Flesh-and-Blood vs. Divine Revelation

Jesus and Peter

If you go to Mass tomorrow (Sunday), the Gospel reading you’ll hear is Matthew 16:13-19.

Before I had a renewal of my faith at age 26, if someone had asked me who Jesus was, I would have likely replied in a manner seemingly similar to Peter, acknowledging Jesus as the Son of God who died to save us from our sins.  However, unlike Peter, my knowledge of who Jesus was came primarily from what I heard each week at Mass, in the Stations of the Cross which my family attended faithfully each Friday during Lent, and in my Religion classes in Catholic elementary school.  My knowledge of Jesus came from what I learned.  It was more academic than experiential.  It was revealed to me by “flesh and blood.”

The difference between the “people” to whom Jesus first referred in this Gospel (as well as the pre-renewal me) and Peter and the Apostles was that the Apostles experienced a desire for Jesus which resulted in a deep understanding of who Jesus was, rather than an incorrect or superficial knowledge.  Their desire was evidenced by the fact that they made a daily decision to keep following Jesus.  We know from what we read in John 6:66 and Matthew 19:22 that at various times for various reasons followers of Jesus could and would stop following him.  I have the free will to stop following Jesus anytime. My desire to keep following Jesus is a cooperation with the grace which our “heavenly Father” pours out upon me, as it was also for Peter and the Apostles.  As a result of my faithfulness, I experience a depth of God’s love for me personally which takes my knowledge of who Jesus is to truly heartfelt heights, far surpassing my merely human – revealed by “flesh and blood” – knowledge of who he is.

That’s why whenever I take the time to assess my faithfulness to my baptismal calling, the first and most important never-to-be-omitted question I ask myself is “What was my level of desire for God today?”

The Christian community and its young people

Recently, at a Sunday Mass, our pastor honored several young parishoners who had recently graduated from high-school and college.  It was a wonderful opportunity for recognition.  The graduates were affirmed by our pastor for their academic accomplishments, as well as for their participation in our parish.

In his Message for the 32nd World Day of Prayer for Vocations, St John Paul II offered the following pointed advice for youth:

It is in following Jesus that youth displays all the richness of its potentiality and acquires its full meaning.
It is in following Jesus that the young discover the sense of a life lived as a gift of self, and experience the beauty and truth of growing in love.
It is in following Jesus that they feel themselves called to communion with him as living members of a single body, which is the Church.
It is in following Jesus that it will be possible for them to understand the personal call to love: in matrimony, in the consecrated life, in the ordained ministry, in the mission ad gentes.

Having established that an ongoing encounter with the living Christ should be the highest priority for youth, JP2 also offered advice for the rest of us in the Church:

What is needed today is a Church which knows how to respond to the expectations of young people. Jesus wants to enter into dialogue with them and, through his Body which is the Church, to propose the possibility of a choice which will require a commitment of their lives. As Jesus with the disciples of Emmaus, so the Church must become today the traveling companion of young people, who are often marked by confusion, resistance and contradictions, in order to announce to them the ever-astonishing “news” of the risen Christ.

This is what is needed: a Church for young people, which will know how to speak to their heart and enkindle, comfort, and inspire enthusiasm in it with the joy of the Gospel and the strength of the Eucharist; a Church which will know how to invite and to welcome the person who seeks a purpose for which to commit his whole existence; a Church which is not afraid to require much, after having given much; which does not fear asking from young people the effort of a noble and authentic adventure, such as that of the following of the Gospel.

The entire message is well worth reading, and quite challenging.  Near the conclusion, JP2 offered this brief but magnificent prayer to Our Blessed Mother for young people:

O Virgin of Nazareth,
the “yes” spoken in youth marked your
existence and it grew as did your life itself.

O Mother of Jesus,
in your free and joyful “yes”
and in your active faith so many generations
and so many educators have found inspiration
and strength for welcoming the Word of God
and for fulfilling his will.

O Teacher of life,
teach young people to pronounce the “yes”
that gives meaning to existence
and brings them to discover the hidden “name” of God
in the heart of every person.

O Queen of the Apostles, give us wise educators,
who will know how to love young people and help them grow,
guiding them to the encounter with Truth which makes one free and happy.
Amen!

Our Redeemer is praying for us

One short sentence from this past Sunday’s Gospel reading has been reverberating in my mind all week.  Jesus, speaking to the Father about his apostles, said in John 17:9a:

I pray for them.

Jesus prayed for his apostles, and he continues today to pray for all of us, as we are told in Hebrews 7:25:

…[Jesus] is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them.

As I repeatedly think about Jesus, the King of Kings, praying for me, I am profoundly humbled.  I almost immediately begin to think of how easily I neglect Jesus amid the busyness of my life, or how I selfishly prefer to do things other than pray or read the Bible.  Jesus’ words from Matthew 26:40 echo in my mind:

So you could not keep watch with me for one hour?

I am surely grateful to Jesus that he continues to pray for me, that he is faithful even though I am so often unfaithful to him.

Heart of Jesus, patient and most merciful, have mercy on me.

UPDATE:  From the Catechism:

667  Jesus Christ, having entered the sanctuary of heaven once and for all, intercedes constantly for us as the mediator who assures us of the permanent outpouring of the Holy Spirit.