Image: Oblate Mission House, Paulatuk
St. Paul’s exhortation to the Jewish people of Antioch continues today. Yesterday Paul recounted the history of the Jewish people and reminded them of the long road they had been on with God at their side. Today Paul concludes his thoughts by sharing how God was now doing something new and that the long-awaited promise of a Messiah was at last being fulfilled in the person of Jesus. Unfortunately, not everyone was on board with God’s plan.
Paul tells how the authorities failed to recognize Jesus. They condemned him and, on a pretext had him sentenced to death.
Sometimes it seems that the scriptures judge the people of Jesus’ time harshly for not recognizing him as the Son of God but if I were to put myself in their shoes I am not sure that I would fair much better.
Jesus spoke in parables and metaphors that confused even his closest followers. He hung around with those who were less desirable and seemed to willfully antagonize those others who would have been in a better place to promote his cause. Furthermore, Paul continues by saying how the prophets had revealed already that God had manipulated this obfuscation. The fact that Jesus was misunderstood was, somehow, a part of God’s plan for our salvation.
I wish I could say that today, with all that has been revealed, I am better able to recognize Jesus but I am not so sure. We are told that where two or three are gathered in his name he is there, but do I really recognize Jesus in my brother and sister? Jesus said that whatever I do to the least of my sister or brother I do it to him, but do I really see Christ in the poor, in the addicted, in those who are mentally ill? Jesus says blessed are those who are persecuted for my name’s sake, but am I really able to see Jesus in those who hate me?
In so many ways Jesus remains hidden, unrecognizable. In so many ways I crucify Christ again and again on the pretext that my will be done, not God’s will. Where will I find my salvation if I can’t even find Christ?
In the Gospel Thomas asks essentially the same question.
“Master, we do not know where you are going;
how can we know the way?”
I love St. Thomas, he is the one who is willing to ask the question that we are all thinking but too ashamed to admit. “Lord, where are you?” But Jesus’ response is simple, “Do not let your hearts be troubled, have faith”
Our salvation is not found in our ability to recognize Jesus nor in our ability to do good works for our neighbor. God’s promise is not dependent on how well we tolerate abuse from those who test us. Our salvation is found in faith. It is in our belief that God loves us and that Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of the promise of that love.
St. Paul concludes his exhortation to the Jewish people with these words,
“We ourselves are proclaiming this good news to you
that what God promised our fathers
he has brought to fulfillment for us, their children, by raising up Jesus.”
He tells them it does not matter that no one recognized Jesus. It does not matter that no one honored him or promoted his cause. What matters is that God sent him and as long as that is our faith we will find the way.