Thursday, September 25, 2014

Getting to Know Jesus: Introduction

Last spring I started reading Sherry Weddell's book, "Forming Intentional Disciples".  I had seen it repeatedly quoted in Scott Hahn's new book on evangeliztion.  It was also recommended to me by my spiritual director.  For the better part of a two decades as a priest, I have tried to figure out how to most effective in not just preaching and teaching the Gospel, the entirety of the Scriptures, and Church teaching, but also wanting to create those who embraced the continual conversion these writings call for us to engage with in ourselves.  I tried various things.  Some worked and some didn't. In fact, some spectacularly bombed.  It hit me that I was going about this wrong.  I was teaching about something and not introducing them to a relationship.  There is a big difference between knowing about someone and knowing someone.  Knowing about someone might lead to a relationship; knowing them will make that much more likely.

Why relationship?  Why is knowing about not enough?  God doesn't use the terminology of the classroom predominantly. He predominantly uses relationship terms, specifically familial ones.  This relationship has a look based on how God has revealed Himself.  We call this divine revelation.  God reveals Himself as our limited brains can understand that which is not limited to time and space.  He does this because He wants us to share in His life.  He leaves a record of that divine revelation in the Scriptures.  The height of that revelation comes through Jesus Christ. We have four Gospels that want to tell us who Jesus is.  They are not designed to be a biography or be a historical record as we would see in history books.  The Gospels are much more interested in telling who Jesus is so that we might know Him.

I decided to take a suggestion from Forming Intentional Disciples and focus on a Gospel, going verse by verse, with these questions dominating the class:  Who is Jesus?  What motivates Him?  What type of person is He?  This isn't a psychological study.  I believe if we understand who calls us into a relationship, we might be more understanding and trustful.  My goal isn't for people to just get to know Jesus, but to fall in love with Him and to realize that he loves us.  We have been going through the Gospel of Matthew after our weekend Masses (can you believe about 1/4 of the parish stays!?).  I also teach 7th/8th grade religion and we begin each class with going verse by verse of the Gospel of Matthew.

I am not a biblical scholar.  While I use the scholarly works available to me in disseminating the Gospel, I use much more prayer in preparation.  What I aim to do over the next several months is to go through that same Gospel on this blog...verse by verse, chapter by chapter.  I hope it might help especially those who doubt God or have a loose relationship at best with God and His people.  I believe that once we get to understand Jesus, we will fall in love with Him and allow Him to transform our life.  I wish to take the reader on the same journey we are going through in the parish and school.

Be aware, though, that getting to know Jesus will be unsettling at times.  It might make us question our own motivations and make us challenge behavior.  Let's be honest, though, does not any good relationship transform us (sometimes begrudgingly) for the better?  I sincerely pray that whoever reads this will come to faith, belief, and enter into the relationship for which we are eternally created.

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