No.27 - October 8, 2020

Wandering With The Master A Theological Learning Experience

Sebastian Elavathingal

Wandering – the School of Jesus

Wandering with the Master and learning from experience, instruction and reflection are integral features of contextual theological formation.Theology becomes a personally transforming experience, when it is animated and enthused by”feetmoving with hope”, “hands doing good with love”and “eyesseeing wonders with faith.”[2] The model and inspiration of this theological wandering is the three years of itinerant life of the disciples with Jesus. [3] In fact, wandering from place to place is the typical method of instruction employed by Jesus to explain the meaning of God’s reign and to foster the faith of the disciples in a fatherly God.”Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the Kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity” (Mt 9:35).In fact, Jesus imparted to the disciples the most important truths about God, when theyjourneyedwith him. Their wandering with dusty feet on the roads of Galilea and Judea, meeting people of all sorts in the surrounding villageswas for them a journey of faith.[4] Following him, the disciples went through a thorough formation in their way of thinking and behaviour. They became the convinced messengers of Good News all over the world.

No doubt, the Master who accompanies the students of theological formation is primarily Jesus Christ. He said, “You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am” (Jn 13:13). Secondarily only, this role is taken by the guide of theological formation who is designated as the master of the students to accompany their action and reflection programmes.The master has an inalienable role in the learning process through wandering. The constant presence of the master denotes the purposefulness of wandering that it is not to be seen as a lazy “aimless” motion or an activity of recreation and relaxation.

Learning through Words, Actions and Miracles

Wandering means not only physical mobility, but also engaging anexploring mind with intellectual eagerness andemotional vitality. It is a process of the unfolding of consciousness that takes place progressivelyat different levels of human experiences inactual life contexts. While wandering, Jesus the Master impartedthe knowledge of God through his words of truth, actions of goodness and images of miraculous power and glory.It can be seen as aholistic and experiential way of learning, involving the whole person – mind, hands and heart.

The disciples followed Jesus listening to his words with absorbing attention.Throughout the three years of wandering with the disciples Jesustried to drive home one truth, which would transform and characterize their lives. He summed up his entire teaching under the umbrella concept of the “reign of God”.Jesus’ wandering life began after announcing the reign of God as his life’s mission on earth. “Jesus came proclaiming the good news of God and saying, ‘The time has been completed and the kingdom of God has drawn near; repent and believe in the good news'” (Mk 1:14-15). In Luke’s Gospel the beginning of Jesus’ ministry is in Nazareth. In the synagogue, heread from the scroll of Isaiah chapter 61,”The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour”. Then he proclaimed solemnly, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”Thereby Jesus hinted at the inauguration of the reign of God with its programme and action plan.

The concept of the reign of God is not defined by Jesus anywhere. But he describes itsnature with various images, stories and parables. The Pharisees asked Jesus, “when is the kingdom of God coming?” To this question Jesus responded quickly and clearly, “the kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Lo, here it is!’ or ‘there!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you” (Lk 17:20-25).Jesus tried to explain the silent and hidden natureof the kingdom of God, when he compared it to a tiny mustard see which would grow into a tree (Mk 4:30-32; Mt 13:31-32; Lk 13:18-19). It is like the seeds sown in a field. The sower goes to sleep. Nobody knows how the seeds grow, because God grants growth to the seeds (Mk 4:26-29). It is like a hidden treasure in a field or a fine pearl sought after by a merchant (Mt 13:44-46). Underlining the slow and silent nature of the kingdom of God, Pope Francis says, “The Kingdom of God is not a spectacle.” It is won through a process of life, beset with hardships, humiliations and rejections, leading finally to blessedness, peace, comfort and joy (Mt 5:3-12).

The words spoken by Jesus were responded by his hearers not in the same manner. Jesus would compare the fate of his words to the fate of the seeds sown by a farmer in his field. As he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, the birds devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground. They sprang up immediately, but in the scorching sun they withered away. Some seeds fell upon thorns, and the thorns choked them. Those seeds that fell on good soil brought forth plenty of grains (Mt 13:3-9).Sometimes his words were beyond the grasp of the disciples, especially when he spoke about the suffering and death ahead of him. Peter tried even to detract him from the way of suffering (Mk 8:32-33). Still they believed in the truth and authenticity of his words. Simon Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6:68).The recognized in Jesus the truth, the life and the way (Jn 14:6). They were to attain the fullness life, listening to his words, imitating his actions and following his path.

