Jesus & the Men and Women of His day by John Paul II

For books by the John Paul II, click on the blue. We recommend Crossing the Threshold of Hope, ($12.00) or about him--His Holiness: John Paul II, & the Hidden History... (by Carl Bernstein & Marco Politi--$19.25). As Associates of Amazon.com, we receive a referral fee when you purchase books, etc., through this site. Since we are a totally volunteer organization, all income goes to help spread the Good News. Fr. Joe Landi

Enter above

the Gospels relate many meetings between Jesus and the men and women of his day. A common feature of all these narratives is the transforming power present and manifest in these encounters with Jesus, inasmuch as they "initiate an authentic process of conversion, communion and solidarity."

Among the most significant is the meeting with the Samaritan woman. Jesus calls her in order to quench his thirst, a thirst which was not only physical: indeed, "he who asked for a drink was thirsting for the faith of that woman." By saying to her "Give me a drink" and speaking to her about living water, the Lord awakened in the Samaritan woman a question, almost a prayer for something far greater than she was capable of understanding at the time: "Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst."

Similarly, the most precious fruit of the encounter between Jesus and Zacchaeus is the conversion of the tax collector, who becomes aware of his past unjust actions and decides to make abundant restitution — "four times as much" — to those he had cheated. Furthermore, he adopts an attitude of detachment from material goods and of charity towards the needy, which leads him to give half of his possessions to the poor.

Special mention should be made of the encounters with the Risen Jesus reported in the New Testament. Mary Magdalen meets the Risen One, and as a result overcomes her discouragement and grief at the death of the Master. In his new Paschal glory, Jesus tells her to proclaim to the disciples that he has risen: "Go to my brethren" (Jn 20:17). For this reason, Mary Magdalen could be called "the apostle of the Apostles".

The disciples on the road to Emmaus, for their part, after meeting and recognizing the Risen Lord, return to Jerusalem to recount to the Apostles and the other disciples all that had happened to them. Jesus, "beginning with Moses and all the prophets, interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." Later they would recognize that their hearts were burning within them as the Lord talked to them along the road and opened the Scriptures to them. There is no doubt that Saint Luke, in relating this episode, especially the decisive moment in which the two disciples recognize Jesus, makes explicit allusion to the accounts of the institution of the Eucharist by Jesus at the Last Supper. The Evangelist, in relating what the disciples of Emmaus told the Eleven, uses an expression which had a precise Eucharistic meaning for the early Church: "He was made known to them in the breaking of the bread".

One of the encounters with the Risen Lord, which had a decisive influence on the history of Christianity, was certainly the conversion of Saul, the future Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, on the road to Damascus. There his life was radically changed: from being a persecutor, he became an Apostle (cf. Acts 9:3-30). Paul himself describes this extraordinary experience as a revelation of the Son of God "in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles" (Gal 1:16).

Some of the encounters with Jesus mentioned in the Gospel are clearly personal, as, for example, when he summons someone to follow him. At other times the encounters are communal in nature. This is especially true of the encounters with the Apostles, which are of fundamental importance for the constitution of the Church. Indeed, the Apostles, chosen by Jesus from among the wider circle of his disciples, receive special training and enjoy a closer relationship with him. To the crowds Jesus speaks in parables, while explaining to the Twelve: "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given". They are called to be heralds of the Good News and to carry out a special mission of building up the Church by the grace of the sacraments. To this end, they receive the necessary power: Jesus confers upon them the authority to forgive sins, invoking the same authority which the Father has given him in heaven and on earth. They would be the first to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, a gift then bestowed upon all who by virtue of the Sacraments of Initiation would become part of the Christian community. The Church is the place where men and women, by encountering Jesus, can come to know the love of the Father, for whoever has seen Jesus has seen the Father. After his Ascension into heaven, Jesus acts through the powerful agency of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete who transforms believers by giving them new life. Thus they become capable of loving with God's own love, which "has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us". God's grace also enables Christians to work for the transformation of the world, in order to bring about a new civilization, which my Predecessor Paul VI appropriately called "the civilization of love". It manifests the Father's plan by revealing to each human person the way to realize fully his or her vocation. Thus Jesus not only reconciles man with the Father, but also reconciles man with himself and thus reveals his true nature".

The Synod (of the Americas) Fathers, taking up the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, reaffirmed that Jesus is the way which leads to full personal realization, culminating in the definitive and eternal encounter with God. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me". God has predestined us "to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born of many brethren". Jesus Christ is thus the definitive answer to the question of the meaning of life, and to those fundamental questions which still trouble so many men and women on the American continent.

At the beginning of his public life, at the marriage of Cana, when the Son of God works the first of his signs, awakening faith in the disciples, it is Mary who intervenes and directs the servants towards her Son in these words: "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2:5). In this regard I once wrote that "the Mother of Christ presents herself as the spokeswoman of her Son's will, pointing out those things which must be done so that the salvific power of the Messiah may be manifested". For this reason Mary is the sure path to our meeting with Christ. Devotion to the Mother of the Lord, when it is genuine, is always an impetus to a life guided by the spirit and values of the Gospel.

Condensed from the Holy Father’s teaching given at Mexico City, January 22, 1999, the twenty-first of his Pontificate, entitled the Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, ECCLESIA IN AMERICA. The full text is available at www.vatican.va, the Vatican Web Site.  You can receive the English edition of L’Osservatore Romano,where this article also appears by e-mailing a request for a subscription to Dmedinger@aol.com or by calling (410)547-5380. The subscription rate is $151.00 U.S.

Read other articles in the March 1999 edition of The San Francisco Charismatics or return to the Main Menu of sfSpirit.com by clicking on the blue.