Love Returns

Scripture (John 7:40-53)

Some in the crowd who heard these words of Jesus said,
"This is truly the Prophet."
Others said, "This is the Christ."
But others said, "The Christ will not come from Galilee, will he?
Does not Scripture say that the Christ will be of David's family
and come from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?"
So a division occurred in the crowd because of him.
Some of them even wanted to arrest him,
but no one laid hands on him.

So the guards went to the chief priests and Pharisees,
who asked them, "Why did you not bring him?"
The guards answered, "Never before has anyone spoken like this man."
So the Pharisees answered them, "Have you also been deceived?
Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him?
But this crowd, which does not know the law, is accursed."
Nicodemus, one of their members who had come to him earlier, said to them,
"Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him
and finds out what he is doing?"
They answered and said to him,
"You are not from Galilee also, are you?
Look and see that no prophet arises from Galilee."

Then each went to his own house.

Reflection

In the Gospel today, both the people and the Jewish leaders are trying to figure out Jesus’ identity, based on the prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures.  Is this mysterious man truly the Messiah or not?  Nicodemus is the sole courageous voice who defends Jesus against the angry bias of the others. Because of his engaging conversation with the Lord at the beginning of John’s Gospel, Nicodemus had a completely different and positive understanding of who Jesus was.

A clear dynamic exists between knowledge and love.  We can only truly love a person that we know but we can only truly know a person through the lens of unconditional love.  How easy to judge a situation or a person of which we have no clear understanding.  How quickly we can categorize people, based on race, religion or legal status, but when we actually come to know and love individuals whom we have seen as “other,” our prejudices fall away.  Those who criticized, attacked and eventually condemned Jesus never knew his heart.

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Saint Patrick, whose feast we celebrate today, was born in Britain, captured and sold into slavery in Ireland, where he suffered all of the injustices and drudgery of oppressive injustice.  He eventually escaped, went back to Britain, became a priest and a bishop and returned to Ireland to evangelize the very people who had held him captive.  What an example of unconditional love!  Patrick returned to the place of his enslaved abuse and preached Christ’s Gospel of mercy and forgiveness to the very people who had hurt him.  He had come to know the Irish and came to love them.  Patrick’s witness to Christ converted an entire nation.

When we can look at others with the eyes of Christ, we see goodness, dignity, suffering, perseverance and potential in even the most disagreeable or difficult person.  When we dare to love others, even those who hurt us, we come to know them as children of God, as brothers and sisters in the Lord, as fellow pilgrims on the way to the Kingdom.   Each person can only be understood, known and loved from the inside.  This Lent, we have been journeying ever deeper into the heart of Christ, because we can only know Jesus from the depths within.  This pilgrimage of the heart is the royal road of our salvation.

Questions

  • How can you love the challenging people in your life with greater generosity and authenticity?
  • Which categories of people are you most ready to judge and criticize?
To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”
— Timothy Keller
 
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These Lenten reflections are written by friends of 12plus1, Inc.  Discovery House a service-based gap year experience for participants ages 18-20 will begin August 2018.  Please share this information with an individuals who may want to participate or support this new ministry.

Action 

Consciously choose to get to know and even befriend a person who you may have labeled as “other.”

Prayer

Lord, help us to unconditionally love others as you do.  Like Saint Patrick, may we help heal the world by forgiving like Christ, proclaiming the Gospel like the Apostles and serving the poor and suffering as did all of the saints.  May we know the Lord Jesus from the inside and so come to salvation and new life.  Amen.

Author

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Bishop Donald J. Hying grew up in West Allis, WI.  Ordained a priest in 1989 he served as a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee until being named auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in 2011.  He was appointed Bishop of the diocese of Gary by Pope Francis in 2014.