A Word of Encouragement

Sometimes, I seriously wonder if I’m doing the right thing.  Writing my life story, blogging, trying to build a social media “platform” – is this what I’m supposed to be doing with my life?  I don’t know how much time I have left, after all…

DSCN9408

What we are called to do in life, I believe, is to live well.  But, this doesn’t mean the advertisers’ version of living well: fine dining, cruises, laughing with healthy looking friends, and so glamorously on.  To live well means to LOVE.  Therefore, my intellect and worldly accomplishments (whether big or puny) are not what matter most.  The loftiest thoughts and most eloquent words in the world don’t amount to anything truly worthwhile, certainly nothing eternal, unless they come from a heart of real love.  It’s like that famous Bible quote from St. Paul, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”[1]

I know that I do love.  Always have I been filled with a love of life.  My commitment is to, with the gifts that I have been given, love God with all of my heart, soul, strength, and mind and to love the people in my life – and perfect strangers – as God loves me, through Christ Jesus[2].  I will be, and am, tested in this love every day, and sometimes I fare worse than others.  But, I am devoted to persevering.  Though I may fall, Lord, may I rise…

Hearing the following words, also from St. Paul, gave me a nice little kick where I needed it recently – for,we all need direction in our lives, encouragement, and community.  (The Bible, I’m learning more and more, is great for that.)

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power: proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.  For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths.  But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship; perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry.”  2 Timothy: 4 (emphasis added.)

Thanks, Paul.  I needed that.  🙂

More words from the Saint next month – words that made the old pagan in me very happy.

© 2017 Christina Chase


Photo credit: “Communication” © 2017 Dan Chase, All Rights Reserved

[1] 1 Corinthians 13:1

[2] Luke 10:27

The Atheistic Questions: Genesis

Saw this classic on a preview for a TV sitcom:

“If God made Adam and Eve and they had Cain and Abel, then where did Cain and Abel’s wives come from?”

Genesis Roelandt-Savery

The little girl preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation seems to have bewildered and flustered her “very Catholic” mother with this question. But, any “very Catholic” person should know the answer… Continue reading

The Sacred Heart in Scripture and Strawberries

strawberries

June is the month devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Catholic Church. You may ask, what is meant by the Sacred Heart of Jesus? Well, the Sacred Heart is Jesus. And devotion to the Sacred Heart is a devotion to the love of Jesus, devoting oneself to loving   Him entirely.  The heart is a symbol of love, of course, but also an ancient symbol for the core of one’s being, the sacred abode in which God dwells with the person… and more. I wrote more about the heart HERE, HERE, and HERE. For an article on the more scholarly particulars of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, please click HERE.

What does any of this have to do with strawberries? The answer to that is at the end, after a bit of reflective exploration…

Why Does Anything Exist?

Continue reading

Something about Mary

Mary statue close-up Catholic Suncook

There sure are a lot of titles for Mary, the mother of Jesus – more than I can list, or even know and remember. Virgin Mary. Blessed Mother. Our Lady. Our Lady of Sorrows. Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Queen of Heaven and Earth. And so on, and on, and on… besides the names given to her apparitions throughout the world, like Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima…. All Mary.

Why?

I think it’s a case of giddiness – the good kind.

We Catholic Christians are Continue reading

Life Is Pass or Fail

In my last post, I wrote,

If life is pass or fail, then I don’t want to fail.

I know that we don’t usually think of life as pass or fail. Perhaps, this doesn’t even seem like a Christian idea. God is merciful, after all, and, as long as we try, surely we are not failures. This is true. But… we shouldn’t play the mercy game, teetering thoughtlessly on the edge of every decision because we believe that God’s grace will catch us no matter what. “Greasy Grace”, as one of my acquaintances has called it, might be a slick way to get into Heaven, but it isn’t noble and it isn’t kind.  It is neither loving nor brave.

Should we really be aiming to take the lazy, mediocre way?

lazy cat Naniel

Failing to Not Be Vomited (yup, keep reading)

Lounging comfortably on God’s mercy can cause us – not to be cool about injustice, thus turning a cold shoulder to God’s will, nor passionate about righteousness, thus on fire to do God’s will – but, rather, to just be lounging. Sacred Scripture warns us, rather graphically, about the danger of being lukewarm:   “I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of my mouth.”[1]

That seems pretty clear.