Following Jesus as a disciple is often compared to ascending to the top of a mountain. Ascending implies the physical and spiritual movements, implied in the challenging vocation of following Jesus. The mountainis shown in the Bible as a place of spiritual enlightenment.There are many instances in the Gospel, in which Jesus felt closer to the heavenly Father and moved by the power of the Spirit, when he was on a mountain to teach or to pray.From this, it can be assumed that the movement of ascending to the heights implies the revelation and clarification of the Trinitarian mystery. It elucidates the life of the Son, his relationship to the Father and to the Holy Spirit. Physical ascent implies an ascetic process of renunciation and consequently a return to the original perfection.[7] That is why on some occasions, Jesus’ self-revelation takes place in a spectacular manner on mountaintops.[8] He reveals the mystery of his Trinitarian life by returning to the heights from where he descended (Jn 3:13).

During the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor the heavenly Father authenticates the person and the mission of the Son. “He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him'” (Mt 17:5).Listening to the Word of God consists not in grasping an idea, but in meeting the person of Jesus and learning from him what it means to be human. “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction. Saint John’s Gospel describes that event in these words: ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should … have eternal life’ (3:16).[9] Jesus himself is the Word of eternal life.

Jesus’school of life offered the disciples possibilities to learn from his actions. His way of behaviourwhile dealing with people taught themmany practical lessons of life.Theyobserved and learnedfrom his attitudes, values and preferences in human relationships (Mt 5-7). Jesus was decidedly on the side of the poor and the weak. He condemned hypocrisy (Mt 23: 1-39). He was kind-hearted towards the sick(Mk 1:41; Lk 7:12-14) and merciful towards sinners (Lk 15:1-2). He appreciated the faith of the people, irrespective of their social and religious background.As shown in the Gospel narratives, Jesus did not hesitate to approve thecompassion of theGood Samaritan, the deep trust of the Centurion (Mt 8:10) and the undaunted faith of the Canaanite woman(Mt 15:21-28), even though they were non-Jews.Jesus even approved the good works of a stranger, whom the disciples wanted to prohibit. He said, “Do not stop him ….for whoever is not against us is for us” (Mk 9:39-40). Jesus included in his circle all those who are of good will. The universal outlook of Jesus is expressed, when he says,”Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister and mother” (Mt 12:50).

The miracles of Jesus were overwhelming experiences of life for the disciples.They were spellbound at the wedding in Cana, when Jesus showed the first sign of his divine power (Jn 2:1-11). The miracle of Transfiguration on Mount Tabor was for them such a “shattering” experience that they fell down on their faces (Mt 17:1-8). It meant for them a “shocking” awareness change, which transposed them to an ecstatic state of mind.Jesus touched and raised them. From their “fallen state” they were “corrected” in their body and mindwith a renewed awareness of the reality around them. All the other miracles of healing, feeding, exorcising andresuscitating which Jesus performed on the way were also moments of self-transcendence, in which the disciples were raised to higher realms of spiritual awareness, which extended beyond the physical limits of seeing, doing and reflecting. The climax of Jesus’ wandering with the disciples is his solemn entry to Jerusalem. It highlights the glorious image of Jesus as the King and the Lord. “Throwing their garments on the colt they set Jesus upon it. And as he rode along, they spread their garments on the road. As he was now drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!'” (Lk 19: 35-38; Mt 21:6-9; Mk 11:7-10).

