The fifth chapter of The Lord, “Baptism & Temptation” deals with Jesus’s temptation and fasting in the desert. It’s a fitting thing to focus on, seeing as we are currently in Lent and that is, after all, what Lent is based around. However there’s something in the sixth chapter, “Interim,” that draws my attention more intensely.
Guardini spends the sixth chapter talking about the time after Jesus left the desert, and began his public ministry. He began traveling around, meeting people, teaching, and rapidly gathering followers. It’s here where we see the disciples join him. Jesus encounters each of them, and each of them makes the decision to follow him. But it’s not like it was mere chance encounters. People had heard talk of this Nazarene Rabbi and were curious. They were drawn to him, more than they even realized. They were drawn to the mystery of the man, yes, but they were also drawn to the divine mystery of the Son as well, even if they didn’t realize it. There was something about this man Jesus that drew people to him.
And once they actually encountered Jesus, everything changed. It was no longer a force of attraction that was pulling them toward him. That encounter with the God man fundamentally changed their lives. This is something we’ll see with Levi, the tax collector, in tomorrow’s Gospel reading, Luke 5:27-32 (and something I wrote about in my first Lenten Reflection Series). Levi has this brief encounter with Jesus where all Jesus says is “Follow me.” We hear nothing more from that interaction. But that is apparently enough for Levi to drop everything, and follow Jesus. The same happens of Simon, and Andrew, and James, and John. No matter what their lives were, no matter what worries or concerns or ambitions they had, no matter what initial hesitations they may have had about Jesus, none of that mattered as soon as the offer was made. “Follow me.” And that’s what they all did. Everything changed for them because of those two simple words.
It’s truly incredible to think about. But it does bring to mind those that had an encounter with Jesus, and yet did not change. Herod comes to mind, or the High Priest. No offer of “Follow me” was explicitly made to these men, or at least it wasn’t recorded in the Gospels. Perhaps Jesus simply knew these men would reject him, and therefore didn’t bother. But that doesn’t seem an adequate explanation. The salvation he offers is for all (John 3:16). The difference between these men and the disciples must lie in the heart. The offer was made to the disciples because they were open to it, they approached Jesus with the curiosity that seeks to delve deeper into the mystery.
But Herod and the High Priest were not curious at all. They hated Jesus from the outset. They opposed him at every turn. He was merely a troublemaker—a vagrant radical who posed a threat to the order and the power they had worked so hard to keep, and who was taking their people with him. They had no interest in the mystery. There was no mystery, for them. He was something to be stamped out or ignored. Their hearts were closed. And so no offer was made.
Are our hearts open to the offer? Are we willing to encounter the mystery, to allow ourselves to delve deeper into what we do not understand?
Every day of Lent, I am writing a reflection piece on two chapters of "The Lord" by Romano Guardini. If you'd like to read or follow along, you can find the full calendar of where we're at below, or Click Here for the main landing page.