Who Is Jesus?
September 23, 2021 (readings)
- Memorial of Saint Pius of Pietrelcina, Priest
- Fr. John Bullock, LC
Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was greatly perplexed because some were saying, “John has been raised from the dead”; others were saying, “Elijah has appeared”; still others, “One of the ancient prophets has arisen.” But Herod said, “John I beheaded. Who then is this about whom I hear such things?” And he kept trying to see him.
Opening Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, I come before you in prayer. Increase my faith so I can grasp your word. Strengthen my love to live your word, and fortify my hope to hold onto your word. May our encounter in this time of prayer bear fruit in my soul.
Herod Was Greatly Perplexed: Upon hearing about Jesus, Herod “was greatly perplexed.” In the Gospel of Mark, Herod even said that Jesus “is John whom I beheaded. He has been raised up” (Mark 6:16). Herod, as worldly as he was, could not fully disavow his attraction to the sacred. Before beheading John, “Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man… when he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him” (Mark 6:20). Now his fascination with the saintly John and his guilty conscience (for having beheaded John) made Herod uneasy when hearing about Jesus. While people may try to ignore their religious and moral sense and live a hedonistic lifestyle, the voice of conscience calling man back to goodness and truth is very resilient. This is so because God made us in his image and likeness.
Understanding Jesus: Speaking of Jesus, some were saying, “John has been raised from the dead”; others were saying, “Elijah has appeared”; still others, “One of the ancient prophets has arisen.” Jesus will always remain a mystery to those who try to understand him without faith. Rationalism, superstition, and popular opinion will always fall short. While the Church has always defended the harmony between faith and reason, we can never forget that to speak of God, to speak of Jesus, is to approach a mystery—something that transcends us. Similar to Herod’s friends, numerous authors have often tried to describe Jesus according to their own criteria, saying Jesus is merely a moral teacher, an activist, or a rebel. However, in the forward to his book, Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote that such an approach reveals more about the worldview of the author than about Jesus. To begin to understand Jesus, we must humbly approach him in all of his mystery, as the Incarnate Son of God.
A Desire to See Jesus: In another passage, Jesus told his disciples, “But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” We are ultimately created and called to the beatific vision in heaven, that is, to see God face to face (CCC 163). The Incarnation is the visible face of God, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Therefore, the longing to see Jesus goes well beyond mere curiosity in a miracle-maker. When sharing the faith with people who may seem indifferent to it, remember that encountering Jesus speaks to their most profound desire, even if for the moment they do not know it.
Conversing with Christ: “Jesu joy of man’s desiring; Holy wisdom, love most bright; Drawn by Thee, our souls aspiring; Soar to uncreated light” (from Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”). May my contemplation of your face, O Lord, increase my desire to live ever closer to you in this life, and one day attain eternal union with you in heaven. May I offer you all my joys and sorrows in this life to serve as gratitude for your friendship.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will take an extra moment to praise your goodness.
For Further Reflection: Read the lyrics from Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring..
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