My Dear Parishioners:
In 1850 John Millais (1829-1896) painted the scene of the teenaged Jesus working in Joseph’s carpentry workshop, entitled Christ in the House of His Parents. Young Jesus had given himself a bad gash in his finger and blood streamed down onto his feet. Mary was there comforting him. Although only an imagined incident, it manages to convey what St John means in his Gospel today, namely that The Word became flesh. Because the Word became flesh we would expect Jesus to have the same emotions as we have, and he did. He loved other people, Martha, Mary and Lazarus, his disciple John and the rich young man. He even cried at times of severe personal stress, as when his friend Lazarus died and before entering Jerusalem when he knew that the city would reject him. He enjoyed social and dinners, so that his critics mocked him as a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners. He felt pity for people in need, as when he multiplied the loaves and fishes. He got angry when the authorities used the Temple for the wrong purpose. He needed companionship, so he took Peter, James and John closely into his confidence. At the end of a long day he fell asleep in the boat, tired like any of us. He felt fear before his passion, “Father let his cup pass me by” and openly admitted, “now my soul is troubled.” We can imagine the depth of his feeling, and realize that When John wrote that the Word became flesh, he really meant it.
The Word lives among us. Jesus didn’t just come here to live a quiet, unruffled life. He became flesh and dwelt among us. He was a man of the people. That’s why they called him a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners. When curing the lepers, he actually touched them. Lepers were not supposed to come into the towns and Jesus would be ritually impure after touching a leper so he could not enter Temple or synagogue until after a thorough washing. But he was a man of the people, he dwelt among them, and so Law or no Law, when a leper wanted healing he touched him. As a man of the people Jesus concentrated most on those who really needed him most, the sinners. This the ideal of pastoring espoused by Pope Francis, who once famously urged bishops and priests to be shepherds, living with the smell of the sheep.
Blessings, Fr. John