When disciples of Jesus asked him if only a few people were going to be saved, he responded, “Strive to enter the narrow door.”[2] This, of course, is in line with his teaching: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.”[3]

Christ even refers to himself as the gate. He tells us that those who enter through will have life and have it abundantly.[4] I want abundant life! But, I must remember… “those who find it are few.”

Failing to Seek the Way

This is personal. This is about my relationship with my very Creator. Either I give of myself or I don’t. Either I love fully, or I don’t truly love. For, love that is not actively forgiving, compassionate, and generous is more akin to really, really liking. Not love. There’s no halfway with love. As the the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi wrote: “Half heartedness doesn’t reach into majesty”.

God is merciful. Yes. Thank God! God loves us unconditionally, even more than parents love their child. God will forgive us when we are lazy (I confess, my tendency is definitely toward laziness) but, will He congratulate us for it? Yes, as long as we don’t reject His forgiveness and love at the end of our lives on earth, God will mercifully forgive us and mercifully receive us into eternal life with Him. We can rely on God’s mercy. And that’s good, because each and every one of us will need God’s mercy, because each and every one of us is far from perfect and in need of forgiveness for something or many things. But… wouldn’t it be best if we didn’t rely on God’s mercy too much? Wouldn’t it be best if we tried our very best to do what God wants us to do?

Failing to See Godpoverty Neil Moralee

I don’t want to fail as a human being.  And that means that  I don’t want to fail to see God. I don’t want to fail to see the full truth of reality. I don’t want to fail to seek truth and to see glimpses of the Divine when they appear. For, God is ever-present and wants us to seek Him and to find Him, because therein lies our fullest satisfaction and greatest joy. God wants us to be joyful – not only forever with Him in Heaven, but also here and now.

When Jesus tells us to seek the narrow door, he goes on to say that some will knock on the door after it is locked and beg the Master to let them in. But, the Master will reply “I do not know where you are from.”[5] Indeed, Jesus tells us that not everyone who says to him, “Lord, Lord” will enter Heaven. He may very well say to them, to us, “I never knew you.”[6]

How will Christ know us after death if we never truly sought in him during life? I don’t believe that it is enough NOT to kill, NOT to commit adultery, NOT to steal. Our lives shouldn’t be about what we don’t do as much as what we DO. Yes, I want to avoid sin (as much as humanly possible) AND I also want to seek Christ. I don’t want to fail to see the face of God here and now in the faces of my parents, my sister and brother-in-law, my nephews, my home health aides, my neighbors, strangers on the street, my friends, and even the people I don’t like very much. I will truly love God, here and now, by finding God in every person that needs love. And, yup, every person needs love. Jesus tells us that whatever we do for the least person, we do for him. We do to him.

This is how Christ will recognize me at the end of my life. If I ministered to him, then he will truly know me. And, wait, there’s more! This also means that I got to know him here and now, in this life – if I didn’t fail in recognizing him. And wouldn’t that be a joyous and fulfilled life?

And, so, I say,

Life is pass or fail.

May I not fail…

© 2016 Christina Chase


Photo Credits: (Creative Commons license)

Lazy Days, Naniel

Made in the USA, Neil Moralee

You may also want to check out these other posts on Divine Incarnate:

Before I Die

Heartedness Doesn’t Reach into Majesty


[1] Revelations 3:15-16

[2] Luke 13:24

[3] Matthew 7:13-14

[4] John 10:10

[5] Luke 13:25

[6] Matthew 7:21-23

Not Here, Not Yet

Before I share the thought that was given to me through Scripture and prayer, I do want it understood that thoughts of the afterlife, of eternal reward or punishment, don’t influence the choices that I make here and now. Making decisions based on the question “What’s in it for me, ultimately?” just seems wrong. I love because I am loved – because I was loved into being and loving is the way of my being. I choose the good in life because goodness is the truth of life. Okay, that may sound a little gobbledygook-mumbo-jumbo, spiritually esoteric, but I’ll go into it more in another post sometime. It suffices to say, before continuing to the point of this post, that I love the here and now and am not aching with any kind of longing for the life of the world to come.

