February 15, 2015
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus Gives “Life to the Full”
I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.
Why do we come to Jesus? What are we looking for?
The leper said to him, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Jesus answered, “I do will it. Be made clean,” and healed him. Why, then, did he say to him, “See that you tell no one anything”?
As usual, the Responsorial Psalm gives us the key to the readings: “I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.” We turn to Jesus in time of trouble, but we don’t always find the joy of salvation. It is because we are not asking Jesus for what he came to give.
We say with the Psalm, “Blessed is he whose fault is taken away,” and it is only half true. Cleansing us of sin is only the starting point of what Jesus came to do. He told the man he had healed, “See that you tell no one anything,” because he did not want to be known as just a healer. He tells us explicitly what he came to do: “I came that they might have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
But we don’t come to him for that. Almost every Christian in the word, Catholic as well as Protestant, was brought up on the very thing Jesus warned us against: “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees,” by which he meant, not just the hypocrisy, but “the teaching of the Pharisees” (Matthew 16:12, Luke 12:1). And what was that?
The Pharisees were a reform movement in Israel. They pledged themselves, and urged others, to keep the law of God. That was good.
Their problem was, they made law-observance the focus of their teaching. Gradually they passed from teaching, “A good Jew keeps the Law,” which was true, to teaching, “Keeping the Law makes one a good Jew,” which was deeply and destructively false. Saint Paul fought against this “yeast of the Pharisees”—of those both in and out of the Church—until they killed him (see Galatians, chapter 5).
But this is the teaching we were brought up on. The focus of our catechetical instruction was on keeping the Commandments and doing all the things a “good Catholic” should do—like “going” to Mass and “receiving” the sacraments.
No: we were not taught how to live the Mass or how to make what we received in the sacraments a way of life. We were not taught the mystery of offering ourselves with and in Jesus during Eucharist. We were not taught that we ourselves are in the Host that is lifted up at Mass.
We were not even taught the meaning of the three words in the ritual of Baptism that constitute our “job description” as Christians: our solemn anointing and consecration to fulfill the messianic mission of Jesus as prophets, priests and stewards of his kingship.
We were not taught to read the Bible as the primary and self-evident obligation of every disciple of Jesus. We were not taught what St. Jerome said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ,” although the bishops quoted him in the Vatican II document on “Divine Revelation,” nos. 2, 21, 25:
Through this revelation [in Scripture], out of the abundance of His love, the invisible God speaks to humans as friends and lives among them, so that He may invite and take them into fellowship [koinonia, relationship] with Himself…
This sacred synod earnestly and especially urges all the Christian faithful… to learn by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures the “excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ.” “For ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ” (St. Jerome). Therefore, they should gladly put themselves in touch with the sacred text itself, whether it be through the liturgy, rich in the divine word, or through devotional reading… And let them remember that prayer should accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture, so that God and people may talk together; for “we speak to Him when we pray; we hear Him when we read the divine sayings.”
Knowing Jesus Christ was not the focus of our religion. It was keeping the rules so that we would be “clean” and go to heaven when we died. We were taught, “Blessed are they whose fault is taken away,” but not the blessing of living “life to the full” through personal relationship with Jesus by interacting constantly with him all day, every day.
We were not taught to spend our lives bringing about the kingdom of heaven “like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened” (Matthew 13:33). We were not taught to “clean out the old yeast—the “yeast of the Pharisees—so that you may be a new batch” (1Corinthians 5:7). We “turned to Jesus in time of trouble,” saying to him, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” Jesus answered, “I do will it. Be made clean.” But he did not “fill us with the joy of salvation,” because we did not go to him for that or ask him for what he came to give.
This explains—in part, at least—why so many today are like the disciples in Jesus’ day who “turned back and no longer went about with him” (John 6:66). They never were “going about with him.” They were just following the rest of the blind crowd who thought that to be a good Christian it was enough to obey the rules.
The question is: is that the crowd we belong to?
We will find the answer by asking, “What am I doing…”—no—“What clear and concrete plan do I have for growing into, for arriving at, that ‘life to the full’ that Jesus promises?”
If you don’t have one, go to the website www.immersedinchrist.org, and you will find it.
Here is the question whose answer determines whether you will experience the “joy of salvation”: “Do I choose to let Jesus guide me into the fullness of life?”
Pray: “Lord, what must I do to be ‘perfect’?”
Practice: Read Reaching Jesus or one of the other “five step” books on immersedinchrist.org.
Discuss: Do you know of any book that presents a clear and simple plan for growing to “perfection” as a Christian?