Appreciating Jesus on a deeply personal level

Father John A. Kiley

Many readers were no doubt taught as children to proclaim silently “My Lord and My God!” when the sacred host was elevated at the consecration of the Mass. This pious devotion has been succeeded lately by one of three communal proclamations of faith pronounced by the congregation just after both Sacred Species are displayed for adoration. “Dying you destroyed our death; rising you restored our life; Lord Jesus, come in glory!” Yet the older testimony should not be forgotten too quickly. “My Lord and My God” are the famous words of St. Thomas the apostle’s act of faith in the Risen Christ, and, as such, are actually the culmination of St. John the Evangelist’s entire Gospel account. The fourth Gospel is a whole series of personal acts of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior beginning with this coming Sunday’s Gospel passage from St. John’s first chapter. “John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world… Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.” (1.29,31) Clearly an act of faith in the Divinity of Christ! My Lord and My God indeed!
The disciple Nathaniel is next in line with a rather hasty act of faith uttered just after Jesus surprisingly announced him as the man standing under the fig tree: Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel (1:49).” The wedding feast at Cana shortly pushed the other disciples closer to an act of faith. St. John observes, “Jesus did this at the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him (2:11).” Nicodemus sadly remains in the dark only admitting that Jesus is one “who has come from God (3:2).” Chapter four more favorably recalls the Samaritan woman and her community who have arrived at authentic faith: “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world (4:22).”
The celebrated multiplication of the loaves leads to St. Peter and the other disciples making a firm act of faith in Jesus as sent from God: Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” (6:69)
Yet not everyone is convinced of Jesus’ heavenly identity: Some in the crowd who heard these words said, “This is truly the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Messiah.” But others said, “The Messiah will not come from Galilee, will he?…So a division occurred in the crowd because of him (7:41-43).” The man born blind and then cured leaves no doubt about his faith in Jesus as Messiah: “He said, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him (9:38).” The Jewish leaders sadly resist all faith in Jesus’ divinity: The Jews answered him, “We are not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy. You, a man, are making yourself God (10:33).” Yet Jesus’ success with the average Jew is undeniable: “He went back across the Jordan to the place where John first baptized, and there he remained. Many came to him and said, ‘John performed no sign, but everything John said about this man was true.’ And many there began to believe in him (10:40-42).”
The raising of Lazarus happily drew out Martha’s famous testimony of faith She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world (11:27).” This miracle also sealed the faith of many sympathetic Jews: “Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him (11:45).”
The culminating act of faith, as noted above, was St. Thomas’ heartfelt protestation: Thomas answered and said to him, ‘My Lord and my God (20:28).’” Then Jesus observed, ‘Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed (20:29).’” Then the evangelist summarizes his whole Gospel account with these words: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [his] disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name (20:30-32).”
Faith in Jesus as Messiah, Savior, and Son of God is still the very foundation of the Christian life. Each believer has to take a good heartfelt look at Jesus Christ perhaps as presented at the consecration during Mass, maybe as gazed upon in the monstrance during benediction, maybe as pondered in the words of Scripture, possibly as experienced in some aspect of the Christian life, or certainly during a time of personal prayer. Jesus must be faced, pondered, and appreciated on a deeply personal level for a believer truly to have life in his name. Faith is “the root and foundation of all justification” the Council of Trent clearly taught. These compelling words should find a place in the heart and not only in the mind!