People are respected today because they are influential, because they are important or even useful. Who respects or cares for people who are not important? A young man who says he doesn’t believe in God happened to say to me recently that he supported churches because they represent and values that are good and healthy, like compassion. And compassion is a commodity that’s getting scarce.
It sometimes happens during the celebration of Mass that a young child begins to cry out. Glancing quickly and discreetly in the direction of the sound I’d spot the culprit, a two-year-old with well-developing vocal chords. More often than not the kid is on the pew between its parents, either in a portable baby carrier or just fidgeting and holding on. The child’s entreaties continue until Mom or Dad takes it up, holds it close and rubs its back. Then all is quiet again.
Several years ago while at a wedding reception I met a man who wanted to introduce me to his “amazing wife Tara” and his “incredible son Jason.” I’ve never seen him since then but I remember his over-use of adjectives.
“Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest awhile.”
The apostles had returned after their first mission by themselves and had gathered around Jesus for some debriefing. What a beautiful scene as they shared their various experiences with him. Having listened to everything they had to say, Jesus invited them to come away and rest awhile.
Jesus looked like the real ticket for a while, and for the few people he lifted out of their misery by his miracles, he was a godsend. In the end, he appeared to be a failure and a disappointment to his contemporaries. In our current world, he is a nobody. Unbelievers see our preoccupation with Jesus as “hocus-pocus,” sheer nonsense and a waste of time.
John the Baptizer is revered not only in Christianity but also in Islam, the Bahai’ faith and other religions. Why is he so important? I think the official answer to that is because he announced the One who would come after him. In that sense he was not a follower of Christ, but had more faith and trust than Jesus ever asked of his disciples.
The simple meal that Jesus hosted with his disciples on the night before he died was packed with symbolism and meaning and divine love.
Our tradition holds that God is “agape,” i.e. love in the sense of self-gift. The tradition, e.g. 1 John 4:8 & 16, says that God is love (‘agape’), not that God is “one who loves.” “Love” is not the name of a person. It’s the name of a relationship between three persons. God is “Love.” God is the loving community of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
As a young student of theology I remember trying to grasp and make something practical of the Church’s teaching that the Holy Spirit was ‘the love between the Father and the Son.’ The doctrine felt dry and academic, and I used to wonder why there were big bitter fights over it in early Christianity.
‘If I had ever met someone who was a genuine Christian, I would have become one immediately’ – Gandhi.