Praying the Gospels

In previous articles, we explored how our deeper understanding of the Resurrection and of the Jesus Process changed everything—the way we pray, the way we participate in the liturgy of the Mass. Now let us examine how the Risen Jesus changes how we read the Gospels, how we preach the gospels, and how we practice faith-sharing based on the Gospels.

When it comes to the Gospels, the tendency is to focus solely on the historical Jesus’ every word and action. But if we go no further, we lock Jesus into history and he becomes only an inspiring figure, whose words we use to moralize to improve our own or others’ conduct. But by so doing, we encounter only one dimension of Jesus. Thus, he does not become the catalyst of the Jesus Process whereby he leads us to the Risen Jesus and to the Spirit’s empowerment of us.

We must read the Gospels three dimensionally. We must move the focus of the Gospels ultimately to all the dimensions of Jesus—the historical Jesus, the Risen Jesus and the Jesus who gives us the Spirit. Otherwise, we miss the power of the Gospels to transform us into persons who carry on Jesus’ ongoing Incarnation. Fr. John Walsh, M.M. says that we have to look at the Gospels as unfinished: we have to write the latest chapters. It is as if the Gospels are contained in a loose-leaf binder. However, to do so we must grow deeper in the awareness that we have been empowered by the Risen Jesus.

The Risen Jesus has empowered us to carry on Jesus’ ongoing Incarnation by giving us the same powers Jesus exercised in his earthly life. The key questions we have to ask ourselves are: How does the Scripture passage, which we are reflecting on, reveal the powers that the Risen Jesus has given us?  How do the Gospels empower us to carry on Jesus’ ongoing Incarnation?

Take the Gospel story of the woman “who had suffered from severe bleeding for 12 years. She had spent all she had on doctors, but no one had been able to cure her. She came up in the crowd behind Jesus and touched the edge of his cloak, and her bleeding stopped at once. Jesus asked, ‘Who touched me?’” Despite the denials of everyone, Jesus insisted, “Someone touched me, for I knew it when power went out of me.” Today, we have to be the hem of Jesus’ garment. If people in need touch us, they touch Jesus. His power will go out from us—if we have faith, if we have taken possession of Jesus’ powers given to us by the Risen Jesus.

How do we carry on Jesus’ ongoing Incarnation in us? How do we write the next chapters in the Gospels? We must exercise the powers given by the Risen Jesus to be sacraments of peace, healing and forgiveness. The Gospels are all about these powers.

Does our reading of the Gospels awaken our faith in our powers to be sacraments to others? Fr. Ronald Rolheiser writes in The Holy Longing: “We can forgive each other’s sins; not we, but the power of Christ within us.”

Does a sermon on the Gospels inspire us to bind sinners to Jesus through our love for them? Fr. Rolheiser states: “If a child or a brother or a sister or a loved one of yours strays from the church in terms of faith practice and morality, as long as you continue to love that person, and hold him or her in union and forgiveness, he or she is touching the hem of the garment….and is forgiven by God.”

Does the compassionate life of Jesus that the Gospels relate raise our awareness that the Risen Jesus has given us the powers to be compassion and communion to others? Do our Gospel readings empower us to be channels of faith, hope and love for others as Jesus called forth faith, hope and love in others during his earthly life.