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?”

Guidance for the new year from Pope Francis

pope-francis-0101Pope Francis celebrated yesterday’s Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God with two homilies.  In the first, given at Vespers on the vigil of the feast (31-December-2013), he encouraged us to examine ourselves by reviewing how we lived during the calendar year which is about to end:

While the year 2013 comes to an end, we gather, as in a basket, the days, the weeks, the months that we have lived, to offer everything to the Lord. And we ask ourselves: how have we lived the time He has given us? Did we use it above all for ourselves, for our interests, or did we know how to spend it also for others? And God? How much time did we reserve to “be with Him,” in prayer, in silence?

We should develop the habit of examining ourselves in this manner frequently – even daily!  Notice that Pope Francis understands the primacy of the interior life (of which our Blessed Mother is the best example), which is the foundation upon which our life of service is built.  Our Lord prefers that we offer our actions to Him only if we are first striving to deepen our relationship with Him:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’  (Matthew 7:21-23)

The following day (01-January-2014) in his homily at Mass, Pope Francis highlighted two aspects of the holiness of our Blessed Mother which we should strive to emulate:

The Mother of the Redeemer goes before us and continually strengthens us in faith, in our vocation and in our mission. By her example of humility and openness to God’s will she helps us to transmit our faith in a joyful proclamation of the Gospel to all, without reservation.

If we include devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary in our own spiritual lives, grow in humility, and seek and embrace God’s will (versus our own will, preferences, etc.), we will be inspired to joyfully proclaim Jesus to others.