The lack of enthusiasm, energy, and zeal for the evangelizing mission of the Church is a discouraging situation of the Church in India. Due to this marked decline and disinterest in the field of evangelization, the Church slowly and steadily ceases to exist and excel in her life. As a result, the faithful do not share their talent, time, and treasure for the welfare of others; they are worried about themselves and there is an unfortunate competition with neighbouring parishes. People are on the lookout to embellish their own petty interests through extravagant spending on building or rebuilding the structures on the Church premises. “Evangelical fervour is replaced by the empty pleasure of complacency and self-indulgence.” (EG 95) The Holy Father Francis might call this temptation and delineates some of the glaring needs: “Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary enthusiasm” (EG 80); “Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the joy of evangelization” (EG 83); “Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of hope” (EG 86); “Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of community” (EG 92); “Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the Gospel” (EG 97); “Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the ideal of fraternal love” (EG 101); “Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary vigour” (EG 109). The challenges are real but the moment the Church turns her attention and action towards her evangelizing mission, much of the contemporary confusion and conflict will vanish. Unfortunately, since we are mostly moving to a relativist, hedonistic and utilitarian mindset, problems continue to shoot up one after another. However, “challenges exist to be overcome! Let us be realists, but without losing our joy, our boldness and our hope-filed commitment.” (EG 109)

Wandering and Spiritual Transformation

Walking with Jesus was for the disciplesa learning process resulting in a spiritual transformation. It involved a new theological understanding, a new awareness of God and humanity, which “corrected and perfected” (Mt 5:17) their previous notions. It was more than mere theoretical or discursive learning. The education of the disciples through wandering with Jesus wasexperiential, that is, comprising the sensitive, intellectual and emotional levels of awareness, touching and transforming the whole person.

Transformation can be seen in their changed awareness of God, which is characterized by an understanding of God as a loving Father, inviting to an intimate personal relationship. The stories and parables of God’s love narrated by Jesus instilled in themthe love for God the Father so deeply that they yearned to see the Father immediately. Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied” (Jn 14: 8). The pursuit of knowledge shown by Jesus finally reaches God the Father. It consists in a spiritual regeneration of becoming the children of the loving Father (Jn 3:3). It is important to note that in the teaching method of Jesus the Master, the contextual experiences of the disciples are braided and integrated to their knowledge of God and the world. Jesus takes the disciples through the entire gamut of human experiences. From fishermen in the Sea of Galilee they were transformed into fishers of men (Mt 4:19). It was a long journey, which began with the call, “come and follow me” at shores of Galilee (Mk 1:16-18; Mt 4:18-19). After traversing a different terrains of experiences, it came to an end on the Mount of Olives with Jesus’ ascension into heaven. (Lk 24:50-51; Acts 1: 6-9).He promised them the Holy Spirit to continue his mission.

Wandering with Jesus involves a transition from stability to mobility in theological search, understanding and experience. There is a theological position which holds that the truth of God is immutable. Monotheistic faith sometimes absolutizes a monolithic God-Image, which admits no change. The divine absolutism represents the tyranny of the Law which terrorises and enslaves. It terrorizes the mind and stagnates the spirit with fundamentalist instincts. But Jesus Christ comes preaching a Gospel of freedom from the Law. “For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law’…. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Gal 3:10-13).Jesus liberates humanity from the oppression of the Law by showing a new perspective.

It is not by blindly observing the Law, but by responding sensitively to human situations that one can fulfill the Law. Jesus taught this new understanding of the Law by narrating the story of the merciful Samaritan, who proved to be a good neighbour to the wounded traveller (Lk 10:25-37). The law-abiding priest and the Levite passed by on the other side of the road to avoid the man in need. Again, there are instances of interpreting the Sabbat law. According to Jesus, the Sabbath is to be subordinated to human needs (Lk 14:3; Jn 5:9; Mk 3:4). In judging the sinful woman Jesus did not apply the Mosaic Law of stoning a sinner to death. Instead, he appealed to the conscience of the accusers and let the woman go free without any word of condemnation (Jn 8:1-11). Jesus gives in all these instances a contextual interpretation of the Law, showing the mind of the Law-Giver, God.

The Wandering with the “Logos” in History

Naturally, the actions of Jesus raised questions about his person (Mt 13:55; Jn 6:42; Mk 6:3) and his authority (Mt 21:23-27; Mk 11:27-33; Lk 20:1-8).Who is Jesus? What is his source of authority? At this point, the journey of faith takes the form of an “unfolding” of awareness from within. The journey outward is simultaneously a journey inward. It is delving deep into the divine mystery from which the “history” of Jesus originates and unfolds in the world. Jesus takes us to the origins, when he claims that his authority is from the Father who sent him (Jn 3:35; Jn 17:2; Mt 28:18-20).”All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him” (Mt 11:27).

