Thursday of the 3rd Week of Easter
The Bread of Life Discourse
Karl Rahner in his written article, Conversion in the encyclopaedia of theology, Sacramentum Mundi (vol. II, p. 4), says: “From the Biblical and dogmatic point of view, man’s free turning to God has always to be seen as a response, made possible by God’s grace, to a call from God.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 1432) says similar ideas: “The human heart is heavy and hardened. God must give man a new heart. Conversion is first of all a work of the grace of God who makes our hearts return to Him: ‘Lead us back to You, O Lord, that we may be restored,’ (Lam 5:21). God gives us the strength to begin anew.”
Jesus in today’s gospel says: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him,” (v.44). Through this gospel verse it is very clear to me that Jesus talks about conversion. This contains a hint also as to how God proceeds in His efforts to bring about a conversion of all. He proceeds by an inward attraction or drawing of the sinner. In other words, conversion is the initiative of God. God starts the conversion. It is not we who looks for Him. It is always He who looks for us and brings us to conversion. But of course He needs our cooperation. It is because it is up to us if and when we go to Jesus when the Father calls. Then Jesus can work in us.
This verse too can mean faith. The Father has called us to believe in Christ and in His Church. And we believe that it is not through our own power and initiative but by a gift of divine grace that has called us to Him and to believe in Him and again, an initiative of God. This call of the Father culminates in full initiation into divine life through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist. These sacraments of initiation adopt us into the life of the Trinity. My baptism remains in us today as a title to new graces from above.
But this is not the kind of faith this theology student had with God in the story that I will tell you. A story is told about a student of theology who said to his professor: “I cannot believe in God any longer.” The professor surprised the student by saying: “Maybe I should congratulate you for no longer believing in God.” “What do you mean by that?” asked the student. His professor replied: “Perhaps the idea of God that you have in your mind is distorted that you should reject it.” Oftentimes those who do not believe in God do not have the true God whom Jesus proclaims. The God that they have is simply a product of their own imagination that exist nowhere, a distorted image of God. If we are to discover the true God, we must turn to Jesus.
This verse again can mean a call to holiness. Everybody is called to be holy. One of the most important contributions of the Second Vatican Council is its teaching of the universal call to holiness. All of us are called to be saints or to be holy. It is not only bishops, priests and religious are called to be holy but everybody. Jesus reminds us that we are not called to holiness because of our popularity, personal qualities and extraordinary intelligence. But we are called to be holy because everything that we have is coming from God. No one can even think about holiness apart from God since God Himself is the source of all holiness, as somebody said. We partake in His holiness. We are made in His image. We must be humble and recognize that apart from God we can do nothing.
Again, Jesus says, “no one can come to me, unless the Father draws him.”