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What are some things Jesus did to Help People Understand Him? Part 3 of 4-part series

This is the third of a four-part series on understanding one of the difficulties we will face in implementing a Eucharistic Revival and how we may overcome it.

In this series of articles, we have been looking at the fact that in trying to help people to enter into a deeper relationship with Jesus in the Eucharist during a Eucharistic Revival one of the factors we must contend with is the lack of common categories of understanding that make it difficult or impossible for those who do not share our realistic, sacramental, and moral view of the world to understand what we are talking about when we speak of the Eucharist and of our encounters with Jesus in the Eucharist. While they were not dealing with the exact situation with which we deal, Jesus and the saints throughout history have dealt with similar misunderstandings. So our question in this article is, “How did Jesus and the saints help people to understand what they were saying?”

My purpose here is not to give a comprehensive answer to this question but to identify a few key strategies that they used in particular situations. The difference in which strategy was employed seems to be how open the people to whom they were talking were to shifting their understanding of who Jesus was and what He came to do. The list of strategies given here is not meant to be exhaustive. For each of these strategies, I will briefly describe how Jesus seems to have employed them in a particular situation and then indicate some times when saints followed the same strategy.

Strategy 1: Nudging the Curious

The Pharisee Nicodemus came to Jesus at night to hear what He had to say (John 3:1-21). He was curious, and Jesus encouraged that curiosity and pushed at the limits of Nicodemus’ understanding. Nicodemus misunderstood Jesus at some points, but Jesus continued to talk with him and began to give Nicodemus a framework for understanding what Jesus was telling him. We do not see the conclusion of this conversation or its immediate aftermath, but Nicodemus must have been impressed by Jesus for we see him assisting at the burial of Jesus (John 19:38-42). Jesus’ nudging appears to have worked.

Saints: St. Ignatius of Loyola’s work with his early companions, such as St. Francis Xavier

Strategy 2: Encountering the Wounded

When Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-45), she did not understand why He would even talk to her. Her expectation was to be rejected by Him, a man and a Jew. Throughout their conversation, she misunderstood what He was saying and asked questions that came from the way she had come to view the world. But Jesus did not remain in the categories she had built. He came to her in her woundedness, met her there, and gave her hope of a different way, a better way. She no longer had to buy into the hopelessness that her previous view of the world held. Instead, her encounter with Jesus brought healing and enlightenment.

Saints: St. Mother Teresa, St. Francis and the leper, St. Damian of Molokai, St. John Bosco

Strategy 3: Simple Proclamation to the Uninterested

After Pilate had tried to avoid dealing with the accusations against Jesus (see John 18:28-32), Pilate interviewed Jesus. Pilate’s concerns were worldly, and he seemed mainly interested in avoiding any unpleasant incidents. He was not truly interested in who Jesus was or what His goals were. In the face of this lack of interest, Jesus proclaimed the existence of a kingdom that is not of this world and the existence of truth. This simple proclamation seems to have had no effect on someone so removed from and not interested in Jesus and His mission, but it may have planted seeds that sprouted later.

Saints: St. Paul to the Athenians in Acts 17 – At first, it might seem like he is talking to the curious, but for most in this passage their curiosity is more a type of entertainment than a genuine questioning.

Strategy 4: Bold Proclamation to the Hostile

With the Pharisees, the scribes, and the Sadducees, who were much more interested in God, in Jesus, and in His mission than Pilate was, Jesus took a very different approach. In His interactions with these leaders of the people who claimed righteousness and authority from God, Jesus boldly confronted their hypocrisy and lack of love and mercy (see for example, Mark 12:13-40). These who were hostile to Jesus understood that there was a conflict of interpretations of reality and of what was important and that this conflict had important consequences. In the face of this understanding that there was a conflict, Jesus cut to the heart of where the disagreement lie and to how it played out in people’s lives.

Saints: Daniel and his companions in the book of Daniel, the seven young men in 2 Maccabees 7, martyrs throughout history

So, can we use these strategies in our current situation? In the final article of this series, we will look at some suggestions for how to move forward so that the people of our time, our friends and loved ones and those in our communities, can actually hear and understand and be transformed by the Good News of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Eucharist.

Where we are going:

Part 4: Strategies for Moving Forward

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Dr. Seth Wright

Director of Missionary Discipleship

Image by gpointstudio on Freepik

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