Looking Up To Jesus Christ!
Readings: (1st: Zec 12, 10-11; 13, 1; Ps: 62, 2-6. 8-9; 2nd: Gal 3, 26-29 Gos: Lk 9, 18-24)
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a member of the Congregation Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers, Province of Nigeria South East. He is currently the Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Woliwo Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. For more details and comments contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Phone: +23408063767512, +23408024942843
Taking a cursory look at most religions of the world, one will find a common phenomenon. Each time their followers come together for worship, they align themselves either physically or spiritually in the same direction. For instance when the followers of Christianity and Islam gather to pray, they face one direction. Of course, this is not to say that God is not everywhere. The Christians face their sanctuary while the Muslims face the direction of the Sun (which of course determines the positioning of their Mosque). When they pray, they all spiritually try to channel their attention or gaze to the one to whom they entreat. If there is anything the church has always encouraged her faithful to do always, it is to be united in seeking the face of God. This is very much evident in the recent call of Pope Francis on the 2nd of June, 2013 to be united in one holy hour of adoration (prayer) for peace in the world and in our families. This was a call to be united in looking up to God. On this 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time, therefore, the church once again re-echoes this call of looking up to Jesus Christ. “Therefore in today’s celebration, with all our differences, we become one as we gaze in prayer on the Christ we have contributed in bruising, and who gave his life as a ransom for our sake.”
In the first reading of today, God promises to allow us as one people share in the one Holy Spirit. It is this one Holy Spirit that unites us in our single quest of looking up to Jesus. In this we find that though bruised and derided, the Christ who the prophet speaks about is the epicenter and fountain of life from which we ourselves draw life. Hence, Isaiah writes that: “By his stripes we are healed” (53, 5). In order words, united in looking up to Jesus, we ourselves share both in his sufferings and joys. As we channel all our “spiritual energies” towards the author of life, who though was crucified, we ourselves become liberated, purified and worthy of his eternal presence. The second reading of today, though scanty in words has a very powerful message to communicate to us. One finds that it also reminds us that Christ is the one who unites us. We become the faithful of God through one baptism, and also, share in the life of Jesus Christ in whom we are baptized. Thus, Paul writes: “You are, all of you, sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. All baptized in Christ…there are no distinctions between Jews and Greeks…but you all are one in Christ Jesus”. This means we are to walk towards and look up this same Jesus in faith as one people with one goal. All we do must proceed from him and at the same time tend towards Him. This is what John the Apostle means when he refers to him as: “The Alpha and the Omega” (Rev 22, 13), the terminus ad quo and the terminus ad quem. Because Christ is the one in whose life we share through our baptism, we are to faithfully approach him in all circumstances of life. “Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who leads us in our faith … But what you have come to is Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem where the millions of angels have gathered for the festival” (Heb 12, 2). Looking up to Jesus therefore means trusting him, depending on him, and waiting on him in all circumstances of life. It equally means clinging to him for good. This is what Paul means by “clothing yourselves in Christ”.
In the gospel, in spite of the many troubles and death our Lord Jesus Christ experienced, we still find in him the source of our strength and entire life. Hence, Jesus’ admonition of “take up your cross and follow me” also means fixing our gaze on him. To look up to Jesus faithfully, we must detach ourselves from all distractions and all that will prevent us from comprehending fully the power and divinity of Jesus Christ. This is also the idea behind renouncing oneself. When we renounce ourselves to follow Jesus, we concentrate on him, and we are lost in the contemplation of him. Therefore, looking up to Jesus as a Church is equally a call to pray. This is what the Church does any time she gathers her children together in prayer. It is a renunciation of the individual self in order to be united as one big family in “looking up to Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith.” When we as a church and one big family are lost in this glorious gaze we find ourselves face to face with Jesus Christ in whose suffering, baptism and life we share. Not only do we find ourselves in his presence, we are transformed for good as a family. It suffices to note however, that for us to achieve this, we must constantly as a church mean it, earnestly work towards it, and say like the Psalmist: “O God, you are my God, for you my soul is thirsting…so I gaze on you in your sanctuary”
Peace be with you all!