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The Words of the Father

The Words of the Father

by The Reverend Dr. Roman D. Roldan on May 29, 2024

TLDR: The first words of Jesus in John are, “What do you want?” Jesus speaks the words of the Father; which means that God wants to know what we want. Many answers are legitimate, but only one matters.

In the last words Jesus preaches to the crowds in the Gospel of John, he says, “Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in him who sent me…What I speak, therefore, I speak just as the Father has told me.” (John 12:44-50.) After this, he will be in the upper room (Chapter 13:1-17:26) and then he will be arrested and put to death. These last words to the crowds are also given to his friends during the parable of the vine and the branches in Chapter 15:15b, “I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.” When Jesus speaks, disciples must hear the voice and teachings of the Father because Jesus and his Father are eternally One.

There are times when we feel God’s absence more deeply than we feel God’s presence. We want signs of God’s existence, to hear the divine voice in the way the prophets did in the Old Testament. We appreciate the glimpses of God that creation gives us, as everything that has life bears the imprint of the Creator. Nature shows signs of God’s goodness, love, beauty, and creating power. We hear God’s voice in the wind and in the sound of waves. Birds and animals preach God’s truth with sounds we can’t understand or decipher. We know well that God is found in mystery and silence, but the Gospel of John tells us that we have actual, direct, and real access to God’s voice and words. Holy Scripture opens a door to God’s self-revelation through the words of Christ.  We know that there were many additional things that Jesus did and said that are not written in the Gospels (John 21:25,) which means that the Bible does not limit God’s self-revelation in any way. Yet, it is comforting to know that we have direct access to some of the words of God. When Jesus speaks, God speaks and his words are a gift to us, especially at times when we feel isolated from the Divine Presence.

The first words of Jesus in the Gospel of John are a question posed to two disciples of John the Baptist, “What do you want?” (John1:37.) After this Jesus invites them to “come and see,” he gives Simon a new name (Cephas,) he invites Philip to “follow me!” and he engages Nathanael in conversation about “God’s angels ascending and descending around the Son of Man!" (John 1:50-51.) Since Jesus’ words belong to the Father, I wonder what God means to tell these disciples and us in these first sentences in John? I imagine God asking us, “What do you want?” every day. What are we seeking for? We want God in our lives, but what exactly does that mean?

What do we want out of our relationship with God? I don’t want to answer on your behalf because this answer will be unique to each of you. As for me, I want to become more fully the person God created me to be. To live more fully into my identity as a follower of Jesus and to love more fully what God has commanded me to do. In other words, I want nexus between my identity and my vocation. This is more difficult than it appears: First, we live in a culture that has monetized and incentivized fear to the point that we have become a more guarded, defensive, and uncivil society over the last 20 years. This challenges our Christian identity because we are commanded to love others as Christ has loved us. Sometimes I become intolerant of intolerance, which is an ironic position for someone who believes love is the only way. Second, there is a culture of pessimism in the Church today that threatens to rob clergy of our enthusiasm and hope for the future. This has had terrible consequences over the last two decades, as seen by the severe shortage of priests in our Church. Sadly, for many leaders the sky is falling, the Church is dying, and secularism has won the day. Many clergy I know want to continue to love what God has called us to do, but the challenges of the day often put a damper on our Christian joy. This hopelessness regarding the future of the Church drives young people away from the priesthood. Please continue to pray for all priests and for an increase in vocations around the globe.

God asks today, “What do you want?” and many answers are legitimate: We want peace and prosperity, we want a better future for our children, we want to age with grace and hope, we want to be reasonably healthy until God calls us home, we want to belong to communities of support and love, we want to enjoy the gifts God has given us without fear of scarcity, we want love and acceptance, etc. Beyond the personal, there are many things we want for our church, our state, and our country. These are all legitimate.

Beyond these needs, which God knows we have, today I encourage you to answer the question at a deeper level. What do you personally want for your relationship with God? Is that relationship healthy? If not, what can you do to improve it? Remember that often we believe God wants us to do more, when in fact God wants us to take more. Take more of God’s grace and love, take more time to pray, take a break from the frantic pace of your life, take a nap, take time to worship in community, take time to have a meal with a friend, take time to read God’s words in Scripture, take more time for gratitude. Yes, ministry, service, producing fruit worthy of the kingdom are fundamental ways in which we live out our Christian faith, but your individual relationship with God requires quiet moments of solitude, time to think and pray, and life lived in community.

God asks, “What do you want?” May you have the faith to say, “You! All I want is you!” May our Lord continue to bless you,

Fr. Roman+

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