Memorial of Saint John Baptist de La Salle
(Acts 5:27-33; John 3:31-36)
Saint John Baptist de La Salle inherited a large fortune from his nobleman father. He also felt called to the priestly life at a young age. But he used neither his money nor his vocation in traditional ways. He gave away his fortune to feed the poor. He did not pursue a curate’s life but founded an intentionally non-clerical religious institute to educate poor boys. He was a man “born from above” as Jesus says in the long discourse from which today’s gospel is taken.
Throughout the passage Jesus’ language appears strange. His mannerism also seems disengaged, even distant. These effects were intended by John the Evangelist to help his readers appreciate the difference between Jesus and the world. As Jesus says here, he is “’the one who comes from above (and) is above all.’” In reality Jesus was quite like other people. He had outstanding characteristics, but he was not odd or eccentric. He was sensible, thoughtful, and compatible. Yet he testified, as the fourth gospel makes evident, to a way of life that the world cannot comprehend. Where the world seeks comfort, credit, and control, Jesus’ Spirit moved him and those to whom he has given it to self-denial for the sake of others.
By the grace of God, Jesus has shared his Spirit with us. It is the greatest gift because it provides us with an infinitely open future. But it entails dominance over our distorted desires. We are to re-channel our energies in love for others.