Understanding Jesus

As Christians living in 2019, 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 Gospel reading begins with the Jews picking up rocks to stone Jesus, because they believed He was being blasphemous. 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 on St. Joseph’s Workshop, we can sometimes find ourselves reacting like the Jews and the Pharisees of Jesus’ time.

“There’s something that repeats over and over inside of Scripture, particularly with Jesus,” he said. “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.”

Fr. Matthew pointed out that we can look at these Scripture passages and shake our heads, but what we should instead do is think about how often we have heard Scripture at Mass, how often we have heard the Lord speak to us through the sacraments, how often we have been catechized and listened to Relevant Radio® and learned a lot about who Jesus is – and yet we still try to put Jesus in a box that we’re more comfortable with.

“How dense we are!” Fr. Matthew said. “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, he continued. “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.”

As we approach Holy Week, this most solemn time of the liturgical year, Fr. Matthew encouraged listeners to ask themselves : 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,’ Fr. Matthew said. “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.”

This upcoming Holy Week, Fr. Matthew posed the challenge to seek to understand Jesus as He is, not how we would like Him to be. To listen to Jesus and ask Him to reveal Himself to us.

“He’s going to say challenging things to us, it’s true,” said Fr. Matthew. “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.”

St. Joseph’s Workshop airs weekdays at 7:00 p.m. Eastern/4:00 p.m. Pacific on Relevant Radio and the Relevant Radio App.