April 5, 2017
Dear fellow pilgrims,
I greet you from Wednesday, when I have time to write a reflection. My little boy is sleeping on my chest in a wrap, and all is quiet.
After reading a little before the above reading for today, I discovered that this excerpt falls within a section entitled, “Jeremiah’s interior crisis.” I read a little more and discovered that this is when Jeremiah is struggling to accept his mission from God, which was, in part, to prophesy the impending new covenant between God and Israel (ok, maybe I also read the Wikipedia article about Jeremiah). This mirrors the conflict in the Gospel reading between Jesus, the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy, where Jesus is struggling to communicate His identity as Son of God to the Jews. Jesus appeals to them: Look at the good I have done, and tell me these works were not made possible through the same Father we both know. He takes that first statement and appeals with the transitive property: How could I have done these things if I was not in the Father, and the Father was not in me? (“If I do not perform my Father's works, do not believe me; but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may realize and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”)
He is pointing out that one cannot truly believe in the veracity of His miracles, His works, His signs without also believing in the veracity of His identity as the Son of God.
How often do we seek great signs and works from God without any prayer of knowing HIM more?
How often do we make the same mistakes as this crowd: refusing to acknowledge Him rightfully as God, and we, His servants, in the wake of good and sometimes even dramatic divine works?
We want His works, good things known in our day as “results! improvement! help! healing! productivity! renown among my friends!” Sometimes all we want is any answer! Many times, we want very good things, works, signs from God, but in our heart of hearts, we don’t really want Him. When this happens, it is because we don’t understand His identity and mission: to woo and win our hearts by any and all means necessary.
For the Jews, believing in His identity would mean believing in a new, greater, unknown covenant that their prophets spoke of long ago; believing in Jesus’ identity would necessitate believing in His mission, which would usurp the power of the pharisees. mission but the Jews in this reading experience cognitive dissonance and angrily reject both the reality of His works and His identity. After He points this out, they do not reply with words (they are stumped and angry), they reply with aggression, a sign of things to come.
And what does Jesus do after this harsh encounter? Nearing the culmination of His work, He returns to a place where His public ministry began, and also, where the marriage between holy works and His identity were on full display: the Jordan river, where He was baptized by John and declared as the Father’s beloved Son. People were also reminded of the things that John prophesied about WHO Jesus is, and “many there began to believe.” These are the people who had paid attention to this Jesus, to His works and His words, but had not yet actually believed in Him. They also were following Him, but probably not knowing why. But now, back at this holy place again… things were starting to make sense. Jesus had integrity; John was right, He is the Lord.
Sometimes Jesus has to take us back to a familiar place to help us move forward. And for the many of us who will be making their umpteenth Frassati retreat at Villa Maria Guadalupe this weekend, this is also a potent place where we can rest and allow God to show us Himself through all the little pieces of works in our lives. We can see where we have been pharisees, reacting to Jesus’ appeals with anger, trying to drive him out. We can see where we have been the reluctant believer, waiting for a sign, but finally realizing in the quiet of our heart that God is indeed who He says He is, and also who He reveals Himself to be through the good testimony of others.
I encourage you all this weekend to follow Jesus wherever He takes you in your meditation and prayer this weekend. Look back to the place where He began His ministry in your heart, and examine your life with an eye for the works and signs HE has accomplished: What do they say about WHO He is? I can guarantee that any and all signs and works are meant to woo your heart back to Him, closer than you were before.