The simplicity and peacefulness of the hidden life of Jesus will soon end, and our liturgical readings will begin to focus on His intense apostolic activity. The Lord’s travels through Samaria and Galilee will soon replace the tranquility and solitude of Nazareth.
Are We Ready?
The quiet of the carpentry shop, the conversations with Mary and Joseph, and the comfort of long intervals of prayer, will soon be only cherished memories. Once our Lord begins teaching, every word He utters will bring a response.
Have we made ourselves ready so far during this liturgical year to contemplate the person of Jesus Christ so that we can know Him more deeply? Knowledge leads to love, and love to imitation. Jesus, Who is the way, the truth, and the life, must be the center, the criterion, and the model for our daily lives. This is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
Had Jesus of Nazareth been a Roman or a Greek, certainly His contemporaries would have left behind statues in His honor. However, because the Jews had a strict understanding of idolatry, their interpretation of the Mosaic Law did not allow them to make any images whatsoever of any human person. It would have been interesting if we had been left something that would illustrate the physical attributes of the Lord. Throughout the centuries, there has been much discussion on the subject. The Shroud of Turin and Veronica’s veil tell us a lot about His Middle Eastern features; however, our faith is best served by depending on the one authenticated source, the Gospels.
Strong in Body and Soul
The accounts written by the Evangelists depict our Lord’s great capacity for physical activity. The long hours spent at hard work in the carpentry shop had prepared him well for the grueling task of His public ministry.
He walked many miles under the blazing Middle Eastern sun in order to preach the Kingdom of God. He slept many nights under the stars, and He spent much of that time in the bliss of silent prayer. He found little time to eat because of the multitudes seeking His healing touch, and yet when He did find time to rest, He slept so profoundly that not even a terrible storm could awaken Him.
His body was strong and so was His soul. During the hours of tribulation in Gethsemane, He persevered in profound prayer while the Apostles slept. When Joseph of Arimathea requested His body for burial, Pilate was surprised to discover that Jesus had died so quickly. Pilate knew that He had encountered a strong Galilean.
Jesus did not display His divinity in the manner of the mythical figures of Greek and Roman literature. He did not fly from place to place as though He were some sort of superman. Amazingly, in Him the supernatural and the natural were interwoven. His divinity seemed so simple and normal.
No mysterious beams of light, flashes of lightning, or peals of thunder occurred as He performed His miracles. Instead, it was enough for Him to touch or be touched.
Only once did He show the magnificence of His divinity before a select group of Apostles. Even then, during the Transfiguration, the experience was brief, simple, and discreet.
Simple and Irresistible
Aside from His physical attributes, Jesus knew exactly what He wanted. He was one with His mission. Everything that He did proceeded from His passionate desire to fulfill the will of the Father.
Unlike the complicated discourse of many philosophers and religious leaders, our Lord’s teaching is simple and easy enough for everyone to understand, so clear and precise that His words are irresistible to all those who listen. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. If anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well. Do not judge and you will not be judged. Why do observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own?
Who is this man Who has divided history into two parts? Who is this man Who has divided nations? Who is this man for Whom many of His followers have given their lives rather than deny Him?
John the Baptist knew Him immediately: “Behold, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world. Now I have seen and testified that He is the Son of God” (Jn 1:29; 34).
What do we need to do in order to truly know Christ Jesus? Above all, we must open our minds and hearts to all of His words; we cannot remove pages from the Scriptures and reduce Christianity to our own comfort level. When we are completely open, the Holy Spirit floods our souls with His loving and peaceful presence. But God respects our freedom, so only those who open themselves can believe and see.
Knowledge automatically brings us to love. About Christ it is true: To know Him is to love Him. And love brings about transformation. The goal of discipleship is to die to self so that the Lord may live within us. Whether that disciple is Paul, Sosthenes, John the Baptist, or everyone “who has called upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 1: 2).
At our own baptisms, the priest touched our ears and said, “Ephphetha, be open.” To live our baptism then is to be open: Listen to the preaching of Christ that we encounter through the rest of the liturgical year. Get to know the Lord. Let your love deepen and be transformed by it.
We walk the narrow and difficult Gospel road, but we walk it with Christ, and He leads us to eternal life.
image: The Supper at Emmaus by Caravaggio/Wikimedia Commons