In the Fourth Gospel we read the following account about Jesus and his disciples:
20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.”22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.
This request from some Greeks to “see Jesus” has intrigued me for years. I believe, in a simple but powerful way, it underscores what every human heart hungers for—Jesus! The problem is that most churches, and few Christians, actually help people to see Jesus.
My friend Fr. Joseph F. Girzone recently underscored this again in his October issue of the Joshua Mountain Newsletter.
Lately, many churches and parishes are embarking on evangelization programs to introduce people to the Christian message. Interestingly, when I read the description of how they plan to evangelize, so frequently I never see Jesus mentioned in the whole description of the evangelization priorities. There is frequent mention of catechesis and theology and liturgy and scripture reading and involvement in church programs. But I cannot help but feel that people don't realize that Jesus is our religion, and getting to know Jesus should be the substance of evangelization. When the apostles went out to teach they didn't teach bible except when using it to explain Jesus to Jews. And there was no New Testament. Nor did they teach theology. There was no theology developed yet. They taught Jesus; "Let me tell you about my friend Jesus, how he lived and taught us and died for us and rose from the dead." People's lives then were totally centered around the person of Jesus, not church or theological concepts. Those things are the medium of the message, not the message. Jesus is the Message, but we continually make the medium the message and people hunger for Jesus and there are few who know anything in depth about Jesus. That is the real crisis in Christianity today. When we evangelize we should make Jesus and his life real for people. People are tired of substitutes.
Can you see why I am so drawn to the writing and encouragement of Fr. Girzone? He gets the central point of Christian faith about as well as anyone I know. The goal of my life is to see and know Jesus. I have too often made the medium, which in my case has been the study and teaching of theology, the message. The danger is that I know a great deal about a lot but miss the One who I truly hunger for in my soul. In the process of getting knowledge and Christian information we can miss knowing Jesus more deeply each day.