At some point of their wandering, the disciples heard the voice of the Father from heaven, which confirmed their faith in him (Mt 3:17; Mk 1:11). Jesus is the abiding presence of God with his people, “Emmanuel” (Mt 1:21), fulfilling the messianic prophesy of Isiah (Is 7:14). Simon Peter was inspired to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, when he confessed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16).But it was a gradual realization for the disciples that the one who wandered with them in the lifestyle of a “servant” is the Son of God.

In his Gospel John traces the person and the authority of Jesus to the timeless beginnings. He is the “Word made Flesh”. John recognizes in Jesus the “Logos,” hidden in God and operating with him, when the heaven and earth were created. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning” (Jn 1:1-2). The Old Testament speaks of the Logos as a hidden associate of God’s work, taking pleasure in the creation of the world (Prov 8:23-31). John would corroborate this Old Testament understanding saying, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn 1:3-5). John alludes to God’s self-revelation beginning with the creation of light. God uttered his Word, “‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” (Gen 1:3). Referring to this primordial event, John would see Jesus as light and life. The Word who is the life and light of the world took the human form in the Incarnation and became the life and light of the world (Jn 8:12;Jn 14:6).

The notion of Logos in creation has been developed by the Fathers of the Church to show the evolutionary unfolding of the universe as the progressive revelation of Jesus Christ in his glory.[10] The Holy Spirit is the power that draws each human person and the universe to fullness in Christ through all the vicissitudes of history, which evolves in the course of time.[11] The insight into the authority and authenticity of Jesus as the Word of God, the Logos of creation is, therefore, not only a “retrospect” of Jesus Christ’s preexistence and preeminence, but also a “prospect” of his future manifestation in the fullness of glory.”The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14).[12] It gives us a vision of the fulfilment of the creation in the glorification of the Son. What holds these two moments of “beginning and fulfilment” together is the vibrant and creative tension of history.

Participation in the Unfolding of the “Image of God”

Imago Dei, the Image of God is, like the Logos, another biblical expression which has inherent in it a creative and evolutionary dynamism. In St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians we read, “He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities—all things were created through him and for him” (Col 1:15-16; 2 Cor 4:4). This text shows the pre-eminence of Christ, his centrality in creation and his “exemplary” role in salvation.

Jesus Christ is the Exemplar of creation. It is after his model and according to his “measure” that everything in creation has come into existence. The mention of the exemplary role of the image of God is already in the creation account of the Book of Genesis (Gen 1:26-27; 5:1; 9:6). St. Paul recognizes in Jesus Christ the divine “design” embedded in the creation and manifested in humanity through the works of salvation. He writes, “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Col 1:17-20). The reconciling role of Jesus in the world is an ongoing process, in whichall are called to participate through their respective ministries, contributing to the building up the body of Christ. The finality of this process is the growth of everyone “to maturity, to the measure of the fullstature of Christ” (Eph 4:13). It is also the task of realizing a human community which grows up in every way “into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love” (Eph 4:15-16).

From the vision of a universe which attains progressive fulfilment,moving towards therealization of fullness in Jesus Christ, who is the “Word” and the “Image,” ensues the itinerant nature of our theological endeavour extended in space-time, in human history. Theologicalsearchis to be undertaken withsensibility to the creative tension in history and readiness to participate in it. The incarnate Word appropriated human history with all its spatial and temporal limitations. He walked his way through the varied terrains of his living space, weathering all kinds of experiences proper to human nature. As one among the humans, it was necessary for him to suffer many things. “He must be rejected by the elders, chief priests and scribes, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Lk 9:22; Lk 24:26; Mk 8:31).

The disciple who wanders with Jesus must also participate in his suffering. Inviting to discipleship, Jesus says, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me” (Mt 16:24; Mk 8:34; Lk 9:23). The Evangelist Mark shows the following ofJesus not only as a growing awareness of his Messiahship (Mk 8:27-30), but also a corresponding awareness of his Servanthood (Mk 10: 45). His itinerary begins from Galilee and leads to Jerusalem. Jesus goes with the fullest awareness of the impending sufferings in Jerusalem (Mk 8:31; 9:30-31; 10:32-34). Finally, the way of the cross and death (Mk 14:1-15, 42) takes its upward course to reach its climax in his resurrection (Mk 16:1-20). The lot of the disciples is not different from that of Jesus, whom they follow on his way.

