No Offense, But …
In the First Reading, the prophet Isaiah predicts that when the Messiah comes, he will make the blind see, the deaf hear, the mute speak, and the lame walk and leap. In the Gospel Reading, when John the Baptist sends his disciples to ask Jesus whether Jesus is the one the Israelites have been waiting for, Jesus says they should tell John that Jesus has done all these things and more. Even the dead are raised!
This is, of course, a spectacular list of wonders. Anyone who can make the blind see is amazing. Anyone who can raise the dead is working great miracles. And so a person who does what Jesus did clearly has the power of God. For that reason, he is to be admired, loved, and feared.
So why does Jesus finish his list of miraculous deeds by saying “Blessed is the one who takes no offense at me?” Offense? Offense at what?!
Well, think about it this way. What is God anyway? Pure act? Being itself? Utterly unknowable by us? Those phrases have a lot of dignity about them, don’t they? Somehow, they seem worthy of the Deity. Why would we think our puny minds could know anything about something so magnificent, so great, as God? Why wouldn’t God be something totally other than any of his creatures?
But notice that it’s hard to have a personal relationship with being itself, and pure act doesn’t seem like a person who can seek you first. At any rate, if God is unknowable by you, then you don’t have to worry about facing him on a daily basis. You can’t face what you can’t know.
And for how many people is that subterranean thought deeply comforting?
But Christ wrecks it.
Christ is not unknowable and he is not something abstract, like being itself. He is a particular person, and he has a face. True, he is God incarnate, and his face is human. But, still, his face is the face of God. “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father,” Jesus tells Philip (John 14:9).
So we can know God, and we can see God’s face in the face of Jesus. God is present to us as a person in the person of Christ. And God in the person of Christ is always with us (Matt. 28:20)! We can know him and face him every day.
Blessed is the one who takes no offense at this.
Eleonore Stump is Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University
**From Saint Louis University