we have an opportunity for a real encounter with Christ in many ways, but most intimately and profoundly in the Eucharist.
Jesus will be present in body, blood, soul and divinity every single time… so, if we are not encountering Christ at least once a week, it won’t be because He isn’t showing up!
John saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and how it remained on Jesus. He heard the voice of the Father speak a powerful declaration about His only begotten Son. We tend to gage our ‘encounters’ with Christ according to these sorts of amazing moments in the lives of Saints and others, and what happened to John when he baptized Jesus, is something we all might desire to happen in our lives. There’s no doubt that God does move and act in these sorts of powerful ways. I could testify by giving a number of accounts! But these powerful encounters through signs and wonders are not the norm. Most of us, most of the time, are going to ‘encounter’ Christ in ‘small’ ways throughout the ordinary passing of our day. I could tell you about an endless stream of these kinds of encounters.
However, if we are going to meaningfully encounter Christ in the everyday activities of life, we need to be certain or our and His identity and mission. Today’s scriptures speak about both.
Disciples know their teacher, and that knowledge leads to an understanding of and desire to participate in the work of the teacher. We see an example of this in the way in which Religious Communities build on the faith experience of new members in their formation as novices. As the Holy Spirit inspires them to discern their vocation, they begin to be attracted to the charism and work of particular Saints who founded communities. As this attraction grows, so too does their desire to get to know the community and even more so, the founder. When they become initial members of the community, a major portion of their time is spent in prayer, deepening their relationship with Christ, as well as in study of the life and charism of the founder. This spiritual journey helps the men and women to understand themselves and their mission through greater intimate relationship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and how God has moved in the life of a particular Saint and the community which gathered around him or her.
This is really, the same journey for all us. By the actions of the Holy Spirit we understand ourselves better, through coming to understand the Son who fully reveals the Father. Who is the Son?
Central to the identity of Jesus, is that He is “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” That’s why John the Evangelists favorite title for Jesus is "the Lamb of God." Not only does he use it in today’s Gospel, he used it twenty-nine times, in the Book of Revelation.
Christ became the sacrificial Lamb. The Passover Lamb whose body became food for the journey toward freedom for the Israelites, was and is a sacrifice of the moment, but Jesus, at the Last Supper, became the new Lamb who offers himself in sacrifice once and for all, by whose blood we are saved from permanent separation from God and by whose body we are fed and sustained for the journey of our freedom. The journey during which we become what we touch, in the Eucharist.
God is Love, and having been created in the image and likeness of God, we are to be icons of Love. As the Son reveals the Father, we are to reveal the Son. In baptism, we enter the eternal covenant and become the children of God and temples of the presence of the Glory of God on earth. This is what St Paul means when he writes to the Corinthians, "you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy." As the Son is begotten of the Father, we are remade in baptism as brothers and sisters in Christ and are formed into the Body of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
To be ‘Holy’ is to be set apart from all else in creation, especially reserved for God. We could imagine ourselves to be like the large stone Churches of the North East and small chapels of Adoration, where you have had the experience of being enveloped by the mysterious presence of God. Where your soul is exhilarated by the clean aroma of incense and the comforting silence of prayer, respect, and reverence. Everything about the sacred space humbles and inspires. As you go deeper and ‘breathe in’ all the details, the Spirit of God stirs within and guides your eyes to the presence of God manifested in the tabernacle, the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. This is one way of describing the way in which each of us is meant to be encountered by others in the world, aiding the Holy Spirit working in them to encounter Christ.
Another way of describing our identity, is to say that we are Gods children who are to live in the ‘Imitation of Christ’, as we too become Lambs of God - sacrificial offerings of love. Because this self-sacrificial, self-forgetful love is so central to the identity of Jesus, it becomes central to ours. During every Eucharistic Celebration as we pray, "Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us” we are reminded of our fall in Adam and our rise in Christ. We are reminded that our actions are to bring the light of Christ into the world by choosing the good, the true and the beautiful which helps to take away the darkness of sin in the world and multiply the number of the saints of God on earth.
The Gospel message takes on flesh in us, making us a living Word of God through which others encounter Christ.
Disciples must know and participate in the mission, in His mission. According to the first reading, it is not enough to bring just the Jews back to God. “It is too small a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel…” Much more, as Isaiah continues: “I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
Jesus is the Light of the whole world, whose mission it is to bring all the members of the human family back into divine union. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit don’t want anyone to miss out on being able to enter the Kingdom of God; to experience the truth, the love and the freedom of the Gospel.
We are bearers of the message we have received. The mission of Jesus is our mission. We are called and empowered to evangelize the world around us and to re-evangelize the baptized who have fallen away in faith and practice. Our deepest and most passionate desire ought to be to share our faith with others, help them to know Jesus and his Gospel, and to experience directly the love of God. We are called to help others have ‘real encounters’ with Christ, through us.
Worthy brothers and sisters of our Savior Jesus Christ demonstrate in thought, word, and action the willingness to give up their lives to love God with all their hearts and to love their neighbors as themselves.
Meeting a Christian amid a noisy world, ought to be like finding refuge in a desert. It ought to be like finding someone who doesn’t need to explain virtue, Faith, Hope or Charity because they embody these things and by them they are inspiring and mysteriously attractive. Others feel drawn to them. Eventually you discover their source - Jesus Christ. This is holiness. This is the holiness we are called to - we are God's living Temples, and he wants to make us into beautiful, inspiring, and lasting monuments to his glory.
Peace doesn't just happen; it's made.
CampusPadre is a college ministry Priest Chaplain with 30 years experience in youth and young adult ministry, who strives to let the Holy Spirit lead and challenges students to seek holiness above all.