The formative period of suffering will culminate inthe realization of joy at the revelation of glory. Apostle Peter writes, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial that has come upon you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed at the revelation of his Glory”(1 Pet 4:12-13; 2 Cor 1:5; Phil 3:10). The great things that are awaiting us after this period of suffering are far beyond human imagination. “For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Cor 4:17-18).

The spiritual transformation of the disciples has an evolutionary nature. It is like the gradual manifestation of a hidden potentiality in an ever more surprising manner. The apparently weak and insignificant disciples can draw their latent capabilities from within, assisted by the grace of God. The personal evolution of the disciples has to be seen in relation to the cosmic process that is taking place around them. St. Paul writes to the Romans, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies (Rom 8:22-23).

The spiritual transformation assumes the pattern of an artistic procedure. An artwork comes into existence not in a haphazard or casual manner, but through a planned and willed procedure in view of an imagined or real exemplar. The evolutionary process of history leads us the fullness of Christ, who is the “Exemplar”of the universe, in whom all things will be summed up, “recapitulated” in the fullness of time.[13] It is the expression and fulfilment of God’s plan for us and for the entire creation. He chose us before the foundation of the world and destined us in love to be his sons in Christ. “For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth (Eph 1:9-10).

Walking the Way of Beauty

The “imitation of Christ” implies in its comprehensive sense a conscious self-transformation in view of the “truth” of Christ, his incarnate reality. The truth of Christ is his rootedness in the reality of suffering and death, his deformity and ugliness, his wounds and his sorrows (Is 53:3-5). But the process of the transformation to the truth of Christ is continued until it is clarified and enlightened by his “beauty” revealed in his Transfiguration and Resurrection. He can be then acclaimed as the “fairest of men” (Ps 44). Certainly, it is not merely the physical beauty of Saviour’s appearance that is glorified, but the beauty of Truth that shines forth in him. Beauty is a superior form of knowledge and it reveals the greatness of truth.”The beauty of truth also embraces offence, pain, and even the dark mystery of death, and that this can only be found in accepting suffering, not in ignoring it.” In this sense we can speak of the “beautiful wounds,” which are signs of the human longing for the final realization and perfection.

The longing in separation is the characteristic of genuine love. It is nostalgia, the intense desire that impels a quest for attaining the original state of union in love.The cause of nostalgia in human beings and in the creation is Jesus Christ himself. “When men have a longing so great that it surpasses human nature and eagerly desire and are able to accomplish things beyond human thought, it is the Bridegroom who has smitten them with this longing. It is he who has sent a ray of his beauty into their eyes. The greatness of the wound already shows the arrow which has struck home, the longing indicates who has inflicted the wound.”[15] Discipleship, therefore, is walking the viapulchritudinis(the way of beauty) with relentless yearning for truth, justice and goodness.

In the spiritual transformation of a disciple, the experience of beauty plays a decisive role.Beauty can “speak directly to the heart, turning astonishment to marvel, admiration to gratitude, happiness to contemplation. It is unlikely to result in indifference; it provokes emotions, it puts in movement a dynamism of deep interior transformation.”[16] It entails an emotional “shock,” which breaks all inhibitive shells and liberates the person from within. With enthusiasm, it takes the course of confronting reality directly, rather than depending on “second hand” knowledge through instructions. It seeks knowledge through personal experiences, through a direct relationship with reality. “Being struck and overcome by the beauty of Christ is a more real, more profound knowledge than mere rational deduction. Of course we must not underrate the importance of theological reflection, of exact and precise theological thought; it remains absolutely necessary. But to move from here to disdain or to reject the impact produced by the response of the heart in the encounter with beauty as a true form of knowledge would impoverish us and dry up our faith and our theology. We must rediscover this form of knowledge; it is a pressing need of our time.”[17] These words of Pope Benedict underlines the importance of contextual theological formation.