(But, maybe I should…)

The Wedding Feast in Cana

This was the gospel reading for this past Sunday. It so happened that, the week before, while reflecting upon this Mystery in praying the Rosary, I thought more deeply upon the first thing that Jesus said in this account. And the thought led to another, which led to another…

rosary luminous wedding-cana

Jesus asked his mother of what concern the lack of wine was to him or to her. He told her that it was not yet his time, that his hour had not yet come. What did that mean, really? Would his mother have known what that meant? I had once heard it explained that the “time” referred to the start of his ministry, like, it was not yet time for his ministry to begin, for him to perform miracles. Like his hour of fame hadn’t come, yet. The more common understanding is that the “hour” is about Jesus’s passion, death, Resurrection, and Ascension. But that doesn’t completely explain what Jesus was talking about. I began understanding that the reference was more about the true Reign of Jesus, his eternal hour, if you will – Heaven.

It’s like Jesus was saying, “So, they ran out of wine. So what? That happens all the time on earth, in this world. Of course, at the end of time, in the New Heaven and the New Earth, there will be endless plenty. No one will ever run out of anything that they need or that they desire, for their desires will be pure and their hearts will be satisfied in the Kingdom that is Heaven. But, that’s not here, not now, not yet.”

As I continued praying, the understanding of “Not Here, Not yet” came through in each Mystery. Still in Cana, those who did not “drink their fill” of the first wine offered were the only ones who were able to truly and fully enjoy the superior wine that Jesus offered. The wine of this world is good and beautiful – but we shouldn’t get drunk on it, because the best is yet to come. Best to stay sober, awake, alert. Only if we leave room, make room, make way, for the best can we truly receive the best.

Proclamation of the Kingdom and the Call

rosary luminous proclamation

In this Mystery, we reflect upon Jesus as he prepared people – preparing our hearts and minds – for life in the world to come. He did not say that the poor are blessed because material poverty is the best thing that you can ever have forever. But, it is a good thing to be unattached to material wealth in this life, because then we will be free to experience and receive what is to come. Not finding all of our happiness here and now is actually a blessing – because then our hearts will still long for complete happiness, which is ultimately found in the pure, uninhibited presence of God in Heaven. Applying this to all of the Beatitudes makes them more understandable – and, hopefully, livable.

The Transfiguration

rosary luminous Transfiguration

The disciples on mount Tabor were given an incredibly amazing vision and they wanted to build tents on the mountaintop for Jesus and Moses and Elijah – right here, right now. They thought that this beautiful experience on earth was the ultimate of glory. But, it wasn’t. While still living on earth, they, we, cannot be fully and knowingly in the unmasked presence of God – and this fact was made clear when the Voice spoke and the disciples trembled. After, it was only Jesus standing before them, wearing ordinary clothes, a bit sweaty, dust on his feet – this is what is here in this life. But, because the disciples continued to follow him and to listen to him, they came to experience the ultimate in glory as Holy Ones of God in Heaven. If we, too, listen to Jesus and follow His Teachings, then we will be able to experience, in the life of the world to come, the full glory of which that vision of the Transfiguration only offered a glimpse.

The Institution of Holy Eucharist

rosary luminous Eucharist

In this Mystery, we reflect upon the meal that Jesus shared with his disciples on the night before he was crucified. The earthly meal itself is a meal – but it signifies so much more. The disciples themselves couldn’t even know what Jesus’s words fully meant until after his Resurrection. Even then, the significance and meaning remained Mystery because it is Mystery. Although under the appearance of earthly bread and wine in this life, the Sacrament of the Eucharist that we receive and share is foretaste of the Heavenly banquet that has no end in the life of the world to come.

Like Paul Said

Celebrating the Conversion of St. Paul on Monday, let’s sum up with some of his words: “At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.”[1]

The infinite fullness of bliss and glory is coming – not here, not yet… but soon, and for the rest of our eternal lives.

Prepare yourself.

