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The Prophetic Path: Motivated by Love
The Prophetic Path: Motivated by Love

Knowing Jesus for Ourselves

Friday, December 1, 2023

In a sermon on Matthew 16:13–20, Father Richard speaks of our universal mandate to live out the gospel in our lives:

On many occasions, Jesus asks his disciples not to tell anyone that he is the Son of God, the Messiah. Why might that be? The only reason I can imagine is that he’s saying every one of us has to come to that knowledge for ourselves. We can’t let someone else do our spiritual homework for us, but many of us do. We Catholics let the pope, bishops, and priests give us all the answers and then we just parrot them back. Has there been any experience of it ourselves? Often, the answer is “usually not.” Many Christians believe what we’re supposed to believe. But here Jesus says, “Who do you say that I am?” What have you experienced? What have you personally discovered? What knowledge do you have?

This passage is most often used to preach the primacy of the papacy since Jesus tells Peter, “You are the rock upon which I will build my church.” That’s true, but a couple chapters later Jesus says the identical thing to the whole community: “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven. What you loose on earth, will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18). Jesus is not only talking about the pope; he’s talking about the people of God, all of us. Peter as the symbolic leader has to do it first, but then we all participate in passing on the message.

People who live their prophetic vocation are those who choose this life of love and transformation:

Without a constant infusion of the Holy Spirit, without a constant desire and trust—Lord, give me your Holy Spirit!—we all close down. We do! It’s the nature of life to circle around the smaller and smaller self, to take fewer and fewer risks, and to never go outside our own comfort zone of people who are just like us. Friends and siblings in Christ, don’t do that! We’re all going to be gone in a few years. We only get one chance to live this life of love. Every day is a lesson in love, learning how not to bind up ourselves and our neighbors, but in fact to free ourselves and others. What Jesus is saying here to Peter and to all of us is that he will back up what we do. We are Jesus’ emissaries. As St. Teresa says, “We are the only hands and feet, the only eyes and ears that Jesus has.” [1] Jesus has handed over the mission and the mystery and the wonder of the realm of God to each of us.

Until we can live every day of our lives motivated by love, rather than by fear or people in authority, this Gospel will not work. It will not change you or me, and it will not change the people around us. Let’s begin anew.

[1] Paraphrase of the often-quoted observation “Christ has no body now but yours,” frequently attributed to Teresa of Ávila.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, No One Can Experience Jesus for You, homily, August 24, 2014.

Image Credit: A path from one week to the next—Loïs Mailou Jones, Shapes and Colors (detail), 1958, watercolor on paper, Smithsonian American Art Museum. Madison Frambes, Untitled 4 (detail), 2023, naturally dyed paper and ink, Mexico, used with permission. Madison Frambes, Untitled 1 (detail), 2023, naturally dyed paper and ink, Mexico, used with permission. Click here to enlarge image.

For this series of pieces for CAC [I explore] the loneliness of grief, and the fleeting moments of beauty, grounding, and community that make it bearable.
Madison Frambes, artist

Story from Our Community:  

My contemplative practice centers on my breath. Each morning, I sit in stillness for what I call, “coming home to myself.” Sometimes, though rarely, I feel a part of the greater whole which evokes great tenderness within me. I don’t know whether to softly cry in surrender to such love or whether to bubble up with a quiet joy. For the last couple of years, I recognize how quiet yet strong I have become. I am content and at peace within myself. More importantly, I can now be amused by people and actions I would have judged harshly before. This is my experience of divinity. —Kathy R.

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