“Who is this man…?”
This is a question that continues to lurk at the heart of all those who come into contact with Jesus, or indeed who hear of him through another.
The Gospels contain a myriad of stories about Jesus, some fantastic, some seemingly mundane. He always manages to capture the attention of those around him, always he is a surprising presence. Somehow He manages to exceed all of our expectations in the most curious of ways.
Before him none can remain unmoved, and often his words and his presence spark an internal conflict within those who are there. His words, mysterious as they are awaken within his listeners the desire to hear more – despite at times their inability understand. In this I think of Andrew and John, in the opening chapter of John’s Gospel. They didn’t know him, never saw him before. ‘They follow behind Him timidly and stay there all afternoon to see him speak, because they didn’t really even understand what He said. It was so evident that that man said true things, even if they didn’t understand them, that after they left, they repeated to others what He had said as if they were their thoughts’ (Giussani, 53).
In today’s Gospel the Pharisees find the truth of Jesus, a truth unmistakably bound up in mercy, so confronting that they are scandalised. While they may not fully comprehend the meaning of the words that he speaks, their truth resounds in their hearts and they are convicted from within. It is right here that the freedom of each of us in engaged, and a choice is forced upon us – will we react like the woman who feels the strength of these words, and, moved to contrition, reaches out to receive them; or will we like the Pharisees reject them as asking too much of us?
‘Are we to fear the severity of these words, or rather have confidence in their salvific content, in their power?’ (JPII, 8 Oct. 1980)