© 2016 Christina Chase


[1] 1 Corinthians 13:12

The New Eve

Wrong conception…

Last Tuesday, I was struck again by how the Catholic Church can often seem to perpetuate misunderstandings within Catholicism. Like the Immaculate Conception…

How many people think that the Immaculate Conception refers to the way in which Jesus was conceived in the womb of his virgin mother? Quite a few. Even many Catholics. And if you go to Mass on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, you receive fuel to add to the fire of your mistake. For, in the Gospel reading for the Feast, we hear of the angel Gabriel visiting Mary, telling the young virgin that she will conceive a child in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s the big story that the Catholic Church has chosen to emphasize on the day on which we celebrate the Immaculate Conception. So, it would be very natural for one to assume that the “conception” referred to in the Immaculate Conception is this miraculous conception of Jesus, in the womb of a virgin.

But it’s not.

Who Is Immaculate?

Jesus was not immaculately conceived – he was divinely conceived, by the power of God, the Holy Spirit, in the womb of a virgin. (We celebrate this, by the way, on the Feast of the Annunciation, which is on March 25 – nine months before Christmas, hello!) Catholics believe that Mary was immaculately conceived, meaning that she was conceived, she was brought into being from the very beginning, without stain. What stain? The stain of Original Sin.

First Things First…

The key to understanding why the Church has chosen the biblical account of the Annunciation as the Gospel of the day is in the first biblical account read on the Feast.

The First Reading is from the Book of Genesis, telling the story of the first man and the first woman when they fell from Paradise. The woman, who will come to be known as Eve, has succumbed to the temptations whispered to her by the serpent and has gone against God’s will by eating a forbidden fruit. She has given the fruit to the man with her, who has also eaten it. Through this act of disobedience, they come to experience what evil is and feel their smallness, afraid of their vulnerability. And afraid of God. The consequence of this act is that they can no longer live in Paradise – but what we hear on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is the consequence for the disobedient and conniving serpent: there will be enmity between him and the woman, and between his seed and her seed. The serpent shall strike at his heal while he strikes at his head.

And, yes, this is a foreshadowing of Christ. As the serpent’s seed represents the devil, Jesus represents the “seed” of the woman. It is good and right to compare the prophecy in the Book of Genesis with the prophecy in the Gospel, by seeing Christ as the promised “seed”. This could, however, lead to confusion again about whose conception we are celebrating on the Feast of December 8 – but only if we forget about The Woman. For, it is also good and right to compare the woman in the Book of Genesis with the woman in the gospel, seeing Mary as the new Eve. This is the main reason why these two readings of the Bible were chosen to be read on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception by the Catholic Church.

Original Sin

Let’s look at that Genesis account…. The first sin of mankind (Original Sin) is what the First Reading of the Feast Day is about – the disobedience of the first man and the first woman.

The first man and the first woman came “fresh and pure from the Creator’s hands”, knowing nothing of disobedience or evil, nothing of sin. Eve was immaculate, stainless, blameless. In this pure state, she was free from the attachments of sin, free from the selfishness and hangups that can weigh a person down and make it difficult to freely and openly choose the generosity of selflessness, of true love. Because she and Adam were in this pure and innocent state, it was even more devastating that they chose self-centeredness and willfulness. Their choice had cosmic consequences. They chose pride and distrust of God. And the world fell.

Now, every human being is “stained” by this Original Sin, darkening the intellect and weakening the will. This is our inheritance from our first parents. In a sense, this is part of our banishment from Paradise, from being able to walk and talk with God as intimately as the first humans did in their pure state.

A lot of people don’t want the woman, Eve, to take so much of the blame. After all, the first man knew all about that tree and was there when she picked its fruit, so he has equal blame. But, it’s important that the Fall of Mankind began with the first woman. In the Bible, it says that she is named Eve because she is the mother of all the living.

