The Center

The Center[1]

In the 1st Letter of Timothy we are told that God ‘desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth[2]. It is the desire of Jesus that we all come to be one with Him and the Father as we hear Him pray in the Gospel of St. John: ‘that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.[3] Our life was radically changed when we were baptized into His Mystical Body; and our life is, or should be, directed towards growing our relationship with Jesus, being closer to our Savior.

But to grow our relationship it is foundational that we get to know Jesus, understand Him better – know what makes Him tick, so to speak.  Scripture tells us much about Jesus and today’s Gospel reading highlights what is the center of His life – constant communication with His Father.  We hear it today, Christ who was busy healing and proclaiming made time to pray. ‘Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.[4] Again in Matthew: ‘And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.[5] His communication with the Father was done not only in private but also out loud in public – from Matthew: ‘At that time Jesus declared, “I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes;”[6] He even died praying: ‘“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”[7] In fact, His final words were communication with the Father: ‘Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.[8]  His whole passion and death was a prayer.  All in all there are around 30 New Testament passages that show us Jesus’ communication with the Father. It is very clear that the center of Christ’s life is constant communication with His Father; so much so, that theologians have posited that of all the names and titles given Jesus throughout two millennia – one stands out: ‘Son’[of God][9].

For us to come to a deeper understanding and relationship with Jesus Christ we need to enter into what is most central about Him – His prayer life.  This makes sense since humans are experiential; we come to better and deeper understanding of things by participation – book learning alone doesn’t do it.  In relationships we come to better understandings, and indeed love grows, as we participate in what is important with the other; so it is with our relationship with Jesus.

This participation in the central life of Jesus does more than deepen our relationship with Him; it opens ourselves up to our true self. To enter into this centrality of Jesus, to participate in His constant communication with the Father brings us into the unity of human and divine – it allows us to live within the Trinity – where we realize true liberation and freedom.

But it does even more; it brings us not only within Himself but it brings us to each other. We become part of a family of like-desiring people. As the reception of the Eucharist does par excellence; our prayers do as well – where two are within Christ they are with each other.

Brother and sisters, we have been given a chance to participate in the center of Jesus Christ’s life; we need to strengthen this part of our life. We need to give prayer the priority it deserves, the priority that Jesus gave it.  It is not like we are ignorant of what it means to pray; Jesus taught us to pray[10]. Prayer is all around us; He allows us to participate in His final prayer within the sacrifice of the Mass and He is with us in the Eucharist.  Our part is to take these gifts and dive headlong with each other into this participation – and together come to the heart of God.

                                                                                                                                                         

[1] Inspired by an address by Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) to a CELAM Congress on Christology in September 1982 ( found in the book ‘Behold The Pierced One’ 1986 Ignatius Press)
[2] 1 Tim 2:4 (RSV)
[3] Jn 17:21 (RSV)
[4] Mk 29:35 (RSV)
[5] Mt 14:23 (RSV)
[6] Mt 11:25 (RSV)
[7] Lk 23:34 (RSV)
[8] Lk 23:46 (RSV)
[9] ‘’Son’[of God] is a basic confession in the sense that it provides the key to interpretation, making everything else accessible and intelligible’ – Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger: ‘Taking Bearings in Christology’ – see footnote 1
[10] Mt 6:9 (RSV)

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