March 21, 2008

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

An ‘Easterly’ understanding of ‘WWJD?’

Shirley Vogler MeisterLast week, I suggested that it’s prudent to ask ourselves “What would Jesus do?” in difficult or uncomfortable situations. I even called it a “cliché.”

Right after writing that column, I read a daily Lenten message to my husband that changed my spiritual perception of the once very popular “WWJD?”

My husband and I have been faithfully following The Little Black Book of inspiring Lenten messages. It stresses the Passion of Christ according to John’s Gospel. We have done this every Lent since our parish began providing the booklet that comes from the Diocese of Saginaw, Mich. It is based on the writings of Bishop Kenneth Untener, who died in 2004.

In a February reading, based on the second denial that Simon Peter made after the arrest of Jesus, an excellent point is made: The question “What would Jesus do?” could be misleading because of the “would.” It could seem as though Jesus were not part of here-and-now situations. There’s a big difference between “What would Jesus think I should do?” and “What does Jesus think I should do?”

Recently, in a column about a basketball injury to a spectator who is a friend, I suggested that—in such a situation and any other times of indecision when reacting to something bad that is happening to someone near us—we should immediately think about “What would Jesus do?”

However, since Jesus should be a part of the present moment in everything that Christians do, we should put our question in the now-moment, i.e., “What do you want me to do, Lord?” After

all, we claim he is with us no matter what or when.

The little book’s message continued: “Asking ourselves what Jesus thinks about a given situation can change our perspective. Pick any issue—killing the unborn, using/storing weapons of mass destruction, retaliation. … What does Jesus think right now? Waffling on those kinds of issues is the way we might be more likely to deny that we are a disciple of Jesus.”

After each reading in The Little Black Book is this note: “Spend some quiet time with the Lord.”

I like to do that all year long, not just during Lent.

This makes me think of a wise Protestant friend whom I considered to be a cross between a mother and older sister to me. Janie and I often held hands and spent quiet times with the Lord. She always prayed in the present tense, knowing that Jesus was, indeed, present. Whatever she prayed was simple, direct and offered with the assurance that Christ made our twosome a threesome.

The Little Black Book is published by Little Books of the Diocese of Saginaw. For more information, call 989-797-6653 or log on to

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.) †

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