The New Eve

God did not want the story of human beings to end with the pain and separation of Original Sin. God chose to free us from evil and restore us to Paradise, through His Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. God gave us a second chance. So, He created a New Eve, a human being conceived without the stain of original sin, to try again…

Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus, is understood as the New Eve. God created her and kept her, from the very beginning of her being, free from the stain of Original Sin, so that she may be as innocent and pure as the first Eve. For, the first woman’s cataclysmic free decision in the Garden of Eden must start to be undone by another woman’s free choice of universal impact – the second woman is The Woman, the New Eve: Mary.

neweve

Early Christian theologians drew upon the parallel between Eve and Mary[1]. The first Eve said “no” to God by going against God’s will. The New Eve says “yes” to God by accepting God’s will. The old ushered in the Fall of Mankind – but the New opened the way for the Salvation of Mankind, in Jesus Christ. The first Eve gave the tainted and forbidden fruit to the man who was with her. But, the New Eve bore the divine and perfect fruit of her virgin womb to all Mankind. The Blessed Virgin Mary, the New Eve, is the Mother of All the Living in Christ. Death was born through Eve’s act of disobedience and selfishness – but Life was born through Mary’s act of obedience and love.

Freedom

It is important to remember that God never forces us to do anything. He created us with the gift of freewill so that we may be able to choose love. Love can never be forced. And so Mary had to freely choose. God created her especially for the purpose of being His Son’s mother, fruit bearing the fruit of salvation and eternal life to the world. And never did God see her or treat her as a mere vessel. God wanted her (as He wants every human being) to use her freewill to cooperate with His Plan, which is for our ultimate joy. He sent His messenger, Gabriel, to Mary to announce His Will to her, whom the Angel addressed as “Fall of Grace” – or, in another translation, “Favored One”… and then waits for her response. The whole future of humankind hinged on her response…

© 2015 Christina Chase


photo credit from this website:

[1] http://campus.udayton.edu/mary/meditations/neweve.html

 

The First Day of Your Life: Zygote

This is a picture of you.

human development zygote

Just after the first day, 1 cell (zygote) becomes 2 cells

This is what you looked like after the first day of your life.

In all the billions of galaxies in the universe, there is only one you – and you started as just one cell, about one tenth of a millimeter in size, which divided into two, and then more, and more….

It may be strange for us to think of ourselves with such a tiny beginning. But this is the miraculous truth of human life. Created in the image and likeness of God, we are yet humble creatures. Each of us begins with the divine spark of life, formed in the womb, following the design of our Creator. You and I are, indeed, fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

The answer to the question of when you became a human being is simple. You became you at conception, when your mother’s egg and father’s sperm united. Scientists, at this first stage in your life, would call you a zygote. And no serious scientist would deny that you were alive on that very first day.

When you looked like this picture, your genetic makeup was already complete. Your eye color, hair color, gender, general build, facial features, and genetic predispositions in health were set – as were your inherited traits, or natural gifts.

Nothing was added after your conception to fully make you a human being. You only needed nourishment and protection to help you to continue to grow and develop – just as you still do, now.

Your parents didn’t know that you existed on that day. But, God did. God knew His plan for you from the start. The unique role that you are able to play in your family and in society was always known by your Creator.  Every one of us has a particular mission – your mission can only be fulfilled by you.

You are intricately formed and wonderfully alive – as you have been from the beginning!  What was true on your very first day of life is still true today:
it is good that you are here.

© 2015 Christina Chase


Sources: see –

Web M.D.

Endowment for Human Development

JustFacts.com

Archdiocese of Baltimore

Words to Live By

Christian humility and charity are neither timid nor sappy – they are a radical recognition, a bold transformation of life: Metanoia.

Yesterday was the Feast Day of the patron saint of my home parish, St. John the Baptist. In his honor, I’m reflecting upon three phrases attributed to him in the Bible. This voice crying out in the wilderness gave us words to live by…

“… there is one among you whom you do not recognize…” (John 1:26)

We never know when we will have an encounter with the Divine. The truth is that wherever we go, in every moment of our lives, we are in the presence of God… God, who is always watching us… who is always loving us where we are…. If I truly become conscious of this truth in my every waking moment – how will my life change?

For the people of 1st century Israel, to whom John spoke these words, the meaning was of particular and immediate import. There was literally a person among them whom they did not recognize as being any different than anyone else. And, yet, although he was a human being just like them – he was profoundly different, because he was also God.

