When I was preparing for First Communion, I remember Sister telling our class that when we go to Mass, we are going before a king—the King of all Creation—so we had better be prepared and presentable.
I took her words to heart, always wanting to be “prepared and presentable” when I went to Mass. I wanted to be so perfect for the King. The fact was, though, I wasn’t perfect. What’s worse, I knew I was never going to be perfect.
Fast forward ten years to my first year of college. The church was full of students; it was 11 p.m.—the “last-minute Mass,” as the students fondly called it. They piled into the church, overflowing the pews out to the walls. It was the first Sunday of Lent. That evening, the Jesuit homilist spoke words that would forever change my spiritual life: “Come, come as you are, just come. Jesus is your friend; he is here for you. He is waiting for you.”
The words echoed in my head for days. They cleared up the misunderstanding that had formed in my eight-year-old brain. I didn’t have to be perfect—perfectly prepared, perfectly dressed, perfectly anything—to go to Mass or to pray. I just had to go into the presence of the Lord.
How freeing! This homily inaugurated a pivotal time in my spiritual journey. It also opened the door for a personal relationship with Jesus—a friendship that would grow over the years. Because, the fact is, few people are really best friends with kings. However, if I simply thought of Jesus as my friend, it would be a lot easier to go to him, even if he were a king. And, if I didn’t have to be perfect all the time, I could talk with him any time.
In his book, What Is Ignatian Spirituality?, Jesuit David Fleming writes:
God is an active God…Our response to God occurs now. We are not to be inhibited by our own weaknesses and failure. We are not to ponder our unworthiness. God is working in our lives now and we are to respond now.…The Gospels show us Jesus entering into people’s lives and inviting them to follow him—right from where they are, from boats and fishnets and from tax booths. He does not demand first that they run to the synagogue. Neither should we delay our response to God until we deal with our neuroses and character defects and our own sinful behaviors (38–39).
Jesus doesn’t demand perfection. We don’t need to be perfect or wait for the perfect time or spot to approach Jesus. We don’t need to wait for Sunday Mass to talk with him. Throughout the day, each day, there are countless opportunities to check in with Jesus wherever we find ourselves.
This Lent, remember these words: “Come, come as you are, just come. Jesus is your friend; he is here for you. He is waiting for you.”
Don’t keep him waiting. The time to respond is now.
Jesus, The night before your death, you asked your friends to remain with you. This Lent, In the midst of all the busyness, remind me to be present with you, And stay with you, To remain with you. Here. Now. Amen.
Hi, Rebecca: Come as I am! What a beautiful all-inclusive invitation. I have not read this article prior to this, but as I watch MSNBC about the catastrophe in Ukraine, may we ALL go to Jesus “as we are” to offer our words of solace through Him. Rebecca, I do remember our conversations 2 years ago. With God, you and our cadre of believers tackled some issues of faith in a series of Fall Zoom meetings. You continue to reactivate my faith journey. Thank you.
Reminds me of what Billy Graham used to say: “Just as I am.”
Thank you, Rebecca! I was raised to be afraid of a God who was watching everything I was doing wrong, so much, that I opted not to get confirmed because I was terrified of going to confession. Thanks to amazing people like you, and a wonderful Jesuit whom I met about ten years ago, I was reintroduced to the Jesus I know and love now — the Jesus who loves us as the sinners we are and welcomes us just as we are, the Jesus in all the gospel stories who shows us nothing but mercy and understanding. God bless you, Rebecca and thank you for enlightening us and teaching us. Ana Maria
God does not call the qualified he qualifies the called…Just to intergrate this with our Sunday Office of Readings, where we witnessed The Phariseas bringing to Jesus a lady that had been caught in the act of commiting adultery …Christ does not condemn her, he gracefully dismisses her saved. The Homilist the had this to say “I usually laugh at my friends from other denominations when they ask the question WHEN WERE YOU SAVED, he says i tell them the church is not for the saved but the ones searching for salvation. Therefore come as you are to Jesus is a very powerful confirmation of 5th Sunday of lent Gospel.
Yes, ” he qualifies the called” – absolutely! Thank you for integrating this with the gospel reading this past Sunday. Beautiful.
What a coincidence (or maybe not)!
I was at that mass!
Graduated from Holy Cross in 86.
Your description reminded me of how dumbstruck and loved I felt when Father K said those words — “come as you are”. I remember thinking “Really? Me? a young 20ish self-absorbed knucklehead with messed up priorities and a load of transgressions weighing me down? You can’t be serious?” But Father K was so sincere, so loving, so convincing. I saw Christ in him. I was amazed, in the true sense of the word.
Now, so many years later, you remind me of this moment when I really perceived God’s acceptance of me.
Thank you for unburying this treasure for me to experience again!
Wow! How about that!
Fr. K was so sincere and convincing – it is so true. He brought so many to Christ through his loving manner. I was sad see that he had passed. He will sorely missed on the campus.
A blessed Lent to you from a fellow ‘Sader.
This reminded me of a Protestant hymn called Just As I Am that I sang as a little girl. I am now Catholic.
What a beautiful reminder of a friend we have in Jesus. Also a good reminder of what Lent can be.
Thank you Rebecca for reminding me what my mother taught me as a very young girl (I’m now 65). I was blessed to know I could approach Jesus as a friend because of my mother. But day to day I do let myself forget so thank you for your beautiful reflection, it has made a difference.
Reminds me of the contemporary Christian song…Come As You Are. Love it! Do you know the author or singer?
Thank You for your endearing article.
It is difficult to see that God ALWAYS welcomes us as we are, where we are when fall over and over again in our sinful ways and make little effort to make amends. But is nonetheless an unending hope of his unconditional love and mercy to be outside the door of our hearts waiting for us to welcome HIM.
Your post reminded me of my First Communion Day. As our class gathered together before First Communion Mass, everyone was dressed so nicely. The girls in their veils and white lace dresses, and the boys in crisp navy blue suits. One of our classmates, James, confused the instructions and showed up in short pants, and he was sobbing with embarrassment. I will never forget the loving response of Sister Mary Allen, who took James in her arms and told him, “Jesus knows what is in your heart, and that is what matters. He doesn’t care what length your pants are.” What grace to hear that message on such a pivotal day! Thank you Sister, and thank you, Rebecca, for your post.
Godly beautiful. Thanks!
Loved your First Communion Story. What a beautiful response Sister gave to the little boy in short pants. It reminded me of the definitely wrong response given to my grandson who showed up in a printed shirt instead of a plain color. He and his mom were reprimanded and made to feel bad. That teacher missed a golden opportunity to remind him that Jesus loves him just as he is. Come as you are.
Very comforting ,, thank you
Your comments were a genuine gift today. I needed this reminder that God loves me and welcomes me as I am.
Thank you for sharing as well. So glad this spoke to you on your own faith journey. I am always comforted by Pope Francis’ reminders that God is always waiting for us with open arms but that it is we who tire of asking for forgiveness. It is so good to be reminded of God’s abundant love and mercy. Blessings!
Thank you Rebecca for this beautiful piece. It spoke to my heart! As I prepared for confession yesterday I thought about how I struggle with perfectionism and how can God love me when I am not perfect. You helped settle my soul….Thank you and blessings this day! Mary