In encounter with Jesus – and only there – we discover the full truth of who God really is and the full truth of who we really are.
Sometimes people think that Christianity is just another religious system or philosophy, or a moral code, or a set of ethical norms. But it’s none of those, though it can include elements of each of these. Nor is Christianity just a matter of striving hard to imitate a really great role-model, Jesus, who lived long ago.
No, Christianity is something more mysterious, even messier. At its heart, Christianity is an experience: no more, no less. It’s an experience of encounter – encounter with Jesus Christ, not as someone who lived long ago, but someone who is here and now as presence and power. I’m talking about Jesus crucified and risen.
They saw him brutally executed and then laid in a tomb; and that seemed like the end of the story. But three days later, against all the odds and their expectations, they encountered him – saw him, heard him, touched him and even ate with him. He wasn’t a ghost; he had a body. But he’d entered some new dimension, because he could walk through locked doors and appear out of nowhere.
The same Jesus appears among us here and now. And in the encounter with him – and only there – we discover the full truth of who God really is and the full truth of who we really are. That’s why meeting him really matters. That’s also why Christianity really matters.
To the naked eye Jesus died a failure. He was executed as a criminal and deserted by his friends. Their collective dreams appeared to be shattered and death appeared to win. But that wasn’t the end of the story for Jesus nor his failure and the collapse of our hopes the end of the story for any of us.
It is my deepest conviction that the cross of Christ is the eye of wisdom through which we must view the pattern of our lives and indeed every life. Experiences of failure and little deaths are always accompanied by the promise of little resurrections leading us to the ultimate encounter with the wisdom of God in our own death and the promise of resurrection.
When I think of Jesus as the Good Shepard I think of me being carried on his shoulders like a lamb. It helps me remember that he saves me and that he is always protecting me. Like one day I forgot my emergency bag with my allergy medicine in it and I said a prayer that God would protect me and I felt safe.
My experience of being a beloved son has come from my parents who accepted and loved me as a precious and unique child along with my brothers and sisters. What I particularly appreciated was their unconditional love that gave me the freedom to discover who I am and chart the course of my life.
This gives me some insight into how God loved Jesus into existence – a bond that continues forever and reminds me that I am first and foremost a beloved child of God.
Allowing Jesus to call me by my name means that I have to be attentive to the sound of his voice. I have to be willing to listen. This encounter in the gospel constantly challenges me to keep my life in balance and to keep my relationship with Jesus real and healthy.
If I do not take time to nurture our relationship how will I ever hear Jesus call my name? How will I ever be able to respond to his invitation to be a responsive disciple if I don’t allow him to be my teacher and mentor?