"You search the Scriptures, but you do not want to come to me to have life."
The ability to quote someone doesn’t necessarily mean that we fully understand the quote. In dealing with our faith we are faced with something of the same order. Quoting scripture that we have memorized is commendable. Knowing the scriptures, the authors, the historical context in which they were written, the audience for whom they were written at that time is very helpful. But the gnawing question is: How do the scriptures bring me to a greater knowledge of God, a relationship with God that is very personal. In the gospel for today Jesus is disappoint with his listeners because it is precisely the personal relationship, the personal friendship that is lacking. Oh, sure, "you search the Scriptures, because think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf. BUT…you do not want to come to me to have life."
No friendship is built totally on knowledge, as good as that is, and as necessary. Friendship needs the personal contact. There is the element of trust, openness, honesty, patience, dealing with occasional mistakes. Getting behind the Gospel text is offered to us, getting in touch with the person, Jesus. That is a lifelong challenge, one that is true of any close friendship.
St. Theresa of Avila offers a point on prayer that leads a person like you and me "to have life with Jesus." She makes the point that prayer is really a conversation between two close friends. Think about that a moment. Friendships grow. They are not one-sided. There is sharing about one’s life. There are also those precious moments of quiet but with a deep sense of the presence of one’s friend. Sometimes in the gospels it’s a picture, sometimes it’s a story, a parable, or words of wisdom. Sometimes we read slowly, pausing over a word or phrase that touches us. Sometimes it’s just sitting quietly with eyes closed but with a strong sense of His presence.
Where would you go in the scriptures to find out what Jesus has to say to you and me about love? Have you and I shared and talked to Him about it? Have you and I at times found ourselves saying, "Jesus, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what love is all about. I’ve read and heard the scripture saying, ‘Greater love than this no one has but that he be willing to lay down his life for his friends.’ For the longest time I read and heard that line but never made the connection that You were including me as your friend." From then on a crucifix has never been only that image on the wall at home, on my desk, or hanging on a chain around my neck. And what about the crucifix hanging over the altar at church? Mass will never be the same. You and I hear at the consecration:" This is my body and this is my blood which is offered up for you for the forgiveness of your sins."
Fr. Peter Berendt, C.P. is on the staff of Holy Name Passionist Retreat Center, Houston, Texas.