From Soul of Christ
The sixth petition of the Anima Christi prayer is a simple plea expressing the urgency of our prayerful desires – springing from our hearts directly to the heart of Jesus.
Names are important. Entire books are dedicated to helping writers choose the best name for their fictional characters.
The names we use for God can reveal a lot about our relationship with God: our image of God, how close we feel to God, and our trust (or lack of trust) in him. We naturally pray with names of God that are familiar and intuitively appealing, but we can also choose to pray with a particular name or title of God. Regularly using a specific name for God or Christ can then shape our prayer life.
“Good Jesus” begins another intimate petition of the Soul of Christ prayer. Calling Jesus, “good,” is a beautiful act of faith in his goodness – in his divine, loving nature and his saving will for our greatest good and eternal happiness.
The name Jesus comes from the Hebrew language and means, “God saves.” One of the simplest but also most profound prayers is to simply speak the name of Jesus. In his name, we acknowledge the entirety of salvation history and most specifically our redemption.
As a prayer, Jesus is:
- an act of faith: we express our faith in Jesus as our all-powerful God and loving Savior;
- an act of hope: a plea for Jesus to save us anew today;
- an act of love and gratitude: an honest acknowledgement that our lives have been transformed by his love;
- an act of adoration: that the Son of God would take on human nature and a human name in order to save us.
When we call Jesus by name in our prayer, what are our thoughts and sentiments behind this one word?
By plainly saying the words, hear me, we express our trust that Jesus will do so. How awesome it is to know that we have a God who bends over us, who would strain to hear our whispered pleas if needed. But God’s hearing is perfect – especially with regard to those whom he loves.
What can we do when our prayer is dry, when we feel that our spirits are lifeless, when our faith has been tested for so long that we fear its fragile thread will break? How do we respond to our doubts that, if God loves us, he would not let our prayers go unanswered?
The short answer is that God always answers our prayers, but often not in the way or time we expect. Blessed James Alberione puts it this way: “Prayer will obtain either what it asks for or something even better.”
The petition, Good Jesus, hear me, reminds us to bring to Jesus what we truly desire. Our deepest desires are an important part of who we are and thus important in our relationship with Christ. A deep desire is more than a superficial want or passing whim. Our deeper longings shape us; they express our nature and our gifts from God; they can reflect the working of the Spirit within us, leading us on our unique spiritual journey.
But because we have to struggle against the woundedness of our nature, we can often confuse our deep desires with sinful inclinations or passions. Both strongly engage our feelings. Discernment is important in helping us to discover which of our desires are indeed gifts from God and which are not. It can be so confusing that at times, we might consider it virtuous to ignore or discount all our longings. But if a desire is a gift from God and an indication of God’s will, simply ignoring it could lead us to miss out on something important.
When I was a teenager, I had many dreams for the future. But when I entered the convent, I assumed that I should give them all up, including a childhood dream to write.
Fast-forward five years. I started to understand that in creating me, God had gifted me with specific abilities and limitations. The more I prayed about it, the more it seemed God wanted me to actively use this unique combination of gifts and limitations he had given me for his service. As my desire to write grew, I hesitantly started journaling. At first it felt a bit selfish, because it was something I wanted to do. But as my joy and skill in writing deepened, I continually asked Jesus to lead me. Ten years later, I published my first book about Eucharistic adoration. Writing is now a part of my mission as a Pauline sister, as well as a special blessing that enriches my life. It is a gift God places in me, and my desire to write gives me the courage to use that gift.
When we pray with our deep desires, our prayer can surprise us with its joy, insight, and liveliness. God wants our greatest happiness and joy; God delights in fulfilling our deep desires – that he has often planted in us. Entrusting our longings to God allows God to work more freely in us and to bring them to bear fruit in God’s time and way.
God gives us certain desires because they will lead us to fulfill our mission and draw us closer to him. But the context of the prayer, Anima Christi, directs us to the most important desire that we can bring to God: a desire for holiness. Each petition is shot through with this longing for union with God. In the context of the rest of the prayer, “Good Jesus, hear me!” expresses the urgency of our need for holiness and transformation in Christ.