First Sunday of Lent
I have always enjoyed meeting new people. Part of the thrill of coming to a new parish as pastor is one is immediately confronted with a large number of people whom one has not met before. Each person has a life history, a family, a job and a variety of interests. And the chances are that if they come regularly to church, they have a relationship with God and, even if it is perhaps uneasy, with the Catholic Church as well. And, even if it takes years to get to know his new flock, understanding the group dynamics which vary from parish to parish, and becoming acquainted with each parishioner individually, the “getting-to-know-you” process never loses its fascination. I suppose that parishioners too wonder when it is they will really know their parish priest: even when he is no longer “new”, when will they get under his skin.
In his own day many of his contemporaries wanted to “see” Jesus, hear him and get to know him. Even King Herod wanted to find out about Jesus: “go and find out all about this child”, Herod requested the wise men (Mt. 2, 8). What was true of the men and women of Galilee and Judea two thousand years ago has been true of every generation since. St. Anselm, second Archbishop of Canterbury after the Norman Conquest, probably put it best: I want to know and understand the truth that is already loved by my heart. Countless saints, scholars and students over the centuries have sought to get to know Jesus. Since the late eighteenth century, starting among Protestant scholars in Germany inspired by the scientific principles of the European Enlightenment, there has been increased critical interest in the Jesus of History. How much can we know about Jesus of Nazareth, the man who lived in Palestine between 4 BC and AD 30? How reliable is the information we have about him? Ever since the age of the Church Fathers, questions have been asked about the significance, and identity of the Jesus who was called the Christ.
The science of theological inquiry into Jesus Christ and the claims made about him is called Christology. Theologians continue to write about Jesus and the Christological literature is vast. And yet, because Jesus is at the very centre of our worship here in our parish, which most of us consider just “ordinary”, it seemed to me important that before we look at anything else – however urgent or interesting – we might ask ourselves how well we know Jesus, whether the picture we have of him conforms to the reliable information we possess, and whether knowing and understanding his life, mission and culture better, it might help us to love him more and identify more emphatically with what he wants and expects of us who are his disciples. I hope that I have set our parish Lent Course in context and that it will excite the interest of a broad swathe of the community members.
For Fr Patrick’s previous “Thoughts” you can click here.