Radio Show

Encountering Jesus in the Gospels With Professor William Mattison

Whether you read the Bible daily or only hear Scripture proclaimed on Sundays, there are always fresh ways for us to connect more deeply to God’s word. Father Dave welcomes Notre Dame theology professor and author William Mattison to discuss his new book, “Follow Me: Walking with Jesus through the Gospels.

The book presents stories of Jesus from the Gospels, and follows each one with an imagined first-person reflection from a character in that passage. “The real point of the Gospel and this book is to actually encounter the living God through the Scriptures; This is meant to aid you through that,” William says. “As those characters encountered Christ themselves in the Gospels, it enables us to do the same.”

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He shares an example of how St. Andrew might have reflected on an early story in John’s Gospel in which Jesus invites him to be one of the first disciples. William says, “We think it’s like this momentary encounter; [Jesus] says, ‘Come and see.’ They went, they spent the day with him. That whole day involved encountering other people, conversations, maybe laughter, and silence…We don’t know exactly what happened, but something happened between Jesus and those guys that day.”

William continues, “I think sometimes we have a hesitation to think that God really does meet us in the particularities of our life through time in the mundane moments, but that’s exactly how he does.”

Another reflection imagines how the rich young man in Mark’s Gospel may have reacted after hearing Jesus’ call to sell one’s possessions. “In the next few lines, Jesus yells stuff out, like ‘all things are possible with God.’…[The rich young man] recounts how that’s actually Jesus calling off to him in the distance, and his experience of Christ not giving up on him – even though he wasn’t ready to make the commitment that day,” William says. “That’s something that I can imagine in my own life, for instance. What are the ways that I failed to respond to God’s invitation? How does God keep coming after me? So the hope is that through reading these stories, we place ourselves in their shoes.”

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Father Dave shares an excerpt from the reflection on The Road to Emmaus, one of his favorite Scripture passages. “One interesting piece that, as homilists, we always stumble on is Luke describing that these were his disciples; but for some reason, they didn’t recognize him,” Father Dave says. The reflection describes examples of when you fail to see something or someone change right in front of you.

William says, “Can you imagine what it must have been like to encounter a resurrected person?” He reflects on Jesus’ encounters in the Gospels before and after his resurrection. “We believe in our faith that, through God’s grace, Jesus isn’t just a good example but actually animates us with his life and power,” he says. “One of the cool things about the book, I think, is trying to [explain] these great theological mysteries of the resurrection or divine and human agency, but what does that look like when it happens in a real life story? That’s what it tries to portray.”