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Jesus Wants You To Know Him

April 18, 2021

A reflection for the 3rd Sunday, Easter, year B. The readings are Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; Psalm 4; 1 John 2:1-5a; and Luke 24:35-48.

Jesus appears to the disciples, by Paula Gitner Nash. Free Bible Images, http://www.freebibleimages.org, in partnership with Good News Productions, International and College Press Publishing Co. http://www.theglobalgospel.org

Jesus is alive!

That’s all I want to say today, but It’s hard to read or listen to today’s readings and not realize that there is one word that is found in all of them: “sins”. Peter exhorts the crowds to “repent and be converted that your sins will be wiped away.” John writes in his letter that Jesus “is the expiation for our sins and the sins of the whole world” and in the Gospel Jesus tells the apostles that “repentance and the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all the nations.” I don’t like to talk about sin; I don’t like to think of myself a sinner or bout my sinfulness. But if you’re like me, and you avoid thinking about your sins and sinfulness you’re missing out on something greater. And that’s what I think is one of the messages for us today.

Six years ago, on the third Sunday of Easter I told you this story:  

There was once an explorer who, after many years in the Amazon, returned home to England, where he proceeded to share with everyone he met about his wonderful adventures. But he really struggled with really sharing the reality of the Amazon. He could draw pictures and maps, he could write stories and descriptions but, how could he describe the smells of the tropical flowers and fruits that he had discovered. How could he describe the sounds of the birds and the animals at sun down? So he did what was natural: he shared as much and encouraged people to go to the Amazon themselves. He gave them clear descriptions as to how to get there and how to prepare for such a trip. He told them how to avoid dangers and gave them all the information they need. His adventures were well received. In fact, an organization was founded and a museum was opened so people could read his writings and look at his pictures and maps. Everyone was very excited to learn about the Amazon, but no one went. Years later, the museum still stands and many have studied the writings and descriptions of his journey. There are many experts on his journey – many people who now know about the Amazon because of him – but no one really knows the Amazon, because no one ever went after he did. [It’s funny because when I’ve told this story to kids they don’t even know what they Amazon is – they just think about the Amazon that’s delivering their package next Wednesday!] So, it’s possible to know about the Amazon, but if you want to really know the Amazon, you have to go there.

That’s a little bit about what’s happening in today’s first reading from the Book of Acts. It’s after Pentecost and Peter and John are on the way to the Temple and they pass a paralyzed man who is begging at one of the Temple’s gates. Peter says to him, “Look at us. We have nothing to give you.” Then he grabs him by the hand and says, “But what I do have, I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ, stand up and walk,” Immediately the man stands up and begins to jump around and praise God. Of course, this draws a crowd and Peter addresses the crowd and part of what he says is today’s first reading, “We didn’t do this.  Jesus Christ did this. This man was healed in the name of Jesus Christ, whom you killed.” See, a lot of people around that time, probably had heard about Jesus Christ – they may have seen him, read about him in the papers; maybe they heard him preach once – they maybe even saw him crucified; maybe they were in the crowd yelling, “crucify him” , but they didn’t know him. That’s why Peter says to them that what they did was not their fault, because they didn’t know better; they did it because they “acted in ignorance.” They may have known a lot about Jesus, but they didn’t really know Jesus. This would have been the case with all the Christians who were reading the Gospel of Luke (and the Book of Acts) when it was written, some 40-50 years after the resurrection. Probably most of them were not even alive when Jesus was around. None of the first-hand witnesses were around. People had heard about Jesus – they maybe knew about Jesus, but they didn’t know Jesus. Luke wants us to know that Jesus can be known. He’s alive. He’s not a ghost. You don’t have to know a lot about him; you have to know him.

It reminds me of another story I told you six years ago about a man who became a Christian. His atheist friend confronts him: “So you are now a Christian. You must know a lot about this Christ person.”

-I know a bit.

-So, do you know what year he was born in?

-No.

-Do you know where in Nazareth he lived?

-No.

-Do you know how many miracles he performed?

-No.

-And, do you know the names of his grandparents or how old he was when his father died?

-No.

-So, you don’t know this Christ very well. How can you say that you are a Christian?

-Look, all I know is that two years ago I was an alcoholic. I was over $100,000 in debt; we were about to lose the house and my wife was going to leave me. Today, I have been sober for 6 months, we have no debt, we didn’t lose the house and my wife and I are more in love than ever. That’s all because of Jesus Christ. I may not know a lot about Him; but I know Him. That’s why I am a Christian.

Jesus can be known and he wants you to know him. And when we know Jesus  He transforms us. Jesus wants to break into your upper room, into your self-isolation. Jesus wants to come into your sanitized, physical distancing. He wants to come into your quarantine and your lockdown. He wants to come in behind your mask.  When you’re scared, confused, disillusioned; when you doubt, despair and are afraid – Jesus wants to come to be with you so we can know him and to give you his peace. I know the Gospel says that he suddenly stood in their midst, but I imagine him pushing open the door, peaking his head in and saying, “Hey guys, got anything to eat? I’m starving; I haven’t eaten in three days!” The disciples are like, “uh… last night’s left over pizza? How about this piece of boiled fish?” Jesus says, “A piece of broiled fish?  I love two-day-old broiled fish!” Jesus doesn’t care. He doesn’t care who you are or what you did or didn’t do, or what you will do; He doesn’t care how you pray; He just wants to be with you, to be with us in the mundane, simple things of life; in the touching and the eating. Jesus just wants to be present to us.  He wants us to know him. “Don’t be afraid. I’m not a ghost. I’m alive. You don’t have to just know about me. You can get to know me. I want you to know me.”

And that is why the readings all talk about sin; because they talk about forgiveness, conversion and repentance. Repentance doesn’t just mean that we are sorry for our sins. Repentance means to have a change of mind and heart. It means to turn away from something and towards something else. In Hebrew the word means “to return”. What are we returning to? What are we turning towards when we turn away from sin? We turn towards Christ. That’s what we need to remember. Repentance is not about thinking about all your sins – it’s about turning to God: turn to Christ. That’s how we get to know him; we turn towards him.

But it’s hard to know how to turn towards God. So here’s what I want you to do – every day, from now until Pentecost – I want you to look at your day and not focus on your sins, but where you turned towards God and when you turned away from God. And you’ll realize that when we turn away from God it’s not because we are turning to sin or immoral things. When we turn away from God, most often it’s because we are turning towards ourselves. You turn away from God when all you think of is what I need, what I want, what I deserve; what I am entitled to what injustice has been done to me; how tired I am; I had to wear a mask today, the cop stopped me today to ask me why I wasn’t at home, I had to stand in line today, I couldn’t buy that thing I want because it’s not essential, I couldn’t go to Mass today… me, me, me…. Turn away from yourself and turn towards God.

That’s the first thing I want you to do: think of the times when you turned towards God and when you turned away from God.

Then say this prayer:

“Jesus I belong to you. I want you to possess me. Help me get to know you. Teach me how to love you. Show me how to serve you.”

Do that every day and you’ll see how much closer you’ll get to Jesus, who wants you to know him; to have a relationship with you.

Jesus wants to know you and He wants you to know him. Everything we do to learn about him is good – but we have to get to know Him. We have to turn to him and enter into a relationship with him. That’s what He wants. That’s why he brings us his peace. That’s why he forgives us our sins; that’s why He became a human being and why He died on the Cross – so that we could know him and so He could transform us.

It’s not enough to know about Jesus; we can know Jesus, because He is alive!

From → English

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