Christ Jesus walked among many unremarkably. The power of the Creator of the Universe was within him – but, to most, if their eyes even fell upon him, he was just some guy. Like so many strangers that we pass on the sidewalk, on the road, in the office, in the park, or in the mall, Christ seemed ordinary… dismissible. We think to ourselves now that it’s a shame, an utterly wasted opportunity, that some of the people back then went right by Christ without even knowing who he was. Yet… those strangers that we pass by every day… do we not know that they are images of God? And we pass them by without a single thought or care for them. Do we not know that Christ is within each and every one of us? Whenever we skirt around a homeless person, we are skirting around Christ. Whenever we say, Good Riddance, about a criminal who is put in prison, we are saying good riddance to Christ. Whenever we ignore the plight of the jobless or the hungry, of the lonely or the diseased, we are ignoring Christ in his sorrow. Whenever I am cruel to the person next to me, it is like I am piercing that person with a thorn… I am piercing that thorn into Christ.

I am only one person, limited, as every human is, and I cannot be everything to everybody. God knows. Being human like us, there were countless many who Christ Jesus could not help in person during his earthly life, countless many to whom he could not speak face-to-face while he walked upon the roads and through the fields, villages, and towns. His earthly mission was to open.

It’s like, by the Mystery of the Incarnation, a divine portal was created to the kingdom of God – and by his death and resurrection that portal was opened to all. Not all will pass through, because we must choose to do so – we must choose to follow Christ. In order to fully and truly encounter the Divine and enter, eternally, the kingdom of God, we must recognize God’s love for us and choose to follow Christ. My mission (say it with me) limited as I am, is to love Christ… and I do that by loving others as Christ loves me. I do that by recognizing my cruelty to another as cruelty to Christ my beloved… and I repent and ask forgiveness.

I carry out my mission of love (which is your mission, too) limited as I am, by recognizing the gifts that God has given to me, in His infinite love for me, and then giving those gifts in the service of those in need of healing, nourishment, guidance, compassion, and light, wherever I can. There will be times when I falter, times when I fail. But, I will recognize my failures as human weakness – and I will not deplore my human weakness but, rather, unite my struggles with the struggles of Christ as he carried the Cross of Salvation to Calvary. Divine and human, it was only with pain that he could place that key into the lock and grant our freedom. He dreaded, he suffered, he was tormented and ridiculed, he fell flat on his face along the way – but he persevered because of love. Christ loves divinely – infinitely and intimately. Profess my love for him as I might, I cannot recognize him in others – and therefore love him in others – unless I recognize him in me.

“He must increase; I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

Do I recognize and love Christ within me? Do I recognize and give forth the particular gifts that God has given me? This is what true Christian charity is all about – this is the heart of true Christian humility. It is not overly sentimental, it is not hanging my head down himself abasing shame. God chooses to make a home inside of me… Christ dwells in me in a personally particular way, lovingly unique – as Christ dwells in everybody. Christ is everyone… Christ is you and me and them. Christ IS. That is what we, as Christians, need to be able to see. I open my heart to God’s loving presence and let Christ live in me… through me… through the gifts that are particularly unique to me, which he knows so intimately.

This recognition of Christ is the encounter with the Divine that pulls us through the sacred portal to the fullness of truth, the fullness of life… into the kingdom of God. For, as Christ is ever present, so is the kingdom, so is the loving and saving presence of God. We encounter the Divine, not only in the life to come, but also here and now.

And that’s pretty radical.

“Metanoia, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2)

unpublished work © 2015 Christina Chase

Obedience Is Nothing without Love

One question that I asked as a nonbeliever and that I still quietly wonder about as a believer is this: when Jesus rose from the dead, why did he only show himself to the people that were already his disciples? If the resurrection is proof of Jesus as the Christ and Savior of the World, then it seems only natural to wish that Jesus would give that proof to more people, so that the whole world might be Christian. It seems like, instead, he rather preached to the choir.

Yet, I feel a bit guilty carry this doubting question around with me.

I shouldn’t.

Turns out that I’m not the first one to ask the question – no big surprise there. The surprise for me, however, came when I learned who it was that asked the question first – and to whom it was asked. (Some of you may already know the “who” and “whom” of which I speak, but, please remember, with mercy and forgiveness, that I am not an accomplished reader of the Bible.) One of Jesus’s own disciples asked it to Jesus himself. And on hearing and understanding the answer given to the one asked, I was washed in a well-contented sense of rightness and joy.

