Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent



 

So Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said,
“You know me and also know where I am from.
Yet I did not come on my own,
but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true.
I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.”

 

In today’s reading from Saint John’s Gospel, Jesus finds himself alone in a crowd, surrounded by a widening circle of isolation from his own people. They think they know him and they’re pretty sure they know themselves. They are absolutely certain they know the God who called them out of Egypt; the God who has kept them as his own people through centuries of chaotic history.

In fact their confident assuredness has displaced their faith. It’s as if they have been watching and talking to a Skyped image of God; they do not realize their link was broken a long time ago. The familiar face is still there on the screen but it’s not a living face. It is rigid, set and rapidly losing its charm.

They have grown accustomed to that face and accepted its fixed immobility. Their rituals, customs and attitudes, like their ancient temple, have taken on that same stony imperviousness to time and change. They do not notice the cynicism in their hearts that accepts and even prefers their deus absconditus while they go about their business. Like workers in a large, complex company, the less they see of the boss, the better they like it.

When the One Sent by God appears in Jerusalem he runs smack into those hardened attitudes. They cannot welcome him; they pose innumerable, facetious arguments for why he cannot be what he so clearly is. “We know where he comes from.” They say.

I’ve always suspected Saint John might be winking at the Christian congregation that hears this text. Everybody knows Jesus is from Nazareth. Or was it Egypt? Wasn’t he in Egypt a while? But wait, he was born in Bethlehem, Joseph’s ancestral home. My Irish friend insists he sojourned in Ireland with his father and mother.

Jesus’ answer: none of the above. “I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.”

You lost me. Where are you from? Who sent you?

People should ask the same thing of us. When we speak up in public about the rights of minorities or compassion for our enemies, they might wonder, “Where are you coming from?” Or they might suppose, “You're a bleeding heart liberal or one of those compassionate conservatives.” They’ve got you identified, boxed and ready for disposal as soon as you open your mouth.
In fact many people do come from ideological positions – liberal or conservative, sexist or feminist – rather than from the One who sent Jesus. Too pious by half, they invariably raise a howl of protest when a representative of the Church offers a different teaching.
Fidelity to the Living Word of God requires our diligence. We pray, we study, we discuss, and then we act in the confidence that God addresses the world with its problems through our solidarity.  If the world does not welcome our intervention we should hardly be surprised. Neither did they welcome the one who sent us.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.