“The feast of the Dedication was taking place in Jerusalem. It was winter. And Jesus walked about in the temple area on the Portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him,“How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”
Imagine the scene, an overcast winter’s day in Jerusalem with a temperature of around 13 celsius, an annual festival (Dedication of the Temple, (Hanukkah) also celebrated as the Festival of Lights) in full swing, and Jesus walking among the crowds seeking shelter in the Portico of Solomon. (image above and two minute virtual tour of the Temple at this link).
I like the bold approach of these Jews, marching up to Jesus as he strolls between the columns: “If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”
This is prayer at its best: direct, honest, full of passion and curiosity with an edge of frustration and a touch of desperation. We want to know and we want to know NOW! Stop keeping us in suspense Jesus! Who are you?
It is common for us who seek to grow in faith to become weary of vagueness about exactly whom or what we are engaging with when we are praying. Are we praying to a God usually imagined as the mighty Old Testament creator, a distant deity who speaks from remote heavens? Perhaps its the Holy Spirit we try to connect with, thought of as even more mysterious presence named Holy Ghost. Or are we seeking relationship with Jesus, too often reduced to nothing more than a holy and wise human teacher and impressive miracle-worker?
And then there are times of prayer when we wonder if we are just talking to ourselves.
If you experience this uncertainty, try turning to Jesus directly and passionately. Approach Jesus with the boldness of those Jews. Perhaps like me you will discover that with this direct and honest approach you are no longer flailing about in thin air wondering if there is anyone listening? Listen to your inner confidence telling you that you really are being heard because Jesus is real and present. Jesus is delighting in your confident and open approach and he is wanting to respond if you let him.
Pope Benedict expresses my personal experience of this growth very clearly in his three-volume encounter with Jesus of Nazareth. He writes “Intimate friendship with Jesus, on which everything depends, is in danger of clutching at thin air.”
Benedict continues to ask the robust, direct, honest and curious question that was my own wondering: “What did Jesus actually bring, if not world peace, universal prosperity, and a better world? What has Jesus brought?
“The answer is very simple: God…. Jesus has brought God, and now we know his face, now we can call upon him. Now we know the path that we human beings have to take in this world. Jesus has brought God and with God the truth about our origin and destiny: faith, hope and love. It is only because of our hardness of heart that we think this is too little. Yes indeed, God’s power works quietly in this world, but it is the true and the lasting power. Again and again, God’s cause seems to be in its death throes. Yet over and over again it proves to be the thing that truly endures and saves.”
While the language of religion can sometimes seem vague and foreign, the language of faith is real and immanent, touching our hearts and focussing our vision.
While talk about God and the Holy Spirit can seem a bit disconnected from our own earthly existence, God, through the Holy Spirit, has given us the fulness of divine presence in Jesus who is God-with-us. Now we can see, touch, and hear God speaking with a human voice, gazing at us with human eyes, smiling at us with love radiating from his human face.
As Jesus reminds us at the conclusion of today’s gospel: “The Father and I are one.”
- Try plain speaking with Jesus in your prayer today.
- An encouragement from St. Teresa of Calcutta: “I worry some of you still have not really met Jesus – one to one – you and Jesus alone . . . . He loves you, but even more – he longs for you”.
- Today’s gospel reading at this link
LECTIO DIVINA FOR TUESDAY OF EASTER WEEK IV (4 May 2020)
Tuesday Easter Week IV (15 minutes)
Tuesday Easter Week IV (25 minutes)