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THE LOVING KNOWLEDGE OF THE SAINT IS NON-MANIPULATIVE

THE LOVING KNOWLEDGE OF THE SAINT IS NON-MANIPULATIVE

(A biblical reflection on THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER [Year B], 18 April 2021)

Gospel Reading: Luke 24:35-48

First Reading: Acts 3:13-15,17-19; Psalms: Psalm 4:2,4,7,9; Second Reading: 1 John 2:1-5

The Scripture Text

Then they told what had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

As they were saying this, Jesus Himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you.” But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; handle Me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when He had said this He showed them His hands and His feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave Him a piece of broiled fish, and He took it and ate before them.

Then He said to them, “These are my words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. (Luke 24:35-48 RSV)

A Doctor of the Church, Saint Thomas Aquinas, tells us that we can know a thing in two ways:  the way of the philosopher and the way of the saint. The way of the philosopher is one in which knowledge is obtained about a thing. We come to such knowledge by way of analysis. We break a thing into its various parts. We come to know how it works. We come to know what its goal or function is. Such knowledge is obtained at a distance. We hold the thing away from us in order to gain perspective. Objective knowledge comes from removing as much of ourselves as possible.

The second way is the way of the saint. We come to know a thing by participation in its being. This is the way of love. Such knowledge calls for involvement, commitment and care. We do not keep a distance or break a thing into its various parts. Rather, we seek to learn its wholeness. For we see that the thing as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We do not seek to gain knowledge by manipulation or analysis. We exhibit reverence to allow a thing to show (reveal) itself as it is. This calls for patience. Knowledge by way of love creates an atmosphere which allows a thing to be self-revealing and accepted for itself. In a word: the loving knowledge of the saint is non-manipulative.

All this may sound rather abstract. However, it is very concrete. The two ways to knowing are part of our everyday lives. For example, there are two ways of knowing a friend or family member. We can know about them. We can know “what makes them tick.” We keep a distance and try to see how their various parts work together. We have all experienced such a way of knowing. But there is always a significant part of the other that we never know. We resent being the object of such ways of knowing. We feel we are being inspected. We feel like a specimen put under a microscope.

By contrast there is the knowledge revealed through love. We do not seek to manipulate or control the other. We allow the other person to reveal himself as he is. Love creates an environment which tells the other she can be seen as she is and not be rejected, ridiculed or made to feel unworthy. Love bestows on the human relationship the grace of acceptance. And with such acceptance we truly become who we are. Loving relationship bring out our best.

All of the above can be said about our relationship with Jesus Christ. We can know a great deal about Jesus. We can read (and even write!) books and take courses about theology and spirituality. We can study ethics and Christian revelation. Our knowledge about history may qualify us to win any trivia contest. Yet all this knowledge does not guarantee that we will know Jesus in the way of the saints. Our relationship with Jesus requires of us more than the knowledge of the theologian and the philosopher. Note: This is not an anti-intellectualism attitude at my part. I personally believe that our love of God can greatly enriched by intellectual knowledge and study. However, mere intellectual knowledge is never sufficient in itself. We desire both kinds of knowledge so as to truly love God with our whole being.

The first letter of John (second reading) indicates one of the dangers of simply knowing about God. Some community members are claiming “to know” Jesus. However, they do not keep the commandments. The illusion is that one who knows the content of the commandments is home free. No more is required. There can be no true love and honesty without a willingness to put God’s word into practice. “He who says ‘I know Him’ but disobeys His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him truly love for God is perfected” (1 John 2:4-5) Indeed, true knowledge of God must move from the head to the center of one’s life.

Our Gospel reading from Luke shows us the inadequacy of simply knowing a great deal about Jesus. During times of stress and fear one’s knowledge about Jesus provides little guidance and support. We panic and begin to confuse the real presence of Jesus with all kinds of false images and stories. In their panic and fright the disciples thought they were seeing a ghost/spirit (Luke 24:37). It is only when our knowledge is matured by love that we too can be the witnesses of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

In order to grow in the knowledge of Jesus grounded in love, we must follow the preaching of Peter in Acts (first reading): “And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ should suffer, He thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:17-19). Without such a reformation and knowledge made perfect through love, we do all kinds of destructive and tragic things to ourselves and others. Jesus knew this: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Jesus knew what He was doing because His knowledge of the Father, and each of us, is total love.

