Encounters with Jesus

Encounters with Jesus

Should Rencontres avec Jésus be translated as “Encounters with Jesus” or “Meeting Jesus”?  Both are good, but “Encounters” is closer to the French; the book examines 4 encounters of individuals with Jesus, but one of them is not really a meeting at all, and another is an encounter with Jesus as a baby, so it seems a stretch to call it a meeting!

The first encounter is with Zacchaeus, and this really is a meeting. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost; Zacchaeus thought he would go and seek Jesus, but didn’t know that Jesus had come looking for him. As we would expect with Daniel, he takes us a long way inside the events, close to Zacchaeus, but Zacchaeus is also ‘everyman’. Translation is an interesting challenge: in French what looks like a present tense is often clearly past, so it is not always easy to know which tense to use in translation. The writing also alternates between being very immediate about Zacchaeus,  which warrants the present tense, and being more simply description of the past. We therefore shift in and out between looking at Zacchaeus and being challenged ourselves, firstly about our motivation in seeking Jesus, then the discovery that it is he who is seeking us, and then, as we look at Zacchaeus’ self justifying response to people complaining, to how to deal with the negative thoughts that assail us — we don’t; we let Jesus deal with them; we listen to what he says.

The second encounter/meeting is of Jesus with the ‘deaf-mute’ of Mark 7. There is another moving and in the Bourguet way, exemplary, meditation on the story, taking the reader deep inside the events; here though the emphasis is more on Jesus as healer than on the man as a type of humanity. “Looking up to heaven, he groaned.” How does Jesus pray, and how do we join him in praying? Does God hear our groaning?

Daniel briefly touches on the issue of social justice in his discussion of the poor widow and her two ‘mites’, but the focus is almost entirely on her faith, her intimacy with the unseen but all seeing God who is perceived clearly by Jesus but not by most others, and providence or provision. Daniel always has insights into the historical background that are helpful. That’s good, but  the important thing is that it helps see into Jesus’ heart. (Jesus is happy here merely to observe and comment; there is no meeting!) In the end the heart of Jesus is the heart of a supplicant, standing at the door seeking entrance to communion like that of the widow with the Father.

The fourth encounter is that of Symeon with Jesus as a baby in the Temple. Perhaps there are three facets to this. The first is a consideration of Symeon himself; how marvellous is this man who waited all his life to see one promise fulfilled, and the God who was faithful to the promise. The fact of him holding the Christ, Jesus, in his arms leads to a consideration of what it is to be a spiritual father, to contemplate what God is doing in another person’s life, to have a part in bringing it forth, and to bless. How does Symeon relate directly to us? In the same way that he held Jesus in his arms, welcomed him, we receive him too in the Eucharist, and it is on a moving account of what it means to participate in taking the bread and wine that the book concludes.