Why Jesus Came

From The Rector

I have an icon in my office that I often use in my prayers. It is an icon that I drew (icons are drawn, not painted—who knew!?) at a workshop back in 2010. Icons are often images of saints, biblical figures, and central stories of our faith. This icon in my office is of Jesus as a little child. His head is large and bulbous, symbolizing wisdom; his hair and garments are highlighted with white, signifying his glory; a halo of gold-leaf surrounds his head expressing his divinity. Icons draw us into a place of relationship with the image, asking us to prayerfully reflect upon what we notice in the image and ourselves—perhaps where we need to grow, or receive God’s grace, be changed or rest in the divine compassion. Icons teach us, challenge us, invite us into a deeper relationship with God. This week we I held and prayed with this icon while another image took over my mind and heart. The image of a migrant father and his 23-month-old daughter lying face down on the muddy bank of the Rio Grande—and their names, Oscar and Valeria. It is an image whose trauma, violence, desperation and tragedy pushes the heart and mind into shocked silence. It is not an image easy seen, nor easily forgotten. This is because it is an icon for this moment—an image that draws us in, challenges us, teaches us, shows us something of ourselves and our world and invites us into a deeper relationship with God and neighbor. Icons are a dangerous thing because they don’t tell us what to do, they won’t force us into a certain place or action; instead, their power is the strength of the moral and spiritual conscience of the one who takes in the image. As your priest I pray that your heart would not be hardened to human suffering because of the partisanship that shapes our nation’s moral imagination. Far too often we are fed on the rotten food of those who seek to divide, to sew narratives of hate and suspicion—casting those with whom they disagree as not simply foils of a debate, but enemies of an ideology. Jesus did not come asking for our vote or hoping we’d buy the next best thing or watching the bottom line. Jesus came to reconcile a broken, violent, and self-serving world; Jesus came to save us and redeem us into new life. Simply put: Jesus came seeking, not a part of your life, but all of it. He spoke of first things, foundational things, knowing that to claim the heart was to claim the whole person. Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever would save their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matt. 16:24-25).

Prayer is one shape or another of welcoming Jesus’ invitation into our hearts and minds—the challenging invitation to give our whole self to him in faith and trust. At the bottom of the icon I have in my office of the young Jesus there is inscribed one word: Emmanuel. This name for God means “God with us”. I have no doubt that God is with us in this life and with every life. Our responsibility as followers of Jesus is to prayerfully, honestly, faithfully discern if we are with God.

Fr. Nick