Every day he was teaching in the temple. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people kept looking for a way to kill him; but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were spellbound by what they heard. (Luke 19: 47-48)

The word “spellbound” jumped out at me in this story of Jesus cleansing the Temple. What was it about Jesus that made people spellbound?

The content must have been important. His wisdom was foretold in Isaiah.

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
(Isaiah 1: 1-3)

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

As the Word made flesh, Jesus is the Wisdom of God to be shared with us.  Certainly, knowledge and wisdom are important. At medical conventions, some speakers are researchers, experts in knowledge, quoting all the latest scientific literature, wisely analyzing it and synthesizing it into what can be done in medical practice. These talks are important, but they aren’t spellbinding. What is it that Jesus did to make the crowd spellbound?

What I find more likely to be spellbinding is a speaker with the knowledge and wisdom but also the experience – someone who talks the talk but knows how and does indeed walk the walk.  Someone who does the same job as me understands the practical ins and outs; it’s usually easy to identify the person who knows how to do the job because they’ve done it.  That speaker makes me feel understood.  That’s nothing new.

Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called Woman,
for out of Man his one was taken.”
(Genesis 2:23)

Jesus was truly human and experienced it, life and death, and showed his humanity many times over. He wept at the death of Lazarus, and over Jerusalem. He was happy when Zacchaeus turned over a new leaf in life. He showed compassion feeding five thousand, anger cleansing the temple, love in sacrificing himself for us.

In perfect wisdom, undoubtedly God knew all there is about being human, but chose to show us that understanding and His wisdom through a human existence and experience.  The truly divine who performs miracles speaking the Truth as truly human must have been spellbinding.

That is what makes Christmas such an amazing act of generosity.  The Wisdom of God chose to give himself and become one of us so that we might see the Way, The Truth, the Life of how to find our way – the way to eternal life with He who loves infinitely. It was probably the best, perhaps the only way, that would work.  No prophet was able to get humankind turned around, so His own Son was sent.  No love is greater than that.

The season of Christmas has become very commercialized and overindulgent with consumerism. Still, it is a season based upon the generosity of a loving God, and we have learned to be generous to the homeless, the hungry, the needy this time of year. It is too bad that the basic story is ignored or forgotten.

As a Catholic, I am privileged to witness the continuing presence of God with us through the Eucharist; He is present in us and around us in our world.  God has never left.

I was saddened to hear that popular Christian singer songwriter Audrey Assad had made the decision to leave her Christian faith. Her website speaks to the spiritual awakening that she has experienced in the context of her latest musical album Eden.

“Eden unashamedly covers the distance between Audrey’s old ideas about God and her freshly gained perspective that can only be the result of a true-to-life spiritual awakening.

It’s the significance and depth of this revelation – that God is to be found everywhere, from the most extravagantly beautiful places in the universe to the deepest sorrows of the most fragile human heart – that stirred Assad’s resolve to put her experience to lyric and music so that listeners can share in the story of Eden. “I hope for people to look around at nature and see the vibrating, pulsating love of God that is and always has been with them,” she explains. “To anyone who has listened to my music and found themselves far on the fringes of their younger projections of themselves: God is in all. God is not inaccessible to you. You have never been completely separate from God, and you never could be.”

In response to the National Catholic Register’s question, “Is there a God?” she replied:

“I think so. I know there’s something in the universe that happens in patterns, and whether you call that mathematics, or quantum physics, or God, is up to you. But I think there’s something that leaves a trail of breadcrumbs to the heart of the universe, and to me, that’s God. I don’t really have a lot of specific shapes or beliefs around that idea anymore, but I still feel connected to that concept very deeply.”

The idea of God in this sense is like that of physicist Albert Einstein, whose sense of God was not personified, for he could not imagine or understand how God can be personified and therefore vengeful or hurtful.  Nothing she says is inconsistent with God’s loving presence, so perhaps this adds to my appreciation of the depth and breadth of God.

My reality of God, however, is personified.  Praying to the Father as a dad, to Jesus as brother and friend, in the presence of the Spirt is very important to me; the personal communication amongst us energizes and inspires me. I strive to abide with them.  Their reality embodies me.

I had a nightmare where I was trapped in my deceased father’s house, our family home, running through endless hallways (in a 1000 square foot bungalow), calling out “Dad, where are you?” being met only with deafening silence.  I was in a panic.  That woke me very early in the morning.

I then realized that my dad was a metaphor for the Father God, and that my panic and frustration was with God who no longer answered me.  What calmed me was the knowledge that God is always there, even if my emotions told me differently.

I was in an angry, worried and frustrated mood when I started to pray.  In my mind and heart, I yelled at God.  “Why didn’t you answer me?  Why that terrible silence? I thought you were always there.  Don’t ever do that anymore.  I couldn’t stand that!”

He answered back, “It wasn’t me.  I AM always there.”

I had had a taste of hell; I imagine it was courtesy of the great distractor, trying to convince me God had left me.  Hell must the complete disconnect from God who is love, and from love who is God.  Hell is the absolute silence of absolutely no love from anyone.  It is completely alone.  How horrible that would be.

For me, God is not a trail of breadcrumbs, but in-your-face, always really there. I’m with St. Patrick on this one.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left…

(St. Patrick’s Breastplate)



















Dr. Michael Bautista is a physician practising in St. John's and is the recipient of the 2015 Ignatian Spirit Award from St. Bonaventure's. He is also the Chair of the Discipline of Anesthesia at Memorial University. and an associate professor of Medicine.

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 10:09h, 24 February Reply

    Thank you so much Mike!

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