Talking to Jesus
I caught a video recently of a little ten year old girl singing on America’s Got Talent. She had an amazing voice and I’d like to tell you about it. The problem is, I can tell you the song she sang and I can describe her powerful voice and how she carried herself, but no matter how accurately and enthusiastically I tell you about her, you will not be able to experience the beauty of her voice or her performance merely through my telling.
That is because there are times that words fail us and the reality is, knowing about someone is not the same as knowing them.
This morning I was thinking about the idea of encountering Jesus. You see, today we celebrate Ss. Peter and Paul and I was reading about St. Paul’s conversion story (Acts, Chapter 9.)
You know the one. He falls to the ground, hears the voice of Jesus and can’t see for three days. Eventually his sight is restored when he meets Ananias and he is converted and turns away from his past practices.
When the event took place and he fell to the ground, Jesus spoke to him and asked him why he was persecuting him. Saul (his name before he was called Paul) had been primarily interested in having Christians persecuted and Jesus, associating himself with the persecuted Christians, took Saul’s persecuting very personally (“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”)
Anyway, in Matthew’s gospel today (Chapter 16:13), Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” and then he asks them who they say he is, to which Peter replies, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
To this, Jesus replies, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.”
Put these events of Paul and Peter together and what becomes obvious? Jesus spoke to each of them.
What we can see from Peter’s encounter is that Jesus makes it very clear that Peter did not come to know him as the “Son of the living God” simply by others telling him about him. He encountered God personally. So did Paul.
But what if we don’t have Jesus talking to us like Peter and Paul? How do we encounter Jesus today?
The obvious answer would be in the Eucharist, where we do encounter the very flesh and blood of Jesus Christ.
But what about those who do not yet know Christ or receive him in the Eucharist? How do they encounter him?
I think we have to concede that there are multiple ways to encounter Jesus, none of which can be forced or created by human design. This is a God thing, a Holy Spirit moment that we can give assistance to by providing opportunities and encouraging openness, knowing with certainty that God continues to call saints even today.