It happened when I was watching a movie. Of course, it was not just any old mindlessly entertaining movie, but rather one of those new “Christian Faith” movies – The Gospel of John. Although I have probably heard or read all of the words spoken by the narrator before, the words of the Gospel struck my ear and my mind in a new way – and, thankfully, penetrated into my heart. The scene of the Last Supper came on the screen and the words of the Discourse came through the speakers. Jesus was saying that he would reveal and show himself to those whom he loved.[1] And then one of his very own apostles asked Jesus, face-to-face, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?”

Good question.

Jesus didn’t rebuke the apostle in the slightest, but willingly gave answer and, of course, said it all:

“He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.”

Give yourself a moment to take that in. When first hearing them in the narrator’s voice, the words caught in my mind and then needed to be processed further, like a fish that is caught up in a net and then needs to be pulled onto the boat.

You see, Jesus only showed himself to the people who loved him because showing himself – even himself all resurrected and glorified – to people who didn’t love him would have made no difference. They may have been like spectators of David Blaine magic, flabbergasted and admiring, but merely exclaiming “Cool trick, man!” Rather, he showed himself to those who loved him because he promised that he would. They were grieving and mourning his death – and he came back to them. Although Simon Peter denied even knowing Jesus three times before the Crucifixion, after the Resurrection Jesus gave him a second chance to be true to what was in his heart. “Peter, do you love me?” And every time that Peter affirmed his love for him, Jesus gave reminding command to follow his teachings.[2]

The profound beauty and joy here is that Jesus is telling us the same thing now: Jesus reveals himself to people who love him, because the people who don’t love him will not obey his teaching – even if he showed himself to them, they wouldn’t care. What Jesus knows, and what we should all know, is that in order to be able to follow Jesus Christ and obey his teachings, a person must love him.

Without love for Christ, there is no Christianity.

As believing Christians, we want Christianity to be better respected and more embraced by the world. We naturally want more people to attend church, near and far. We would like to see pews full of people reciting the Creed aloud with us and identifying themselves as Christians. We would like them to obey the teachings of Christ and live good, Christian lives. But… in order to do any of this, people must first love Christ.

Christ himself said that, unless they love him, people will not obey him. It is only people who truly love Christ that are freely willing to obey him – because to do so is a natural expression and substance of that love. We can’t put the cart before the horse. We can’t expect people to reach for the high ethics and ideals of Catholic Christianity without love for Christ himself. I can’t expect myself to do this.

So… in my heart I am asking, “But, Lord, where are you that I may love you?”

I am hungry and need to be fed… I am homeless and need to be sheltered… I am ill and suffering and need to be cared for… I am homebound, and I am stuck in a nursing home, and I need to be visited… I am in prison and I need to be loved… I am a stranger and I need to be welcomed…[3]

I do not have to look far to find Christ here with me, in the flesh and blood of my fellow human beings. My family member is angry or sad – do I love? My friend is burdened – do I love? My neighbor is in great need – do I love? If I love the least of the people around me, then I love Christ. And if I love Christ, then I love the least of the people around me. It’s a profound circle that only has its beginning and end in God – for we can only love because God first loved us.[4] When we are open to divine love and give ourselves to that love, then Christ more fully reveals himself to us, and our love deepens and grows evermore.

One other question:

As we are supposed to evangelize, how are we to teach others to love Christ?  

Everybody who truly loves goodness and truth is already in love with who Christ is – whether they know it or not. The best way that we can teach others about Christ himself – and, perhaps, the only true way that we can really teach them – is by sharing our love for him with them. We love Christ Jesus in all that he is and in all that he has done for us. If others see the deep sense of joy and peace that comes from our love for Christ, love that is manifested in our love for neighbor, then they will come to know him through our love and, in knowing him, they will love him, too. And when they love him, they will want to follow him. They will obey his teachings – not out of superstition or blind adherence to rules, but out of love – and he will reveal himself to them more and more.

© 2015 Christina Chase


[1] John 14:15-24

[2] John 21:15-17

[3] Matthew 25

[4] 1 John 4:19