“Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father”
The greatest joy about being Catholic is in knowing Christ, and in that knowing, having a real, living and personal relationship with Him. One of the great perils of the spiritual life is knowing ‘about’ Christ, but without actually knowing Christ the Person, and so having no real sense of that transforming encounter.
The place where we encounter Christ and familiarise ourselves with Him is in the Scriptures. It is here that God is revealed to us fully, in the Person of Jesus Christ. There is a very revealing text in the Gospel of St John, where the Lord is preparing the Apostles for what is to come soon in the Passion; Philip asks to see the Father, and Jesus replies – “Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father” (Jn.14:9). Jesus is the revelation of God in our midst, He is Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us’.
Saint Jerome, the great Biblical scholar, asked “how could one live without the knowledge of Scripture, by which we come to know Christ Himself, who is the life of believers?”.
At the Second Vatican Council, the Church commented explicitly on this when she told us Christ “is present in His Word since it is He Himself who speaks when the Holy Scriptures are read in the Church” (‘Sacrosanctum Concilium’). Also at the Council, the Church had this to say –
“In the sacred books, the Father who is in Heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them; and the force and power in the Word of God is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church, the strength of faith for her sons, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source fo spiritual life” (‘Dei Verbum’, ch.21)
And Pope Benedict, speaking at the 2008 Synod of Bishops, released a post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation entitled ‘Word Of The Lord’ (‘Verbum Domini’), in which he wrote –
“The Christian life is essentially marked by an encounter with Jesus Christ.. with the Synod Fathers, I express my heartfelt hope for the flowering of a ‘new season of greater love for Sacred Scripture’ on the part of every member of the People of God, so that their prayerful and faith-filled reading of the Bible will, with time, deepen their personal relationship with Jesus”.
In the same Exhortation, Benedict added this stark reminder –
“We must never forget that all authentic and living Christian spirituality is based in the Word of God proclaimed, accepted, celebrated and meditated upon in the Church” (‘Verbum Domini’, ch.121)
Our present Holy Father, Pope Francis spoke only yesterday about the power of the Gospel – “The newness of the Gospel transfigures us inside and out: spirit, soul, body, and everyday life”. The Gospels are truly alive and have extraordinary power – Jesus is, after all, ‘the living Word’. Giving a concrete example of this, Pope Francis spoke earlier this month about Saint Francis of Assisi – “In a decisive moment of his youth, Saint Francis of Assisi read the Gospel. Still today the Gospel lets you know the living Jesus, it speaks to your heart and it changes your life.”
Taking all of these themes and expanding upon them, Father James Kubicki SJ, in his excellent book “A Heart On Fire: Rediscovering Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus” writes a very detailed and interesting section on ‘Christ, the Word of God’. I highly recommend the book itself, and particularly a reading of that section, in which Father Kubicki writes –
“To know someone personally (and not just know about that person), you have to spend time with him or her. You must listen. The disciples grew in their relationship with Jesus by spending time with Him, observing His actions, and listening to His words. We do the same when we spend quality time with Jesus in the Word. He not only teaches us and forms our attitudes and values, but also He shares Himself with us. Pope Benedict made this abundantly clear in his first Encyclical that ‘being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a Person, which gives life a new horizon and definitive direction’.”
With the grace of God, may all of us so cultivate a deep love of the Word that we might truly encounter that Person, the Living Word, Emmanuel, the God who is with us, and so be transformed by Him.