Reposted from 2007 by request of Reader Mark:
Five Reasons Why I Love Jesus
5) He’s got a good sense of humor. In this I see I am joined by Julie at Happy Catholic, for pretty much the same reasons. I love the sort of loving, semitic and word-based humor on display in scripture. In Matthew, Chapter 14, Simon and Andrew – probably nagging at each other as they cast their nets into the sea – needed only one phrase to drop their nets and follow him, and the phrase was a dandy, “Heh. Hey fishermen…follow me; I’ll make you fishers of men!” (How I dislike the “gender-sensitive” translations who sacrifice Christ’s delightful wordplay on the altar of hypersensitive-ism, but I digress…) Can’t you just envision Jesus throwing back his head in good-humored appreciation when – a chapter later – a Canaanite woman bests him, answering his challenge with one of her own:
He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”
She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”
Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed from that hour.
4) He never “loves us too much to challenge” us. The scene above is a good example. I have read some commentators suggest that Jesus’ exchange with this woman is an occasion of Jesus being “dark” or “unloving,” but I have never received it that way. Rather, he seems to me to be acting here as a good teacher who wants his student to “stand and deliver,” so to speak.
I know, I know, “stand and deliver” is the catchphrase of highwaymen and thieves but what it really breaks down to is, “hand over the goods, deliver to me what is valuable.” I believe in Jesus’ case, he wants us to expose and bring forth to him our inmost selves.
Remember, Jesus is the Divine Teacher, and a good teacher finds the way to bring out the very best in students, not simply to teach them rote answers (although that has its place) but to make them “deliver of themselves,” to put something more behind their answers. He does it over and over in the Gospels – makes people declare what it is they want, why they are coming to him! His challenge says, “stand and deliver – to be more fully the man or woman you are, and not some prostrate creature.”
Consider, had the story played differently, had Jesus simply said, “okay, fine, your kid is healed” it would not not have been as memorable and a key bit of info would not have been passed along (the important message to the Gentiles – do not be afraid to seek your salvation here, it’s for you, too) but perhaps more importantly, on a personal level, the woman would not have been lifted up, would not have had her cleverness (the gift of her individuality and gifts) acknowledged. She would have been one more woman ducking her head and lowering her eyes. Instead – after that encounter with Christ – she had dignity and could hold her head up. I believe THOSE are the reasons Christ challenged her.
This is a wonderful story and Jesus made here a wonderful challenge to a woman who had been raised in a culture that thought of her as mere chattel: show me who you are. Stand up tall. Be yourself. Speak your piece. There is nothing “dark” in any of that, and there could not be, for He is all Light. I love it. Jesus rocks!
More thoughts on that story here
3) He listens to his mother. Buster is acting really, really 18 lately, so I appreciate this. I love, just love, when Mary goes to him at the wedding in Cana and says, “hey, they have no wine.” Jesus, partying with his friends looks up with a look I know so well, and says in a voice I bet I could recognize (because when I interrupt or bother Buster he will often roll give me the look and sighs, “woman, what now?”) and says to her, “Woman, what do you want me to do about it? This is not my responsibility…not my gig!” And I imagine that Mary gives Jesus a look a lot like the one I give to Buster – a look that says: “if you can help, then you should! Go do the right thing!” at which point Jesus throws up his hands, rolls his eyes (he was fully human, after all, in all things but sin) and says, “fine, alright, whatever.” Can’t you just see Mary, happy and sly, leading the waiters to Jesus and saying, “now, you just do whatever he tells you to!”
At this point Jesus – probably again like many of our sons – cannot help but shake his head and perhaps suppress a wry grin as he does what his mother wants, so she’ll leave him alone. He tells the waiters to fill the urns with water. He makes wine – a very fine wine – and tells the waiters to do their thing. He goes back to his friends, the wine is served, the people exclaim that the best wine has been served last, and Mary catches her son’s eye from across the room. She nods approval. He gives her the “there, you happy now” look, and they go back to their respective conversations, independent and apart, separated by age and gender, abilities, experiences and wisdom, and yet irrevocably connected, profoundly aware of each other, and of all the deeper meanings beneath their mother-son playlet.2) He is the Incarnation of the Creator, and therein resides all mystery, all delight, all consolation, all wisdom and all joy. People often ask me why I keep a nativity set up all year long in my curio cabinet. It is because the wonder of the mystery of the Incarnation is simply too great, too full and too rich to relegate to the back of the attic or the back of our minds. It is too large to be contained in a single season. And because at low points in my life, remembrance of this incredible condescension by God – to come to us and “set his tent with us” – has brought tidings of comfort and joy:
I cannot help – in these final days of Advent – to think about what God did, in a lonely cave on the outskirts of Bethlehem, when He condescended to enter into the pain and fear, the tumult and whirlwind of the world…when he “set his tent among us,” not merely “dwelling” among us as lofty king, but literally “with” us, with hunger, the capacity for injury and doubt…
God entered in, not with a cacophany of noise and a display of raw power, but as the humblest and most dependent of creatures: a baby, lying in a manger, a place for the feeding of animals. He, who became Food for the World, entered with silence, as though he had put his finger to the quivering mouth of a troubled, sobbing world and said…”ssshhhh…it is alright, I’ll keep you company…”
He makes all things new; he’s been doing it for 2000 years. One of the nice things about saying the rosary is that every Monday and Friday you’re praying the Joyful Mysteries, of which The Birth of Our Lord is a part. Keeps the moment present…and new.
1) He is with us even unto the end of the world. It’s a spiritual and a physical promise. Considering Jesus lying on the wood of the manger helps me draw a direct connection to Jesus lying on the wood of the cross, broken as bread is broken before it is handed around and consumed. The God-Man who entered in such humility, lying in a food bin, becomes food for the world, for all humanity, in the Holy Eucharist – blessed and broken, poured and flowing – “for my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink…Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” Yes, the teaching is “hard” as some said to Jesus, himself, but as I’ve written before:
For the God who created “something from nothing,” immaculate conceptions and virgins births are cake walks! So, for that matter, is the changing of humble bread and wine into the Body and Blood of the One who said, “my Flesh is real food, my Blood is real drink…”
Yes, I believe that Christ’s spirit is ever-present and alive in our world and will be “to the end of the world,” but I believe that He is present, physically, as well, in every nation, on every continent, physically come unto us every day, with every dawn as the sun rises and the holy masses begin, from time-zone to time-zone (to the ends of the world) and the faithful once again pray with their priest:
Father, you are holy indeed, and all creation rightly gives you praise. All life, all holiness comes from you through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, by the working of the Holy Spirit. From age to age you gather a people to yourself, so that from east to west a perfect offering may be made to the glory of your name.
And so, Father, we bring you these gifts. We ask you to make them holy by the power of your Spirit, that they may become the body and blood of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at whose command we celebrate this Eucharist.
I know some will read all of that and perhaps bristle a little – particularly some of my Evangelical friends – please know, I’m not trying to get into a debate here, or in anyway disparage anyone else’s mode of worship. Worship is a good thing, and I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything – that’s not my job (and I’d be lousy at it if it were) – but this is what I believe.
I do not look forward to the day when these prayers must be uttered in secret. But I take comfort in knowing that no matter what, uttered they will be, and some remnants will bow and take and eat. To the end of the world.