Sr Maria Jees traces her journey of searching for truth, and how the one who is the way, truth and life, found her.

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my Spirit exults in God my Saviour” (Lk. 1:46).

Jesus is the Saviour of all. “He is alive and active” says Pope Francis in his latest Apostolic Exhortation Christus Vivit. Over the years, I have come to experience this aspect of our Lord. What is fascinating about my faith in Jesus is the compulsion I feel through Him to spread the fragrance of the Gospel with all my strength. “He is not partial” (Acts 10:35). His mercy is for everybody and whoever searches Him with a sincere heart will find him.

I was born into an Orthodox Hindu family. I encountered Jesus when I was seventeen and studying in Class XII. As a traditional Hindu girl, I used to go to the temple every evening to pray. Once, while at prayer, I heard a voice from within me urging, “Open your eyes” and when I did, I gazed upon the statue of a serpent along with a few stones. The voice then asked me, “You are human.  Why then are you praying to a serpent and stones?” That voice made me realize the meaningless routine that I had been following for years. It is there that my faith in serpents and stones fell off like scales from my eyes. I left the temple like a soldier armed with the shield of faith and the armour of the Word, never again to visit temple.  “You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13). When we search for truth with all sincerity, the truth finds its way to us.

Sometime later, a friend gave me a Bible to read. The Spirit touched my heart through the phrase “Don’t keep your leg in two boats.” From then on, I resolved to hold on to Jesus alone. From the moment I encountered Jesus, my life began to change, transform and bear much fruit beyond my knowledge (Jn. 15:87) – including in my studies, vocation and ministry.

One day while I was at home, a stranger came from Velankanni Church (a church dedicated to Mother Mary in South India) and told me that he was sent by Mother Mary to speak to me. He prophesied that I would follow the Christian way of life, wear white dress, go for higher studies and travel to different places. Today, I can say that all that the stranger told have become realities in my life.

On another occasion, I dreamt that I should fast the following day. After a day of fasting, as I was preparing to have food and praying the grace before meals, an old man came to my house with a bowl. He asked for food, which I gave him. He spoke nothing, but only smiled gently at me. At that moment, my mother came out, but surprisingly she could not see the old man. I realized then that it had been none other than my Lord who had visited me. That increased my love for Him and I began to know Him more through a deeper and thorough reading of the Bible.

During my graduate studies as a student of Commerce, I continued my search for Jesus. I attended a Bible convention led by Fr. Mathew Naickamparambil (V.C). There I earnestly prayed to Jesus that, “If you are really the living God, I want to see you.” As I finished my prayer, I saw a bright light moving towards me. Once it touched me, I fell to the ground. That has been the most precious moment of my whole life. I truly experienced the power of God in that moment. I felt as if I had died to this world and a new life in Christ had begun. I began to love Him more and to listen to His voice.

Ever since that day, I began attending Holy Mass and spending time in prayer and worship. I longed for His presence. Just like St Mother Teresa, I began to thirst for Jesus so much that to contemplate a life without Him made me pause for breath. I am nothing without Him. It is He who searched for me and found me and therefore, I cannot live, but with Him. I believe that it is He who disciplined me and taught me. He anointed me with the Holy Spirit. He told me “Be humble and be happy; be with me and the rest I will do”. He encouraged me in every situation of my life. He taught me a prayer “Holy Spirit breathe in me, live in me and walk with me and carry me in Jesus to the Father”. He imprinted it in my heart (Mt. 11:25-30) without any effort on my part. These words came out flowing freely from my heart.

 Life as a Jesus Youth:

In the initial days of my faith formation, I was like a solitary reaper who lived in solitude. The joy in my heart longed for community and fraternity with the faithful. The Lord, who knows our heart’s desires, saw my soul´s longing and blessed me with the company of a Christian family, and the Adoration Sisters to assist me. Gradually, I came in contact with the Jesus Youth prayer group in college. Their prayer life and manner of living, inspired me to become an active in the movement. I had hoped to become a full-timer, however I failed to gain permission from home. I was also actively discouraged by several friends and dear ones. I faced a great deal of opposition and rejection. However, a few JYs, Fr. Thomas, Preetha, Regi, Vincent and the Jesus Youth group from Thodupuzha (1992-1995) became my family in Christ, imparting strength and support.

Inspiration to Join Religious Life

“…before I was born the Lord called me; from my mother’s womb He has spoken my name…” (Is. 49:1).

We are called when in our mother’s womb. I recognized this call when once Regi, the then full-timer prayed “Father let your Kingdome come” in our group. These words ignited a spark that lit up my heart for Jesus. These spirit filled words echoed in my heart time and again, and served to remind me of how much my soul longs to exult and proclaim His greatness. This was the motivating force that urged me to join the religious life. I desired to become a missionary and to take Jesus to people who did not know about the Saviour. I was ready to offer my life for the sake of the Gospel. I was refused admission by several congregations, since I had not yet been baptized and some others hesitated, fearing threats from my family.

I completed my studies with merit and my parents decided to send me for C.A. Aware of this, I cried and prayed on the Feast of the Nativity of Mother Mary. During Adoration, I heard a voice that spoke to me three times, “Do not be afraid, I am with you.” A nun from the “Sisters of the Destitute” who stood next to me, heard a voice telling her to invite me to join her congregation. Today, after much struggle and rejection, I belong, by His Grace, in the S.D. congregation.

Another time, I dreamt of preparing myself for the Sacrament of Baptism and saw my name written in gold in an unknown language. Not knowing what it was, I asked the voice that had guided me and I saw a portrait of Mother Mary. Upon baptism, I took Maria Jees as my new name.

After baptism, Jesus blessed me and I experienced an abundance of love and protection from Him. By His grace, I had always done well in my studies. Jesus held my hand when I was a failure and upheld me with his victorious right hand (Is 41:10).  My heart always longs to serve the poor, in particular, children and youth. Today, being a fulltime evangelizer I have travelled far and wide to proclaim the Good News of Jesus. Through the proclamation of the Word and counselling, I am blessed to make known the name of Jesus to many including those of other faiths. I am also back in the Jesus Youth fold, which is sort of a home coming experience. I have been active within the movement for over 10 years in the role of an animator.

 To My Young Friends   

The simple prayer of a young Jesus Youth had inspired me to follow Christ. Likewise, if your heart burns with the love of Christ, your actions and words will give life and meaning to others. Jesus, our brother invites us all to join him in the building of the Kingdom of God. Therefore, it is our spiritual obligation as children of God to strive to build His Kingdom. No matter whether we are like the younger son or the elder son of the Prodigal Father, His Heart always longs for us. We cannot but turn to His compassionate Heart that ever longs only for us. Jesus on the cross, is the perfect example of the love that God has for each one of us individually. Hence, we share the moral obligation to offer ourselves to bring back the lost ones to the love of the Father. We cannot forget what he said “If you choose to save your life, you will lose it and if you lose your life for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel, you will save it” (Mk.8:35). If you find this treasure that is hidden, do not be afraid to buy it. He is alive and an unchanging God who can be trusted in every situation, and we will experience His living presence and companionship provided we believe in His teachings and keep them.

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Sr. Maria Jees belongs to the Sisters of Destitute (SD). She is a preacher who is also a formation instructor within the Congregation. She has served as an Animator to the Delhi, Shillong and National Jesus Youth teams.