The Gospel message for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time focuses on what it means to be a faithful follower of Jesus. Photo from Shutterstock.com
The Gospel message for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time focuses on what it means to be a faithful follower of Jesus. Photo from Shutterstock.com
As we return to the Readings for the Sunday’s in Ordinary Time, we pick-up the context of an on-going sermon that Jesus is preaching to his disciples. In the midst of their concerns for the consequences of discipleship, Jesus emphasizes the intimacy of the Father’s relationship to them and of course, to us.

To one extent Jesus allays the fear among his followers of what might be called “esoteric” or hidden things. While our days seem rife with conspiracy theories, the same was certainly also true at the time of Jesus. Some feared that there were hidden laws or commandments, or perhaps hidden teachings that the Pharisees and Sadducees knew, but were unavailable to the ordinary believer. Such a hidden knowledge would leave ordinary folk unable to adequately fulfill the demands of the law thus jeopardizing their legacy and the promise of those commandments.

Although we think of Gnosticism as a heresy emerging within the Christian community, the Gnostics pre-dated Jesus by some four centuries. Their teaching emphasized this hidden knowledge known only to the initiates. A Christian form of Gnosticism emerged and tried to present Jesus as a wisdom teacher of hidden things. Condemned repeatedly, forms of the Gnostic religion flourish yet today in some Christian denominations.

Jesus promised the crowds that they ought not be afraid that he held back from them what he also taught to his closest disciples. While those disciples might have had more access to Jesus, the life and the law that Jesus preached and promised was available to everyone. Jesus never announces a hidden knowledge or even the preeminence of knowledge as important for his disciples. There were no tests; there was no inner knowledge or coded language available only to those who were initiated into the faith.

While in the early days of the Church the creeds and attendance at Liturgical services was restricted to the initiated alone, that was often to protect the community from infiltration from those who were attempting to undermine the church and persecute the Christians. While this led the outsiders to suspect that the Christians were doing hidden, even sordid, things this was not the case.

Jesus was anything but a teacher of hidden things. Jesus is the revelation of the Father – the Word that the father speaks at creation – the Word Incarnate. Jesus, the Gospels repeatedly tell us, spoke openly and plainly. Yes, he often used the parable to explain his message, a style of teaching common among the rabbis, but he also speaks in extended discourses and also uses aphorisms.

Jesus makes the point clear that the father who knows every hair on our heads does not speak to us in hidden ways. He reveals himself to us through the covenants and in a particular way through the Son – Jesus Christ. There is no secret “word” or hidden pathway known only to the few.

There is, however, always the concern that those who are outside of the faith do not understand the sacred things and therefore cannot enter into the mystery of the ritual. Our faith is not itself mysterious. Our sacred texts are available to all and easily accessible. Our churches are open and our rites and rituals are often attended by non-members. Our teaching is available to all and the evangelical outreach of the church invites all to come to know Jesus Christ and to share in the life of faith and grace through the power of the Sacraments.

At the same time we are challenged to be public with our own faith. We are called to witness to the faith of Jesus Christ and to invite others to come to know the truth proclaimed by the Gospel and the teaching of the Church. Nothing is hidden from us – and at the same time we ought not hide our faith from others. We are all evangelists, we all, by virtue of Baptism, share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ making our lives a sacrifice on behalf of the salvation of the world.

The promise is of an intimate relationship between the creator and the created. The God who creates us knows us and intends our salvation. Our call is to be faithful disciples, testifying to the faith through lives of active witness, professing Jesus with our lives and our words.

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.