Understanding Jesus

As Christians living in 2018, we have the benefit of being able to read the Gospels knowing how they end – with Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. But those who first heard Jesus’ words did not have that knowledge, and found much of what Jesus said confusing and hard to understand.

Today’s Gospel is an example of the reaction that Jesus’ words often received. The Jews said that He must be possessed, and even tried to stone Him. We can look at that and think how sad it is that they didn’t know Jesus, and so they couldn’t understand Him. But, as Father Matthew Spencer, OSJ said recently on St. Joseph’s Workshop, we can sometimes find ourselves reacting like the Jews and the Pharisees of Jesus’ time. He said:

“There’s something that repeats over and over inside of Scripture, particularly with Jesus. And that is that people don’t understand Him. How many times his disciples don’t understand Him, his family thinks He’s crazy, people think He’s going to do one thing when in fact He’s doing another, people try to box Jesus in.

Jesus has come to reveal all truth to them, but it is so far beyond their understanding that they have a hard time grasping it. Or maybe they’re just so hard-headed that they’re not getting it. And it’s not only the Pharisees, the Scribes, and the Elders – it’s His own followers and disciples who also aren’t getting it.

Which brings us to the application for your life. How long have we known Him? For Catholics, how long have we listened to Scripture at Holy Mass? How long have we heard Him speak to us through the sacraments? How long have we been catechized and listened to Relevant Radio®? How often we have heard Jesus speak, and yet we’re still so hard-headed sometimes. Fr. Matthew Spencer

How dense we are! We’re like the disciples of Jesus, and we’re like the Jews that we hear about in today’s Gospel. We think of something so far beyond what Jesus is actually saying. Because we miss Him. We miss the meaning of what He wants to share with us, the message He is trying to to proclaim to us, and it’s because we haven’t been listening closely enough. We haven’t been careful enough in following His voice.

Maybe because, like so many of His followers, we’ve been so preoccupied with our own pursuits. We’ve been so focused on what you and I want that we haven’t been listening very clearly to Jesus. We’ve been listening to our own voice, our own plans, our own designs.

It’s really one of the essential parts of Lent. We’re coming up on the most solemn holy days and you and I have to look and ask if we have been listening more closely to the Shepherd? Have I been listening to Jesus more? And have I been trying to do what He wants for me? Or have I been so caught up in my own pursuits that I’ve been missing what He wants to share with me?

It’s too simplistic to look at the Gospel and say, ‘Look at those Pharisees, how simplistic they were. They missed what Jesus was trying to say. How foolish those disciples were. They didn’t understand.’ Because you and I have things so much more clearly, so much more plainly.

We have the sacraments. We have the Catechism of the Catholic Church. We have 2,000 years of reflection on the Scriptures and on who Jesus is and on His message. And we still miss it. We still don’t always see who He is in our life.

Maybe there’s a challenge in there for you and for me. To look and to say that we have to understand and see Jesus for who He is. Not to imagine that He’s saying something else to us, but to hear Him as He is.

He’s going to say challenging things to us, it’s true. He’s going to lay things on the line sometimes, and it’s going to be difficult to follow Him. But if we do it well, if we do it carefully, and if we try to understand what Jesus wants to share with us; then, in fact, we will come to know Him, come to know the Father, and we will do only what is pleasing to the Father and to Jesus. That’s the whole point of Lent. To get us on that path to follow Him.”

Listen to the full reflection below:

St. Joseph’s Workshop with Father Matthew Spencer airs weekdays at 7:00 p.m. Eastern/4:00 p.m. Pacific on Relevant Radio®.

Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at relevantradio.com and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.