Jesus loves me so much that He has blanketed me with outstanding images of Himself, each that were created in His own image and then sent down to Earth to be Jesus to all that they encountered, including encounters with me. The people that Jesus sent me to encounter, not only showed me the good represented by Jesus’ loving Sacred Heart, but also received a view of things other people did or experienced that were witnesses to what happens when the “me” gets in the way of Jesus. Some of these lessons were taken to heart. Others were cast aside causing me to learn the hard way, to see Jesus only through blurry glasses. Beyond a doubt, the people in my life helped provide, in their imperfect way, an introduction to who Jesus is.
Looking back on my time on earth, I can now point out individuals and encounters with those persons that brought me to where and who I am and provided me the Faith journey pathway taken to arrive at my current point on my Faith and Spirituality journey. My parents not only gave me life, but they gave me Catholicism. They fed, nurtured and showed me the way to enter into the Church to find Jesus. They educated me and built the foundation that I then took out to the world.
Next, were my Grandparents. I never was fortunate to have met my Grandpa Chomistek. Although he died before I was born, he lived on, in and through my dad. My dad took his Faith, Spirituality and the drive for education that formed my dad who then formed me.
My Grandma Chomistek was a true angel. Through her, I witnessed true agape love that she held for every person she brushed elbows with. Her Faith in Jesus and her devotion to His mother Mary gave me a wonderful example to model my own life. My grandmother, as long as I could remember had a large and painful abscess on a large portion of her right leg. That did not slow her down for one minute. I saw how she offered up her suffering and continued to serve everyone. She worked long hours working in a cafeteria at Standard Oil and when she got home, her kitchen was always open.
I remember one lady, possibly a distant relative, who was noticeably mentally slow that regularly visited. She, to me, seemed like a sponge, gold digger, always over at my grandmother’s house, especially for a meal. I wondered why my grandma did not tell her to go away already. She, instead, taught me a valuable lesson in who Jesus is. Grandma treated this lady like a prized member of the family. That is loving your neighbor even better than loving yourself.
From my grandpa Spindler, I learned unconditional service. He was in his 80’s at the time when I was entering my junior high school age. Every time we visited (about once or twice a year because it was about a 10 hour drive), grandpa always spent several days a week volunteering at the parish, either serving at Mass or in some other volunteer capacity. One day I asked him why he spent so much time at the church. He said something that has stuck with me to this day. He said, “John, I am not a wealthy man. I cannot even think of donating enough money to come close to paying back God for all the gifts He has given to me. That is why I have to volunteer my time to give back to the Lord.” My grandfather Spindler showed me how to unconditionally serve and have gratitude for what treasure the Lord had given. He showed me how to see God’s treasure in all his modest possessions. He modeled to me his gratitude for all the people that Jesus had put in his life, that had brought him to the joy and peace he now enjoyed in his later years of life.
Now, it took me a long time to begin to appreciate all these gifts of people Jesus placed into my life and I feel that I still have a long way to go to fully appreciate Jesus’ gifts. In all this time, I was taking it all in but not really processing the big picture. I failed to gain a proper appreciation for the gifts received from Jesus through all these people encountered in my life, from family to friends to daily random passersby. This picture started to come together; however, when my own family was started.
First, was my wife Cathy. She brought Jesus to me by introducing me to agape love. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” With the junction of Cathy to me, Jesus was truly in our midst. I could feel Him. I just did not know that it was Him that I was feeling at the time. The agape love, Jesus’ agape love, joined Cathy and me. We were truly one and whether known or not, we were one bound together by Jesus, His graces. Cathy truly introduced me to Jesus by the union and sanctity of our marriage.
Next the kids came along. They then brought Jesus in more depth into our family. These were gifts from God that Cathy and I were now caretakers of. The responsibility that Cathy and I received, challenged us to share our Jesus then with our children. Our children then, brought their own essence of Jesus, that Jesus bestowed on them at birth and their Baptisms, to raise the level of agape love within the family unit.
It was with the family that I learned how to lean on them and on Jesus to withstand life’s little challenges. We learned how a family sticks together in good times and bad. We weathered times of my periods of unemployment, that frequently meant pulling up stakes and moving the family to another city and state. We weathered supreme challenges like the house fire. We saw how Jesus formed us and was with us through all these times of challenge. We also shared the good times as well – vacations, birthdays, Christmases. We shared the graduations, daughters’ weddings and now the birth of a grandchild of our own. In all these experiences, Jesus introduced himself to us and was with us. I, unfortunately, did not and still do not fully appreciate the supreme gift given.
Looking back on all the people that Jesus put in my life, through them, Jesus introduced me to His peace and joy. I learned to serve. I learned to trust in Jesus, to persevere the challenges in life and celebrate the good times. Even so, I have yet to fully see, feel and know the total Jesus – in spite of all these wonderful people He has put in my way to show me His love and what it will take to make it to Heaven, to spend eternity with our Creator and Savior. This is my eternal quest. I continue my search to totally find and love Jesus. I know I cannot do it alone, but with the people He continues to blanket me with, I can pursue my walk, with my fellow neighbor, hand in hand, to journey toward our Lord. Amen.