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, You are my hope and my deliverer! I praise You for the love that brought You to the cross. I worship You for Your pure and holy blood shed over my life. Let my knowledge of You stays grounded in love. Amen.

Jakarta, 17 April 2021

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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JOHN 6:20 (Today’s Gospel Reading: John 6:16-21)

Jakarta, 17 April 2021

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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JOHN 6:15 (Today’s Gospel Reading: John 6:1-15)

Jakarta, 16 April 2021

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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JOHN 3:36 (Today’s Gospel Reading: John 3:31-36)

Jakarta, 15 April 2021

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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JOHN 3:20-21 (Today’s Gospel Reading: John 3:16-21)

Jakarta, 14 April 2021

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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JOHN 3:14-15 (Today’s Gospel Reading: John 3:7-15)

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.” (John 3:14, see Numbers 21:9; John 8:28; 12:34)

Jakarta, 13 April 2021

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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JOHN 3:5 (Today’s Gospel Reading: John 3:1-8)

Jakarta, 12 April 2021

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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JOHN 20:21-23 (Today’s Gospel Reading: John 20:19-31)

Jakarta, 11 April 2021

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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MY LORD AND MY GOD!

MY LORD AND MY GOD!

(A biblical refection on THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER [YEAR B] – 11 April 15 2021)

[Sunday of Divine Mercy]

Gospel Reading: John 20:19-31

First Reading: Acts 4:32-35; Psalms: Psalm 118:2-4,16-18,22-24; Second Reading: 1 John 5:1-6

The Scripture Text

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any they are retained.”

Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But He said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in His side, I will not believe.”

Eight days later, His disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see My hands; and put out your hand, and place it in My side; do not be faithless, but believing.” Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:19-31 RSV)

How fortunate for us that Thomas was not with the other disciples when Jesus first appeared!  In Thomas’ delayed encounter with Jesus, we get a glimpse of how Jesus looked at Thomas – and looks at all of His people.

What would we have said to Thomas if we had been Jesus? Would we have berated him for not believing Jesus’ words about His coming death and resurrection? Would we have chided him for not trusting the other apostles’ testimony? Would we have seen him as a failure who lacked the faith needed to carry on the teaching of the Gospel?

Throughout scripture, faith in God stands out as a vital “testing point” for the people of God. In the creation story, Adam and Eve “failed” the test when they placed more faith in the serpent’s words than in God’s (Genesis 3:1-6). Abraham, on the other hand, pleased God by his decision, in faith, to offer up his son Isaac (Genesis 22:1-8).

Our lives probably contain many “testing points”. They can take the form of financial obligations, medical concerns, strained relationships, or the loss of a loved one. While outwardly we profess that we believe Jesus is in control, inwardly – like Thomas – we demand solutions that we can see and feel and touch. It is at times like these that we can remember how lovingly Jesus came to Thomas and invited him to reach out and know His touch.

Thomas is the bridge between the first apostles and all the generations that would come after them. His story shows us that Jesus can speak to us just as He spoke to Thomas. We do not have to be at the right place at the right time; we do not always have to have the proper response. Jesus will search us out and offer His love to us. All He asks is that we give Him the chance to show us that He is real and that His love for us is not just an abstract concept, but the most powerful force in all of creation. Like Thomas, we can proclaim: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, we are grateful that You do not come to condemn us, but to meet us where we are. We ask that You touch our lives in such a way that when we meet our own “testing points”, we will remain open to Your love and allow You to work even more deeply within us. Amen.

Jakarta, 10 April 2021 [SATURDAY OF THE OCTAVE OF EASTER]

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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MARK 16:15 (Today’s Gospel Reading: Mark 16:9-15)

Jakarta, 10 April 2021 [SATURDAY OF THE OCTAVE OF EASTER]

A Christian Pilgrim

 

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