Consider Jesus’ Characteristic Way of Behaving
I’m reading Elizabeth Johnson’s book, Consider Jesus, for Lent. In chapter 4 Johnson says that Jesus didn’t merely speak about the coming of the Reign of God (or the coming of God’s Kingdom). “In his own practical ways he enacted it.” She then raises the question, “What kind of behavior was characteristic of Jesus?” She focuses on five characteristics.
1. Jesus called disciples to follow him. Women and men responded to this call, leaving their homes, work, and villages. They formed a community of brothers and sisters, traveling with him, being taught by him, and even being sent on mission by him. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, “this band of followers formed the nucleus of the church.”
2. Jesus showed partisanship for the marginalized people of his day. He associated with sinners, he healed the sick, he focused on the poor, he exorcised demons. Over and over again he reached out to people “considered of no account.”
3. Jesus shared companionship with people–with his disciples and with the wider circle of individuals who were drawn to him. Religious art tends to focus on the Last Supper. But many times in the Gospels Jesus is shown eating with people. In the Middle East, sharing the table with others created a bond of kinship. No doubt, the wine ran freely at these meals with Jesus, for Jesus’ enemies accused him of being a drunkard. Says Johnson, Jesus “was perceived as someone who made merry, and his meals were considered a bit uproarious.” She refers to what the great Belgian theologian, Edward Schillebeeckx, said. At these meals, being sad and being in Jesus’ presence “was an existential impossibility.” As you get into Jesus’ circle, “the joy breaks out.”
4. Jesus is both faithful and free when it comes to the Torah. Jesus was an observant Jew. He observed Jewish customs and prayed Jewish prayers. But there were occasions when he broke the Torah, thus giving grave scandal to some. But in each instance, he set aside the law because a person’s well-being was at stake. When Jesus was facing sickness and suffering in an individual, for example, he set aside the law and cured on the Sabbath. When he was condemned for doing this, he reminded his accusers that the greatest law was love (Mt. 22:37-39). Johnson concludes, “Loving this way, Jesus himself creates a liberating life-style and shows a wonderful freedom to do good.” (I really like that last sentence!)
5. Jesus’ whole ministry was rooted in prayer. In addition to the prescribed Jewish prayers, Jesus “prayed with personal initiative.” He went off by himself at night to pray. From time to time he called his disciples to move away from the crowds and take time to reflect. From the way Jesus speaks about God, it is obvious he has a “special and personal experience of God as intimate, close, and tremendously compassionate over suffering and sin.” Johnson concludes this section with these words: “God Abba was the passion of his life.”
How do we measure up to Jesus’ characteristic ways of behaving? Here are a few questions for each of the five characteristics:
1. When have I experienced Jesus calling to me to do something… to help someone… to get involved in an issue of our day… to change my behavior… to change my attitude… to extend or seek forgiveness?
2. Who are some of the people in today’s world who are “considered of no account”? How am I attentive to them?
3. Is “table fellowship” a part of my life, my faith? Does joy characterize the way I practice my faith?
4. In regard to the way I practice my faith, am I both faithful and free—like Jesus?
5. When do I ever experience God as intimate, as close?
PS: Once again I sent this reflection out on Sunday, March 27, about 3:00 pm. I hope my subscribers received it on Monday.
One thing we hope for during Lent is a change of heart. Here’s a simple song “Change My Heart, O God,” sung by the “Marantha” singers. Its central image is of God as the Potter and we as the clay. Since most of us probably have had little experience fashioning clay pots, I chose this version of the song set against the background of a man creating a clay pot. I find this ancient art fascinating. The video gives me a greater appreciation of clay pots—as well as a greater appreciation of God at work forming me—using the people and circumstances of my daily life as well as our current historic times… As I watched this video, I thought of the Allstate Insurance slogan: “You’re in good hands…” WE ARE in good hands… God’s hands…
For those who wish, this second video shows a 7-year-old Ukrainian girl, Amelia, in a bomb shelter in Kyiv where she sings “Let It Go” from the Disney movie Frozen. Amelia is now with her grandmother in Poland. The second video shows her singing the National Anthem of Ukraine at a fund-raiser for refugees in Poland.
