Friday, February 11, 2011

Encounter with the Lord

This is an excerpt from a transcript of a talk by Fr Thomas Hopko on Jesus as God from Ancient Faith Radio.

...Sometimes people say, “Gee, God could have done a much better job in revealing Himself.” I have heard people say this —young people, old people, they will say, “Man, God made it so hard for us to understand Him.” It is almost as if people would want Him to say, “Okay sit down in your chair, take out your notebook, and I am going to give you all the truths about God, and now you will know everything.” That is not the way it works, and that is not the way it can work. 

Or sometimes people say, “Well, why doesn’t God just tell us openly about everything? Why doesn’t He go to a Bhuddist and say, “Hello, Mr. Bhuddist, or Ms. Bhuddist, I just want to tell you, there really is a personal God, and this God is merciful, gracious and longsuffering, and He is an I Am, and He is perfectly revealed in Jesus, so you ought to be a Christian. Or why doesn’t God just go around infusing all this knowledge or telling this to all these people? Why does He have to bother with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all those stories and all those myths and sagas about kings and Davids and Solmons and tabernacles and clouds and animals and fighting, and then finally an incarnation of a virgin, and Jesus as a meek, humble man being killed?  Why does He have to do it that way? Couldn’t He do it a better way?” And our answer is, no He could not.  Because He would violate Himself and He would no longer be the true God, because that is how the true God is. And the true God has to elicit from us a free recognition and a free response. And that is, by the way, why Jesus never calls Himself the Son of God. He says, “You have said so.” He calls Himself the son of man. And it is also why whenever people ask him a question, he asks a question back. Even John the Baptist —that difficult sentence where John sends his disciples to ask Jesus —“Are you the One who is to come?” Some people think John only did it pedagogically, he knew it, not knew it, I do not know about that.  I actually think that he really was being tempted, because he was a real human being and he was free, and we cannot ever be to the point where we just are locked in as prisoners with this divine knowledge —it is free, it is an interpersonal relationship, it is a friendship, it is a recognition, it is a confession, it is an avowal. But in any case, the point is that Jesus says, “What do you see? You have eyes, what do you see? The lame walk, the deaf hear, the dumb talk, the blind see, the demons are cast out.” He can even say to the apostles, what did you see? Did you see me walking on the water? Did you see the calming of the winds? Did you see the feeding of the 5000? What did you see? 

You have to answer!  You have to decide what your God is like. And you do not make it up. And this is the very important point. We do not begin with an idea of what we think God ought to be like and then try to fit other things into it. We do not begin with our idea of how God should be, and then say, “Well, I rejected Christianity, because Christianity does not teach a God the way I think God ought to be, if there is a God.” Oh, no, we go the other way around. We say, “Look at the man, Jesus, see what He has said and done, and then you will know who God really is and how He acts.” It begins the other way. You do not being with your idea. You begin with an encounter with Jesus. And with an encounter of any divine action, anywhere, anyhow, but you have to bow down to it, you have to recognize it. And according to Jesus, Himself, you will not recognize it if your heart is impure. Because only the pure in heart see God. Jesus says, “How can you believe, how can you know, how can you understand, when you seek the glory that comes from men, and not the glory that is revealed and given to you by God?” How can you possibly know when your mind is made up to begin with? When you have decided how God ought to be? Or when you have decided that there is no God? Or you just sit in judgment on reality, yourself, and do not have the purity —and I would even say, the courage and the guts, to encounter this revelation that says, “Encounter it!” Encounter it —encounter Jesus. Read the Scriptures. Call out to God. See what you see. And then you will come to know...

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