Jesus affirms who he is and whose he is in today’s Gospel of John. Despite those who do not believe that he is the Messiah, Jesus again makes his point very clear: “I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me” (Jn 7:28-29). Jesus is the Son of God made man and he belongs to the One who sent him, God the Father.
As Jesus was challenged in his time, he continues to be challenged today. That level of challenge has increased even to the degree that his human existence is even dismissed in some circles as a mere legend. Even as a historical figure, some speculate that Jesus did not walk the roads of Galilee and Judea as recorded in today’s Gospel. This need not be a reason for alarm. Though it is a reason to know our Tradition, the deposit of faith that has been preserved and passed on from Jesus to his Apostles and disciples, and to those early Church Fathers and Mothers named and unnamed, and passed on up to us to this day in an unbroken apostolic succession. We need to know the Bible, how to read the sacred Word, to understand its context and schedule daily time to encounter the Word proclaimed in worship, prayer, and private study.
We also need to know what we believe, who we believe in, and whose we belong to. In this way when we are challenged, we do not need to stoop into a defensive crouch, but instead listen to the person’s points, their critiques, and ask questions of what they believe and why they believe what they believe. We can defend our position while at the same time being open to understanding where our interlocutors are coming from. We can then respond with the truth, just as Jesus did, with an open mind and heart of surrender to allow the Holy Spirit to be present through us.
When we are anxious, defensive, argumentative, seeking to be right, or fearing to be wrong, we limit what Jesus can do through us. God is not about numbers and quotas, he is about building relationships, one person at a time. It is more important to build relationships than to win arguments. We can learn much from St. Bernadette of Soubirous who when challenged time and again regarding the validity of her experiences and encounters with Mary, St. Bernadette responded, “My job is to inform, not convince.”
We are responsible for learning, growing, and continuing to develop our relationship with Jesus, and as we continue our journey of faith, to share what we have received in a spirit of charity and dialogue with those we interact with, to be honest when we do not know the answer and promise to find the answer and get back to the person. We are all on this journey of seeking the True, the Good, and the Beautiful together. Let us respect and love those who challenge our faith, just as Jesus and St Bernadette did, and be open to the reality that they may have something to teach us, and allow God to guide each of us home through our encounter with each other.
Photo: CN students signing yearbooks, reminiscing on their journey shared and the new one to begin – now three years underway!