Apr 29, 2015

Jesus "cries out"

The Easter season Gospel reading for this Wednesday (Jn 12: 44-50 - below) begins with an interesting image: "Jesus cried out and said . . ."  It's as if Our Lord is saying - "Hey, pay attention to what I'm about to say" and that is exactly the intent of the passage.  "Listen to my words for I have a message from God, my Father, for all humanity."

Did you ever wonder, as we often hear Jesus say, "Amen, amen I say to you . . ."  Why the double "amen?"  In the time of Jesus there was no protection from fraudulent teachers; nothing such as a legal copyright or "fact check" or an internet search to verify the truth of what is printed or what an alleged teacher is claiming.  You can imagine that many would come to make certain claims and attempt to gather followers around them.  The technique of the double "amen" was a way of claiming that what I am about to say, is indeed true.  I would stake my life and reputation on this statement you are about to hear.  "Listen, listen" or "This is true, this is true" was a way to reassure this listeners that the message is authentic. Of course, time and action on the part of the messenger would be the final indicator of truth.  Certainly, in the case of Jesus, all he said and did was from the source of eternal truth, God himself.  In other words, in Jesus God is clearly operative. 

That being such, the Gospel passage noted above takes on a prophetic air.  Like John the Baptist crying out in the desert to get the attention of listeners with an absolutely crucial message - "Repent and believe!" Prepare the way for the Lord . . ."  Jesus in the same manner like the ancient prophets "cries out" not only to gain the attention of listeners (you and me) but also to be faithful to the One who sent him: "I did not speak on my own but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak."  Therefore, to believe in Jesus is to believe in God. 

The passage begins with a call to faith: "Whoever believes in me believes not only in me but also in the one who sent me."  Faith in Christ is to walk in the light of new life: "I came into the world as light so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness . . . I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world."

Truth, faith, light, salvation, the word of the Father are rich Easter and fully Christian claims.  Are we listening?  Our recent gathering of RCIA candidates, both newly initiated Catholics and our new inquirers, offered an interesting but true comment about the sometime difference between "cradle" Catholics - those born into the faith and new converts to the faith later in life.  How the new Catholics often appear more enthusiastic than life long Catholics. 

Why that is not necessarily true in every case there is truth to it.  The newly initiated Catholics are enthusiastic, eager, open and often on fire for the Church and for their new direction in life.  Yet, they sometimes lack a strong foundation in the Church, which comes about by living over many years, the rich and beautiful faith of our Church both ancient and new.  Sadly, I have seen over the years among new Catholics a first experience of fervor and commitment then a kind of diminishing of sameness as the years go on.  This is not a bad thing necessarily because we can not live on top of the mountain forever. Yet, there are cases in which they sadly cease participation and you wonder what happened to them.   

Again, not true in every case but they are beginning to build a new experience in Catholicism that needs to be nurtured and rooted deeply over the years.  Those who stand upon a more experienced foundation can and should help those who are just beginning to build their personal Catholic house.

All this is to say that faith is indeed a gift from God that must be nurtured through prayer, good example, conviction, and coming to know the Lord Jesus who "cries out" to us every day in many ways. 

To follow the Lord is to know the truth.  As St. Jerome so famously wrote:  "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ."  Take some time to peruse the scriptures.  Spend some time with the Easter Gospel passages or the letters of St. Paul in the New Testament.  Come to know the Lord more deeply and your foundation will be made strong.

Jn 12: 44-50

Jesus cried out and said,
“Whoever believes in me believes not only in me
but also in the one who sent me,
and whoever sees me sees the one who sent me.
I came into the world as light,
so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness.
And if anyone hears my words and does not observe them,
I do not condemn him,
for I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world.
Whoever rejects me and does not accept my words
has something to judge him: the word that I spoke,
it will condemn him on the last day,
because I did not speak on my own,
but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak.
And I know that his commandment is eternal life.
So what I say, I say as the Father told me.”