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Tuesday, 05 June 2018 09:22

The mystery of the faith

«But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?» (Jn 14:22).

I often ask myself the same question. My world, postmodern culture, people I meet actually in my days find it difficult to believe: there is no lack of curiosity about singular or paranormal facts, but it seems hard to trust totally in Him who is our source and the estuary of our life. Faith looks “intriguing” today – in the etymological sense, paradoxically – to those who feel blackmailed and somehow “ensnared” by unresolved existential angst or threatened by dogmatic assertions that appear as detached from everyday reality. So a modern icon of Jesus calling Peter and Andrew, based on a famous mosaic of Monreale, shows the odd innovation of the big net, that seems to wrap up the two fishermen at a time when they are just called to trust Jesus (Mt 1:15-20).

An official of Capernaum had nothing in his heart but anguish over his sick child; Jesus told him: «Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will never believe» (Jn 4:48). Nevertheless He managed to turn the wonder into a sign to be just that, namely a signal pointing to Him: all the official got was a promise («your son will live»), an answer in half-light, moving or soliciting the faith; but «the man took Jesus at his word and departed» (Jn 4:50).

Different are the dynamics of Jesus encounter with the leper, at least that’s how we find the story told in the Mark’s Gospel (Mk 1:40-45): «If you are willing, you can make me clean»; «I am willing», Jesus said (… but what do you really will? Do you want Me to be your Saviour? do you want to know Me, to entrust your life to Me, do you? Or do you want nothing but be fine in your own way?). Healing occurs just the same, but it is a “fact”, an event (temporary, because man is mortal), it is not a meeting of two persons, not a discovery of the Other.

Jesus «sternly warned» the healed leper, sending him to the priest (who had just had the assignment to certify healing). The Evangelist sharply adds: «Instead he went out» (Jesus didn’t tell him to go away, to distance himself from His person) «and began to talk freely, spreading the news» about the fact: just nothing more than “a fact”. He had nothing else to divulge, which is why Jesus ordered him not to say anything to anyone: in his account, healing would have been nothing more than a wonder, it would draw huge crowds, in need of the miracle worker (Lk 5:15 is more optimistic: «crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses»). But Jesus was wishing for “signs” to be authentic signals, that lead to the friendship with Him, not for portents that draw crowds eager to be moved seeing «some sign performed by Him», like king Herod, to whom Jesus gave no answer (Lk 23:8-9): without an encounter between persons, dialogue is not possible.

«But, Lord, why …?». At the last supper Jesus speaks, painfully, about the one who didn’t know Him because wasn’t capable to see Him really, stopping at the things that happened, at the “facts”. With his friends, nevertheless, Jesus shares his personal concern for failed friends. «If anyone loves me …» (Jn 14:23), so the dynamics of friendship sets off: that involves us in the familiarity of the Son with the Father and spreads, in the time of Church, by involvement of/thanks to the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:25).

Nevertheless, one of the friends of Jesus, Jude Thaddeus, had realized a strangeness: sometimes Jesus seemed to arrange so that He would do anything for not to be understood! «But, Lord, why …?». Certain things the Master spoke in parables, He adorned them with some stories that entertained the listeners but didn’t “capture” them like the miracles, that at least moved the crowds to search him; later He explained these parables only to his friends, to those who already loved him and therefore tried to put into practice each word, hearing the Father’s voice resonating (cf. Jn 14:23).

In a little book on Jesus Christ (1966) Yves Congar, looking for hunches of Pascal and Kierkegaard, seizes the finesse with which God wants to reveal himself to those who – even and especially in the modern world – find it difficult to believe or are not interested in putting themselves out there, facing a path of decisions. In the “dialogical structure of the revelation” there is a “chiaroscuro” of signs or parables, in which “God presents his message so that one might have some reason for not understanding and rejecting Him, but at the same time a real chance to acknowledge and accept”.

«Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear» (Lk 8:8): it can happen to anyone, that in different moments of life, the sense to listen can be lowered, for the shallowness of the routine and in the midst of all that’s likely to mislead our attention. Parable may open the way to the decisions of faith: if it doesn’t find us attentive, it will be, however, a signal of love that is waiting for chance to reoccur in another way, with new opportunities to meet.

However, God doesn’t wish to be ill-timed, He doesn’t want to risk rejection. So, taking care of those who didn’t accept his teachings and misunderstood his “signs” (Jn 12:37), Jesus recontextualizes (Mk 4:11-12; Lk 8:10; Jn 12:40) the words of Is 6:9-10: Mt 13:13-15 shows their fulfilment through a reinterpretation of the prophetic text: when his listeners can’t decide for God, directing their attention to Him, it is better that, for the moment, «they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand», if they still can’t be converted and receive forgiveness. But when we are able to fully listen, namely we really «stop, whatch, come back» (as pope Francis suggested during the Mass on Ash Wednesday), «knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven» can be granted to us (Mt 13:11). That is the amazing experience of how the Lord is working in history, because even after the Ascension Jesus is with us «every day, until the end of the age», or better «until the implementation of the αἰών» (Mt 28:20), that is “until the full achievement of the eternity”.

But it is a path where God respects timeline of man, even if He doesn’t stop soliciting his free decision: that’s love asking for love.
Published in IN DIALOGUE


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About Us

Union “St. Catherine of Siena” of School Missionaries is a Dominican Religious Congregation.
We are called to accompany our contemporaries along their path with study and prayer and to seek along with them Gospel’s answers to the questions of our complex, multicultural society.
We want to live therefore coherently a Christianity of frontiers and be yeast and salt of the least visibility yet cause to leaven and give flavor.