Wandering and Learning Theology

The classical method of learning theology is confined to class rooms or university campuses. Specialized teachers are available for different subjects and the centralized library functions as a great source of knowledge. Class room learning presupposes some fixed questions and fixed answers to those questions. The questions derive from texts and not from the changing contexts in which human life evolves through struggles and conflicts. It is likely to ignore the problems of life as they are confronted in actual human situations.

As far as priests and missionaries are concerned their theological learning is not purely an academic exercise, but a pastoral experience. Their concern is primarily the people for whom they are anointed. Pope Francis reminds in his Homily on Holy Thursday in 2013 that those who are anointed are destined to serve the poor, the prisoners and the oppressed. He quotes the verse 2 of Psalm 113 and explains that it is a fine image of “being for” others. “‘It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down upon the collar of his robe’ (v. 2). The image of spreading oil, flowing down from the beard of Aaron upon the collar of his sacred robe, is an image of the priestly anointing which, through Christ, the Anointed One, reaches the ends of the earth, represented by the robe.[18]

Evidently, the message of the anointed ones has to reach the peripheries of the world, the least and the last. The “unction” of thepreached Word of God touches the daily lives of the people, “when it runs down like the oil of Aaron to the edges of reality, when it brings light to moments of extreme darkness, to the ‘outskirts’ where people of faith are most exposed to the onslaught of those who want to tear down their faith.”[19] Hence Pope Francis appeals to all priests to “go out”, to the “outskirts” where there is “suffering, bloodshed, blindness that longs for sight, and prisoners in thrall to many evil masters.”[20] The vocation to be a priest and a missionary is not to settle down and relax. It is a call to involve in the day to day lives of the people and to be identified with them. “This I ask you: be shepherds, with the ‘odour of the sheep’, make it real, as shepherds among your flock, fishers of men.”[21]

According to Pope Benedict, faith is not a burden, it does not enslave us. Faith gives wings to the believers, so that they experience freedom.He affirms: it is beautiful to be Christian.[22] It is Christ’s beauty, the splendor of the revelation of truththat inspires us to follow him. Pierced by the arrow of the beautiful, the mind seeks and attains the truth.


[1]This article appeared originally as Sebastian Elavathingal, “Wandering with the Master: A Theological Learning Experience” inJesus, The Human Face of God, ed. Cyril Kuttianikkal, Delhi: ISPCK, 2019, pp. 161-180.

[2]Fernando Belo in his materialistic reading of the Gospel of Mark shows that theological experience has an indispensable relation to the bodily practice of “feet, hands and eyes”. He puts this idea in the three phrases, “The practice of feet or the hope”, “The practice of hands or the love of neighbour” and “The practice of eyes or the faith”. See Fernando Belo, Das Markusevangeliummaterialistischgelesen, Stuttgart, 1980, pp. 306, 312.

[3] “The view on Jesus as a wandering teacher and prophet shows that ‘wandering’ means more than that, that wandering is a basic concept of theology”. See D. Donneyer, “Jesus as wandering prophetic teacher” inHTS Theologiese Studies/Theological Studies, Vol 4, No.1-2 (1993), p. 102;at, accessed on 25-10-2019.

[4]See A. J. Swoboda, The Dusty Ones: Why Wandering Deepens Your Faith,Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2016: Examining the theme of wandering in the Bible, A. J. Swoboda shows in his book The Dusty Ones that some of God’s most important truths are revealed to those whose feet are dusty from the road.

[5]Pope Francis, “In the Kingdom of God with 50 cents in their pocket”, Morning Meditation in the Chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, Thursday, 13 November 2014, L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly ed. in English, n. 47, 21 November 2014; accessed on 30-10-2018.

[6]See Fr. John Nepil, “The Ascent of Assent”, quoting Adrienne Von Speyr, “There is no better way of clarifying his [Christ’s] relationship to the Father, then by the image of ascent” at on 17-11-18.

[7]Ascent presupposes a descent. “No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended” (Jn 3:13). The ascent-descent (exitus-reditus) pattern of salvation was first shown by the 6th century theologian Dionysius the Areopagite. It implies a theological method of knowing God by shedding all prior knowledge (apophatic method), as one goes upward closer to God. It is like the experience of Moses on Mount Sinai, plunging into the mysterious darkness of unknowing. See Paul L. Allen, Theological Method: A Guide for the Perplexed, London: T&T Clark International, 2012, p. 93.

