I remember in my senior year of undergraduate college browsing through the library shelves searching for an author or a title that resonated with me for writing my Senior Thesis. As a serious student, majoring in Religion and Philosophy, with burning questions about God and Jesus, I was determined to find the book that would satisfy my thirst for knowledge and give me answers to my searching questions.
After many agonizing weeks of combing through books in the religion and philosophy section of the library stacks, I discovered a trilogy of works combined into one book by John Knox. This trilogy was entitled Jesus Lord and Christ and included these three titles: The Man Christ Jesus, Christ the Lord and On the Meaning of Christ. What delighted me about this book was that it easy to read and understand, with language that spoke to my intellectual interests at the time.
What I explored ultimately in my thesis was the question of how the historical Jesus relates to the Christ of faith based on John Knox’s writings. I still have this thesis as the writing of it was significant in my faith journey. The question of Who was this man Jesus? intrigued me and was at the core of my searching. This question still offers moments of reflection, but my ponderings now take me from an intellectual search to a contemplative quest for understanding the life and teachings of Jesus.
So, who was this man Jesus? What in his life and teachings is the most powerful message to us? Of his life, I find that Jesus’ work with the marginalized (the poor, the hungry, the disenfranchised, the sick, the imprisoned) is both an example and challenge for how we are to live individually and communally. It is in helping the marginalized where we can find Jesus and experience a transformation of heart and mind. Being with the marginalized teaches us not just humility but also about having faith and hope,despite our circumstances.
We are told in Matthew 25:35-36 that Jesus can be found in the marginalized: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” And then later, in verse 40 of this same chapter, we hear Jesus’ words “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” So,when we are looking for Jesus, it is to the marginalized where we will find him.
Of Jesus’ teachings, two Scripture passages communicate to me Jesus’ message for how we are to live our life:
“Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited, it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offence or store up grievances. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth. It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes. Love never comes to an end.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12: 30-31
Love is clearly the central message in Jesus’ teachings. Story after story in Scripture, we hear and see how Jesus’ actions spring from a place of love. From the story of the women caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) to the story of the ‘sinful’ woman who bathes Jesus’ feet with her tears (Luke 7:36-50), Jesus conveys a message of forgiveness, compassion, and love for the person. By his example, Jesus teaches us to live a life free of condemnation and judgement. We do not see Jesus burdened with guilt or tormented with second-guessing his actions because he is grounded in God’s love. It is this trust and belief in God’s love that empowers him to minister to so many and to advocate for justice for all people. And when Jesus needed to be refueled with this love or to understand the path he was called to follow, he went away to a quiet place to pray.
And so we pray that in our search for answers to life’s struggles that we turn to Jesus’ life and teachings for answers and take time to pray and listen to God’s unfolding message of love to us.
Are you searching for answers to what to do with your life? Why not consider exploring the religious life as a Dominican Sister of Peace? Come and be the feet and hands of Jesus. Our Vocation Ministers are happy to walk with you as you seek to answer God’s call in your life.