Friday, January 9, 2009

Seeing, They Failed To See

After the five thousand were fed, the disciples of Jesus set sail for Bethsaida, while he went off to the mountain, where he spent some time in prayer. At evening, he went down to the shore, where he saw the boat being tossed about by the wind and the waves. The disciples, already afraid because of the high winds and rolling sea, were terrified when they saw Jesus walking on the water. Jesus called out to them, "Don't be afraid. Be brave! It's me." Then the wind died down, and they all went ashore.

Luke comments, at the end of this gospel, that the disciples failed to understand what happened at the multiplication of the loaves, and they were terrified at the storm at sea for one and the same reason: They did not recognize Jesus for who he truly is. In the first reading, John the Evangelist, writing some years later, reminds us of who Jesus truly is, and why he came into the world: "We have seen, and we bear witness that the Father has sent his Son as Savior of the world." He also reveals to us the reason God sent his Son to us, here in three words, "God is Love", and in his gospel, in a more complete statement "God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him might not persish, but have everlasting life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved."

The reason we have no motive for fear is because God loves us, and will protect us from all harm, not because we earn his love by doing good and avoiding evil, but simply because he loves us with the fullness of his own eternal and perfect being. There is no room for fear in the love of God for his people, because God IS love; in turn, we are called by his love for us to the fullest of our own being, because God has loved us with the fullness of his being. In our love for God, there is no room for fear, because fear has to do with punishment. So, someone who is afraid has not yet grown perfect in love.

If we learn to love God as he loves us -- perfectly and without fear -- how shall we respond to his love for us? The answer is as clear as the Great Commandment: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and might; love your neighbor as yourself." If God loves us, we must love one another. None of us, since the time of the Apostles, has ever seen God. [And even they saw the humanity of Jesus, not his divinity.] But, if we love one another in response to his love for us, God abides in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.

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