Wednesday, January 4, 2017

To Know Jesus, Deal With Him As Human

January 5, 2017 (feast of Saint John Neumann)
Thursday before the Epiphany

To Know Jesus, Deal With Him As Human

The Responsorial Psalm sets a goal: Let all the earth cry out to God with joy (Psalm 100).

1John 3: 11-21 asks how we can know we are “committed to the truth” and are “at peace” with God. And the answer is, “because we love one another.” We can keep every law made by God or man, but if we are not loving in our way of dealing with the people we encounter, we are what Jesus called “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 23:27; Acts 23:3). We may speak —or even preach — brilliantly about God and religion, but if we are not loving in the way we treat people, we are like “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” We may live an impressive lifestyle, either “high” or “low”— being identified with all the “right kind” of people or claiming “solidarity” with the poor — intently bearing prophetic witness to selected Christian values, even heroically putting our lives on the line; but if the spirit of love is not visible in our dealings with every kind of person, we “are nothing” and we “gain nothing” (1Corinthians 13: 1-3). The only sure touchstone is love.

But we must love “in action and in truth, and not merely talk about it.” John asks, “How can God's love abide in anyone who has enough of this world's goods, but presents a closed heart to a brother or sister in need?” When the cry of the poor is heard and answered, then “all the earth [will] cry out to God with joy.

John 1: 43-51 shows us Jesus winning faith from Nathanael by letting Nathanael understand that Jesus knew his inmost soul. Jesus characterized him as “a true Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” When Nathanael asked how he knew him, Jesus said, “I saw you under the fig tree.” He may have been referring to something Nathanael was thinking about under the fig tree (a symbol of messianic peace in Micah 4:4, Zechariah 3:10); or perhaps he just meant he had seen Nathanael around and read his character. In either case, Nathanael knew Jesus was someone who knew the truth about him and accepted him. This is something we all need to realize about Jesus and ourselves. It leads to love.

Jesus told Nathanael he would see “greater things” yet. Jesus, by identifying himself with “Jacob’s ladder” (Genesis 28:12), was calling himself the bridge between heaven and earth. To know Jesus is to know God. As Emmanuel – “God-with-us” — Jesus makes God humanly accessible. In Jesus we can deal with God as we deal with other human beings. This is a core of Christianity. It is why at Christmas we sing, Let all the earth cry out to God with joy.

Initiative: If you want to know Jesus, treat him as human. Do everything for him you do for your human friends. Count the ways and adapt them.

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