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Now Discern This: The Many Paths to Christ

By Eric A. Clayton

There are a lot of reasons people come to know Christ.

Some folks might have a mystical experience, a personal encounter of the Risen Christ in their lives, that inspires and moves them to work for and live out the Gospel.

Others might be attracted to this Jesus of Nazareth, a man who practices radical hospitality, compassion and inclusivity, and who sees deeply those to whom society has turned a blind eye.

Others, still, might be intrigued by the idea of a God who enters intimately into human history, who is not content to sit at a distance but desires to draw utterly close to saint and sinner alike, leaving no one beyond the glimmer of hope.

Perhaps you or someone dear to you knows of Jesus Christ thanks to stories told by family and friends, catechists and pastors, passed down through religious education and family tradition alike, stories that continue to rattle about in the back of your head, stories full of insistent questions.

And of course, many of us meet Jesus in the breaking of the bread – and in the faces of those we see in our daily lives.

We each encounter Jesus in a unique way. Christ desires to deal directly with us as we are: distinct, essential threads of God’s great tapestry. There’s no wrong way to know Jesus; Jesus only asks that we respond generously with an openness to grow, to be challenged, to come to know God more and more deeply.

Christ is the why of so many of our stories: Why we serve; why we carry on; why we dare to hope.

And yet, it’s clear that, while Christ is the constant, our paths to Jesus may be radically different. We come to encounter Christ in our own time, our own way, guided by the Spirit.

And, what’s more, from that encounter we go out in radically different directions. We each have our own skills, experiences, insights and passions. We each have our own stories – the good and the bad – and all of that forms us as bearers of Christ in the world.

My response to Christ is necessarily different from yours.

But the challenge of Christianity is to remember that we’re all in this together. Each of us is invited to sit at the feet of another, listening, learning, rejoicing. We each have something valuable to say about the Christian life – its demands and its joys. We each have something to learn from one another.

We go to God together. Doesn’t it make sense, then, that in the going we’d learn something new from our companions along the way of the God who draws us near?

That’s our task this Advent – and the season is nearly at hand!

We know that the same Christ who has called us before, who has opened up new recesses in our hearts, will again be born at Christmas. The same Jesus; the same cornerstone of our Christian story. The same why that underpins so many of our stories.

But the how varies from life to life: How do we live out this Gospel call?

And so, this Advent, for the 25 days leading up to Christmas, we’ve invited writers from the Ignatian family to reflect on personal heroes from the Ignatian tradition. You’ll have the opportunity to reflect on the stories of folks throughout history who have been inspired by Ignatian spirituality, and you’ll get insight into how those unique stories have impacted some of your contemporary Ignatian practitioners.

By the time we reach Christmas, we will have journeyed with 25 writers, reflecting on 25 different women and men from our shared tradition. That’s 50 different ways of encountering Christ and living out of that encounter in the day-to-day.

I hope you’ll join us.

This reflection is part of an award-winning weekly email series. If you’d like to get reflections like this one directly in your inbox every Wednesday, sign up here.

Eric A. Clayton is the author of Cannonball Moments: Telling Your Story, Deepening Your Faith (Loyola Press) and the deputy director of communications at the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. His essays on spirituality, parenting and pop culture have appeared in America Magazine, National Catholic Reporter, Busted Halo and more, and he is a regular contributor to Give Us This Day, and Dork Side of the Force, where he blogs about Star Wars. His fiction has been published by Black Hare Press, the World of Myth Magazine and more. He lives in Baltimore, MD with his wife, two young daughters and their cat, Sebastian. Follow Eric’s writing at