- Fr. John Jennings
Our Sacred Stories: Seeing with the Vision of Jesus
What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus the Christ? What does the job description look like? If we read the Gospels with the question “What does this tell me about being a disciple of Jesus” we begin to discover who we are. On a recent Sunday we heard a reading drawn from the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy (Deut.30:10-14). This passage presents the directions or rules for living as a faithful member of God’s People. There we are told that as a People of God we are to turn to God with all our heart and soul. According to Deuteronomy this will not be difficult, for what we are called to rests within the human heart. It wells up from within us, if we allow it. Being a disciple begins here in a heart that longs for God.
What is demanded of us is the commitment to live with what we discover in our hearts. This is no surprise, for every human friendship we experience is nurtured by the degree or level of our heartfelt engagement with the other person. Friendship is dependent on our willingness to commit time, attention and caring for another person. Discipleship in Jesus the Christ has this demand. For discipleship is essentially a relationship – between Jesus the Christ and each of us.
Our relationship with Jesus the Christ draws us into awareness of our relationship with the divine, with our God. And what a relationship it is! At the center of our Christian faith is the Incarnation. All else in our faith is founded on this great truth: God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,… in order that the world might be saved through him (John 3:16-17).
Luke’s story of Martha and Mary points to the challenge we face in our relationship with God through Jesus the Christ (Luke 10:38-42). So often, we make the task of building and nurturing our relationship something we have to take on by ourselves. As Jesus visits them, each of the women have a different sense of what should take place. Martha goes out to welcome Jesus. She works hard at the being the hospitable hostess. Meanwhile, Mary simply sits and listens to Jesus.
When Martha asks Jesus to tell Mary to help her, Jesus responds with Mary has chosen the better part. I have to confess that I am sometimes a bit disappointed by this response on the part of Jesus. As is so often the case in the Gospel accounts, Jesus presents a different way of seeing things, and that is the challenge.
In fact, we are both Martha and Mary. God has gifted all humanity with both body and spirit. The two elements of life are not separated, but one. Disciples of Jesus live by that Christian tradition of contemplation in action. We do not withdraw from the world, from living and working in the world, from service within humanity. For us, all life is filled with the living presence of God, who gifted us with life and who continues among us always.
The spiritual writer, Ron Rolheiser provides some wisdom for addressing the challenge in all of this in Against an Infinite Horizon: The Finger of God in Our Everyday Lives (Crossroad Publishing 2001). In the preface to this work, he sets the direction that will help us all. To have faith is to see everything against an infinite horizon…. When we have the eyes of faith we see a certain divine glow shimmering within the ordinary, just as we see all that is ordinary against a horizon of the eternal.