Opening the Word: Recognizing Jesus

One of my favorite phrases from the Old Testament is, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10, RSV). The New American Bible translates it as, “Be still and confess that I am God!” (46:11, NAB). The different words — “know” and “confess” — shine light on one another, for the interior act of knowing something should result in an outward expression of that knowledge. Man can receive divine knowledge if only he will be attentive and aware. 

“Human salvation demands the disclosure of truths surpassing reason,” wrote St. Thomas Aquinas. 

King David, the author of today’s Psalm, knew this very well. “You will show me the path to life,” he wrote as he faced trials and dangers, “abounding joy in your presence.” It is God who shows and who acts. 

This is seen in today’s readings, for each says something about God’s initiative toward mankind. St. Peter, newly filled with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, stood up near the Temple and declared, “Jesus the Nazarene was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders and signs.” 

The Father sent the Son and attested to his divinity and holiness through great acts of healing. It’s worth noting how St. Peter concluded his great sermon: “Therefore let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Act 2:37). Again, the point of divine revelation is that man will know God and know that Jesus Christ is Savior, Lord, and King. 

Peter confessed this truth many more times, including in his first epistle, in poetic, nearly mystical, language that captures some of the cosmic nature of the matter: “He was known before the foundation of the world but revealed in the final time for you, who through him believe in God who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (1 Pt 20-21). And how was Jesus revealed? Through the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, the Ascension and Pentecost. The “final time” is the here and now, for the Incarnation marks the final times (see 1 Cor 10:11; Heb 1:1-2). The revelation of Christ’s glory gives birth to our faith and hope, which are placed in God. And that revelation is born from love: “Our salvation flows from God’s initiative of love for us, because ‘he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins’ (1 Jn 4:10)” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 620). 

It’s fascinating that after the Resurrection Jesus was often not recognized immediately by his disciples. In each situation, the disciples were initially distraught and distracted. The two disciples going to Emmaus (Lk 24:13-35) were talking about the death of Jesus, and they were kept from recognizing him when he joined them on the road. But this failure to see was not merely physical, but spiritual; it was a failure to “know the truth concerning” the real nature of Jesus, his life, and death (see Lk 1:4). 

Jesus did three things, all of which he offers to do for every one of us: He walked with them, he spoke with them and he broke bread with them. In walking with them, he demonstrated his patience and care; in speaking to them, he imparted his wisdom and words; in breaking bread for them, he gave himself to them in love, for that act was Eucharistic. 

And in sitting still, in the breaking of bread, they finally knew who he was, and knew that he is God. 

Carl E. Olson is the editor of IgnatiusInsight.com.