Amelia singing the Ukrainian National Anthem at a fund raiser in Poland:
I welcome your responses to today’s reflection. Have any of you ever made something out of clay? If so, would you be willing to share your experience with us? Otherwise, please comment on anything that stood out for you in today’s reflection or anything you’d like to add. Thank you!
Thank you Sister Melannie,
Thoughts for the start of the week.
Received on Monday, 6:08pm. Loved all of the music.
Received on Monday, 6:08 pm also.
6:08 for me too.
Good evening, Sr. Melannie…
Good evening, all…
Reading your blog, Sr. Melannie is getting expensive because I keep buying all the books you recommend! Really love that line from Edward Schillebeeckx, that being sad in the presence of Jesus is an “existential impossibility.”
Please keep writing.
That little girl is such a symbol of God’s love! Bless her and the Ukrainian people.
Thank you, Sister Melannie
Thanks to John for his idea taken from Schillebeeckx. Good to remember that each of us is in and with Christ. Each of us alone or with others can do God’s will, as children of the Father, sharing the life of the risen Christ.
Received Monday 6:08 PM. Gratefully
I tried thinking it was easy…….soon I found it much more difficult. I can see that in my life allowing God to be the potter is difficult for me to accept but truly necessary to become what He wants me to be.
Sister, thank you for another good suggestion for living better—by love.
However, I would like to thank you for another way to look at love you described in “Living Faith” the 4th Sunday of Lent. The love of God is not fair. He loves constantly & I am unreliable. Happy Easter. Alice Reis
Thanks for sharing ideas from the book. It’s a way for me to get to know Jesus better. Need to reflect on this. Received on Monday at 6:08 PM.
Working with clay in high school helped me so much — the clay must be carefully centered on the wheel or the project is lost. I found my time spent throwing bowls big or small gave me a challenge but also calmed me through the angst of the teen years .
The potter at work brought back a lot of memories! Thank you, Melanie…..
I made a retreat at St Norbert Abbey in DePere, Wi. The artist retreat master shared various pots with us and we were challenged to throw a pot during retreat. Not so easy to follow the Master. Takes time, patience, and trying again and again to follow!
Thank you for the beautiful little girl with her beautiful voice!
Yes I’ve worked on a potter’s wheel. Its my favorite spiritual image
My first summer at Dayton U working on my masters a pottery course was offered. The imagery is so strong for me. You literally throw the
clay on the wheel and keep that up until the wheel is turning correctly–
not wobbling. Then you “draw it out of itself” as the instructor said.
Only then can you begin shaping it. And if you don’t like what’s happening with it, crush it up and throw again. When you have the shape you want then you glaze it and fire it. Love it!
Received Monday, 6:08 p.m. Thank you sooo much.
Thank you, Sister, brought back many memories centering clay on the potters kick wheel. As M C Richard’s wrote Centering: that act which precedes all others on the pottery’s wheel. Thank you for bring back memories. Change My Heart Oh God an inspiration for all potters.
I tried very unsuccessfully to throw a pot and that was the end for me. But it gave me a new appreciation for what other people do.
The situation in Ukraine is so devastating that it was good to unite with them in spirit with the videos.
Thank you again for inspiring us all!
I have written to inmates for the past 20 years. Recently I received an email from a gentleman on Florida’s Death Row who described the inhumane conditions he and other inmates were subjected to when they were recently transported for medical care. Those on death row were forced to stand chained in small cages for hours. Other inmates were not treated much better. My husband copied his letter and we forwarded it to many people including some politicians.I pray it opens some hearts.
PS I have received your blog every Monday morning for many years but it has not come for the past 2 or 3 weeks and I have had to look it up on your website.😢
Thank you, Sister Melanie, for your weekly blog! Also, your essays in Living with Christ always speak to me.
Sister Melannie, hello:
It occurs to me that these five traits/characteristics of Jesus’s ministry and life could be used as focal points for meditation in a five-decade rosary, if one feels drawn to that particular form of prayer.
Always a delight to read Sunflower Seeds.
peace and light