Sunday, February 8, 2015

Jesus Makes Life Alive

February 8, 2015
5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus Makes Life Alive
Is “life on earth a drudgery”?

Job took a dim view of life: “a drudgery… months of misery… troubled nights” that “drag on” until the dawn and “come to an end without hope.”

It is a false view of life, but God inspired Job to write what he was feeling, because a lot of us feel the same way sometimes. It helps to know God recognizes that!

Then Jesus arrived in Capernaum. Job would not have expected that to make a lot of difference, any more than many people think it makes a lot of difference that he is available today. But when word of his healing miracles got around, “the whole town gathered at the door.” The next morning, when his disciples found him off by himself, praying, Jesus told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also.”

Jesus came to preach, in words and actions. He came to show the way to God by teaching people the truth about life. More than that: he came to be “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

Jesus didn’t come just to heal a few diseases. He came that we might “have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). We don’t get that by being cured of particular afflictions. Life is all-inclusive, and it takes an all-inclusive acceptance of Jesus—of what he came to give—to find life to the full. Not to use him for what he came to give—to settle for less—is to sell Jesus short and shortchange ourselves. This is what most people do.

Two questions: Do you really want “life to the full”? And do you really think you can find it through relationship (interaction) with Jesus?

The evidence shows that the great majority of people, including “practicing Christians,” would answer “No” to both questions. Most people settle for a moderately satisfying life, and look for happiness through interaction with anything but Jesus.

Jesus told us very clearly what life to the “full” is.

(Stop. Test yourself before you read on. Do his words come immediately to mind? If not, can you say that his definition of life to the full has been your conscious goal?)

“Life to the full” is “eternal life,” which we enjoy already on earth by sharing in the life of God—which is the definition of “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus said,  “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). 

To seek “life to the full” means to make getting to know God better our goal, our purpose in life. It means making this what we get up for in the morning, what we look for in everything we do all day, what we use to evaluate how successful our day has been before we go to bed at night.

That was Paul’s prayer for us all. It sums up the goal of Christian living:

I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.

I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19).

Knowing God includes acting on what we know, of course. John wrote: “Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1John 4:8). But the point is, everything begins with knowing God better, getting to know his mind and heart, growing into intimate knowledge of the Father, Son and Spirit as persons.

Is that the way you were taught to live your religion? Is that the way you live it now? If not, don’t think you have ever had more than some partial and passing experiences of Christianity. You have never tasted that “life to the full” that Jesus came to give.

That is why the last four popes have been calling for a “new evangelization.” We who are Christians have never really heard the Good News.

But Jesus invites us to it. The starting point is to get to know Jesus himself. He said, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). And he is easy to find. Read the Gospels. Think about what you read. Talk to the one you are reading about. He will reveal himself to you. He promised it: “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you” (Matthew 7:7).

Pope Francis invites us to it:

The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus… I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day (The Joy of the Gospel. 1,3).

The ball is in your court. We are back to the basic question. Do you want to settle for Job’s view of life? Or do you want “life to the full”?

Or do you belong to that really unfortunate group who have enough money, success, and relationship with others to keep them distracted and willing to settle for the more that is less? They are the ones Jesus was shaking his head over when he said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24). Jesus says the truly blessed are the “poor in spirit,” those who “know they haven’t got it made.” Theirs is the kingdom of heaven Matthew 5:3).

So do I choose to let Jesus lead me into “life to the full”?

Pray all day: “Jesus, be my Teacher. What must I do to have eternal life?” (See Matthew 19:16).

Practice: Do what is obvious: start reading the Gospels. If you are already doing that, join or start a discussion group. If you are doing that already, start discussing my book Why Jesus?

Discuss: Where do you look for fulfillment?

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