Reflection & Dialogue: Emmanuel! God (and Christ) is with us always
The title given to the son of David in Isaiah’s prophecy, repeated again in Matthew’s Gospel narrative on Jesus’ conception, calls for reflection: “He shall be called Emmanuel”. As Jesus reminded his disciples, as he commissioned them to proclaim the good news to all nations, before departing from them, God and Jesus are to be so regarded until the end of time. During his lifetime, in Galilee, Jesus reminded his disciples to be aware of his presence with them, on the Sea of Galilee. Similarly at the Last Supper Jesus told his disciples that Satan has sought to sift all of them like wheat, but Jesus had prayed for Simon Peter that his faith might not fail, and that he in turn might strengthen his brethren.
There are different ways of “being with”, just as there are different kinds of difficulties and of temptations. In his Farewell Discourse at the Last Supper in John’s Gospel Jesus lays stress on the problems and trials that his disciples and followers will have to face after he has left them from a hostile world with little sympathy for what he stands for. On earth with them he was as a paraclete, an advocate, a defender, strengthening their resolve to be faithful to him and his mission. After his departure he would send them another Paraclete, advocate, the Holy Spirit, who would convince them and the world that the victory had been his, Christ’s, through his passion, death and resurrection. This advocate, the Holy Spirit, would convince the consciences of believers of Jesus victory and give them the strength to continue in their belief and their mission to the world. This, too, is an example of God’s presence as Emmanuel. Christ is present with each individual. He is also present in other ways, in the sacraments and in the reading of scripture in liturgical services, when it is Christ himself who is proclaiming his Gospel. Irish religious tradition and devotion summed up belief in Emmanuel, God-with-us in its expression: “God’s help is nearer than the door”.