Jesus As Our Model for Encountering Others

We opened the year of Adult Faith Formation at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Minneapolis this morning with the first of a seven session series on Creating a Culture of Encounter.  I had the enjoyable task of kicking off the series.

I opened by briefly talking about what we mean by a “culture of encounter” and why we picked the theme for the year.  I then focused for the bulk of the session on what we learn from the Gospels about encounter.  Specifically, what do we learn about how we encounter others from the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ encounters with others?

During my talk, I suggested five lessons we learn from Jesus about encounter, each of which would make a great deal of difference to how we encounter others if we took the lessons to heart.  For each I shared some Gospel passages that illustrate the lesson.  With the hope that it might provoke some useful meditation for you, in summary form, here are the five lessons I shared in my talk, along with the scripture passages I referenced for illustrative purposes and the questions we might ask ourselves.

Lesson 1: Jesus models compassion first, without regard to whether it is earned.

Illustration: Jesus encounter with Zacchaeus the tax collector

Question for reflection:  Can I offer love and compassion without regard to whether it is deserved?  Can I make the first move, giving the other an opportunity to respond with grace.

Lesson 2: Jesus models speaking the truth with love.

Illustration: Jesus’ encounters with the woman caught in adultery and with the Samaritan Woman at the well.

Question for reflection: Can I find ways to encourage others in a more positive fashion?  Do I lead with their shortcomings or begin with connection?

Lesson 3: Jesus models acceptance of what the other is capable of giving.

Illustration: Jesus’ encounter with the rich young man and with Peter at the beach at the end of John’s Gospel.

Question for reflection:  Do I accept what others are able to offer or do I create unreasonable expectations of others and then resent when they don’t meet my expectations?

Lesson 4: Jesus models an openness to learning from others.

Illustration: Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman who asks him to heal her daughter.

Question for reflection: Am I open to allowing others to expand my understanding?  Or do I think I already have all of the answers?

Lesson 5: Jesus shows us that true encounter means opening ourselves to vulnerability.

Illustration: Jesus’ crying at the death of Lazarus; Jesus asking his apostles to be with him in the garden.

Question for reflection:  Am I willing to show vulnerability before others?  Or do I feel the need to hide behind a mask of strength?

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