[8]Matthew has in his Gospel some significant mountain scenes: Jesus’ temptation (Mt 4:8), Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:1-12), healing the sick (Mt 15:29-31), the Transfiguration (Mt 17:1), Jesus’ final discourse (Mt 24:3) and the commissioning of the disciples (Mt 28:16-20).

[9]Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est, 1 ;, accessed on 15-11-2018.

[10]St. Irenaeus is credited more than anybody else for developing the biblical notion of the recapitulation of everything in Christ. See, “Recapitulation in Christ” at on 15-10-2018.

[11]Justin the Martyr, “For next to God, we worship and love the Word who is from the unbegotten and ineffable God, since also He became man for our sakes, that becoming a partaker of our sufferings, He might also bring us healing. For all the writers were able to see realities darkly through the sowing of the implanted word that was in them. For the seed and imitation impacted according to capacity is one thing, and quite another is the thing itself, of which there is the participation and imitation according to the grace which is from Him” (II Apology Chap.13). SeeCatholic Encyclopedia,New Advents. v. “The Second Apology of St. Justin Martyr” at on 15-10-2018.

[12]The Stoic idea of logos spermatikos (seminal word) which means the law of generation in the universe was adopted by Justin the Martyr. In his II Apology he writes that the seeds of reason (the Logos) is implanted in every race of men (II Apology, Chap. 8). See Catholic Encyclopedia,New Advent, s. v. “The Second Apology of St. Justin Martyr” at on 15-10-2018.

[13]The Church Father Irenaeus (140-202) has explained his vision of “Recapitulation” in the following manner: “He has therefore, in His work of recapitulation, summed up all things, both waging war against our enemy, and crushing him who had at the beginning led us away captives in Adam …the enemy would not have been fairly vanquished, unless it had been a man [born] of woman who conquered him. … And therefore does the Lord profess Himself to be the Son of man, comprising in Himself that original man out of whom the woman was fashioned, in order that, as our species went down to death through a vanquished man, so we may ascend to life again through a victorious one; and as through a man death received the palm [of victory] against us, so again by a man we may receive the palm against death.”See Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5.21.1 in A. Roberts and J. Donaldson (eds.), The Writings of Irenaeus Vol. 2, Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1869, pp. 110-111 In modern times, Teilhard de Chardin has developed an evolutionary vision of “Recapitulation.” His cosmic vision presents the evolution of the universe through different stages to its fullness in Jesus Christ, the Omega point. See H. Paul Santimire, Nature Reborn: The Ecological and Cosmic Promise of Christian Theology, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000, pp. 47-59.

[14]Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI), “The Feeling of Things, the Contemplation of Beauty”, Message to the Communion and Liberation (CL) Meeting at Rimini (24-30 August 2002) at on 10-11-2018.

[15]Ibid., Cardinal Ratzinger quoting the 14th century theologian Nicholas Cabasilas from his work, The Life in Christ, the Second Book, 15; See Nicholas Cabasilas, The Life in Christ, New York: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1974.

[16]Pontifical Council for Culture, Concluding Document of the Plenary Assembly 2006,”Via Pulchritudinis, Privileged Pathway for Evangelisation and Dialogue”at on 15-11-2017.

[17]Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI), “The Feeling of Things, the Contemplation of Beauty”, at on 10-11-2018.

[18]Pope Francis, “Homily of Pope Francis” on Holy Thursday, 28 March 2013, at accessed on 20-10-2018.




[22]Pontifical Council for Culture, Concluding Document of the PlenaryAssembly 2006: Pope Benedict XVI said this in his interview with Vatican Radio on 14 August 2005 just before leaving for the World Youth Day at Cologne. This idea is developed by Enzo Bianchi in an article in which he writes that in a society with a strong presence of non-believers and followers of other religions Christians must know to witness a presence humanly beautiful, enriched by the joy offriendship, surrounded by the harmony of creation;Cf. E. Bianchi, “Perché e come evangelizzare di fronteall’indifferentismo,” in Vita e pensiero2 (2005) 92-93.