The knowledge of Jesus Christ, in faith and love, surpasses all knowledge and takes us to the fullness of God. This is the great knowledge that we must seek and care for. It is a gift from God that also surpasses our limited capacities, but which introduces us to the horizon of fullness. It is from this profound experience, this profusion of grace, that Paul's experience of faith is illuminated when he proclaims the excellence of the knowledge of Jesus Christ and its full communion with the Paschal Mystery : I consider everything a loss compared to the supreme good which is the knowledge of Jesus Christ, my Lord. For his sake I have lost everything, and I regard it all as rubbish in order to gain Christ ... It is a question of knowing him, and the power of his resurrection, and communion with his sufferings. (Phil 3:8-11).
The grace of studying the Gospel
We find the same echo and the same touch of grace in these words of Father Chevrier, so familiar to us, which we must also welcome with a renewed spirit, so that they continue to guide and direct our decision to follow Jesus Christ: "To know Jesus Christ is everything. Everything is contained in the knowledge we will have of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ .... No study or science should be preferred to this. It is the most necessary, the most useful, the most important, especially for those who want to be priests, his disciple, because this knowledge alone can make priests" (VD 113; Cf. Letter 105; 129).
This impetus, this inner strength that leads us to Jesus Christ, is a gift of the Spirit that takes root and grows in us through assiduous and constant study of the Gospel. It is a study also carried out in the Spirit, who leads us to the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For this same reason, we Pradosians must ask ourselves today, as Father Chevrier did: "What do we have to do? To study our Lord Jesus, to listen to his words, to examine his actions, in order to conform ourselves to him and fill ourselves with the Holy Spirit" (VD 225).
That's the big job we have to do every day. It's our first task, and we repeat it often, evoking Father Chevrier. We are aware that there is a certain distance between desire and reality. We easily look for reasons and find justifications to explain a certain deficit in the assiduous study of the Gospel. In the name of pastoral care, of serving the poor and our communities, we sometimes justify this lack of effort to devote ourselves to knowing Jesus Christ, forgetting that this is the first serious step, the first pastoral work that will support and energise our entire evangelising mission. Passion for evangelisation will invade and fill our lives if, in truth, we care about and cultivate passion for Jesus Christ.
The priority of studying the Gospel
The search for pastoral and apostolic effectiveness has its foundation and its source in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, as we said during the Session on the study of the Gospel in July 2009: "Apostolic action, if it is to be effective with the effectiveness of God, must be born of listening, of prayer, of love, of the interior, that is to say of union and conformity with Christ, which presupposes walking in the Spirit of truth and freedom.
Knowing Jesus Christ in order to teach catechism well is the only thing Antoine Chevrier needed, and for us who share his charism 1 ".
In today's social, cultural and even ecclesial context, if we are to concentrate on our mission and our desire to follow the Master in proclaiming the Kingdom, we must pay close attention to our attachment to Jesus Christ, giving priority to what is most important: "Knowing Jesus Christ and praying are the first things to do in order to become a stone in God's spiritual edifice. Only that which is founded on Jesus Christ can remain" (VD 103). This intuition and this deep conviction of Father Chevrier are evoked on several occasions in the life of the Church and have been noted by Benedict XVI: "There is nothing more beautiful than to be touched, surprised by the Gospel of Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know him and to communicate to others one's friendship with him" (Sacr. Caritatis 84).
The study of the Gospel is in close union with the Holy Spirit, because it is a spiritual experience, that is to say a study made in the light of the Spirit. This is the great experience of Antoine Chevrier: "Who are those who have the spirit of God? They are those who have prayed a lot and asked for it for a long time. They are those who have studied for a long time the Holy Gospel, the words and deeds of our Lord, those who have worked for a long time to reform in themselves what is opposed to the spirit of our Lord" (VD 227).
The reading and assiduous study of the Scriptures are fundamental to the life of the disciple and the apostle, and not something to be done occasionally, for it is not a question of frequenting the Gospel from time to time, but of immersing ourselves in its deepest waters, in the hand of the Spirit. This frequent and assiduous study is closely linked to prayer. Both claim and enrich each other. The fruit of this interaction is the conversion that comes from an encounter with Jesus Christ, from a willingness to let ourselves be led by the Spirit, who is the soul of this study, the one who leads us to enter into the struggle and confrontation with our own spirit and with the spirit of the world. The Spirit places the disciple in a permanent process of conversion and pushes him or her along the path of the cross, of the obedience of faith.
It's a call to renew our condition as disciples of Jesus Christ so that we can become more capable of carrying out the mission entrusted to us in the Church and in Prado: "To proclaim to the poor the unfathomable riches of Jesus Christ".
On the road to discipleship, we will deepen these three dimensions: knowledge of Jesus Christ, study of the Gospel and the way of the Cross. This process of theological deepening and spiritual enlightenment can be completed in the light of the first column of the Tableau de Saint-Fons, the Crib, communion with the Incarnate Word.
ȆTo be a disciple of Jesus Christ is a grace, but also a task in the making, always unfinished. Becoming one with the Master and following his teachings is only possible through the path of a long experience of prayer and spiritual study of the Word (in Spirit). We live and cultivate our discipleship as a real spiritual battle
because we are aware that the identity and action of the disciple are formed in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
We are faced with a grace that invites us to cultivate it. We need to develop and promote a renewed practice of studying the Gospel, in order to know, love, follow and proclaim to the poor the unfathomable riches of Jesus Christ at the heart of our presbyteries and communities.
1 Booklet 'O Christ, let me know you' (2011), p. 6.