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Spiritual Reflection: 10th Apr 2021

Knowledge alone is not Experience [1]



Fr. Cheriyan Menacherry CMI

(From the book, Cheriyan Menacherry, New Horizons from Disasters: Engaging the Words of Jesus, Blessed Hope Publishing: Mauritius, 2020, pp. 16-18)



Some disciples of John the Baptist wanted to follow Jesus. Not only them, but many other people followed Jesus and became his disciples. It is written in John's Gospel that people said to John the Baptist: “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him” (Jn 3:26).

Jesus had already noticed that some of John’s disciples were following him (Jn 1:38). Then Jesus asked an important question to them: “What do you want?” (Jn 1:38). Jesus is putting this same question to us also, to all those who follow him, to all Christians.

We can ask this question of ourselves in different ways. What do I want as a Christian?

Many Christians are losing their faith because of various reasons: some infamous scandals caused by church leaders. Or for those who are seeing great scientific developments, the Christian faith has become meaningless and old-fashioned. Others have priority for finance. For example, in Germany if you leave the church, you save a lot of money every month because you no longer have to pay church tax.

Many people are imitating others in abandoning their Christian faith. Their idols in society in many different cultural contexts are leaving the faith. Others are following members of their own family, relatives, neighbours or friends who have abandoned the faith. Such situations already existed at the time of Jesus: “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve.” (Jn 6:65-67). So what causes us to continue to be Christians? Is it inner conviction? Do we remain Christians just because our parents baptized us when we were babies? Why do we come to church at all? Is it perhaps because Sunday worship has become a habit?

Jesus asks us: “What do you want?” (Jn 1:38). Yes, what do we want as Christians?

Let us look at the disciples' response to Jesus Christ’s question: The disciples counter-questioned: “Rabbi”.., “where are you staying?” (Jn 1:38).

This question was not simply about finding an address with street and house number. It was the strong desire of the disciples to remain with Jesus Christ and to learn more about Him. Yes, to experience their Teacher!

Jesus Christ recognized this desire. His answer was not simply to name a street with a house number. Jesus replied: “Come, and you will see.” (Jn 1:39).

The disciples should follow him and see for themselves where he lives and what he does. They should live there with him for a short time. In this way the disciples can really experience their Master and God. “So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him.” (Jn 1:39).

How do we differentiate the terms ’know’ and ’experience’? For example, we know that there is a moon. However, we have no direct experience of the moon, because we were never on the moon.

You can also know that there is lavender in the garden. However, to experience lavender you have to go into the garden and touch the lavender, inhale the wonderful scent. Feeling renders experience.

Knowledge is not necessarily experience. Knowledge helps us to experience something. Someone may know, for instance, that a person has a daughter or a son. Nevertheless, this person can only gain experience of the child if he or she holds the child in his or her arms and maintains personal contact. You can only gain experience of your parents in an old age home if you keep in touch with your mother or father, talk over the phone, visit them and help them.

One knows that there is a church. However, one can only experience church if one goes to church and prays and sings alone or together with the congregation. In religion, experience is a very important element. In religion, faith grows with experience. A person may be able to give a lecture about religion for hours, but if that person has no experience of that religion, then he has no faith at all.

What does religion mean? Experience leading to faith? Is it the experience of sacred objects, symbols and rituals? Experiences of sacred things, symbols, rituals or traditions in themselves, do not yet bring any faith.

These sacred objects, symbols, and rituals lead people to an experience of God. Only then does faith come. Jesus Christ himself explained this fact when he worked miracles. He performed miracles not just for the sake of miracles, but so that people could believe in him through his miracles and experience God.

"What do you want?

“Rabbi”.., “where are you staying?”

“Come, and you will see.”


[1] Illustration photo ‚Türe zum Herzen, Judith Cronauer

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