, why, how and when within the scene. Initiate yourself into the scene and notice the characters there, the words being spoken and the gaze of Jesus being offered.
- Conversation: Be with Him & Share with Him
This is the prayer part! Adore Christ in the scene and share with him all that’s coming up in your heart and all that you are experiencing. In your own words, converse with your Divine Friend.
- Conclusion: Tie Up Loose Ends
Thank Christ for any graces received and make mention of any resolutions made.
Our Lord is, amazingly enough, fond of us and wishes to speak to us face-to-face. Let us pray as St. John the Beloved did, resting upon Jesus’ Sacred Heart. In this exchange of selves, our prayer and our hearts will surely be led into this intimacy that we are made for!