EASTER READINGS – JOHN – SESSION 11

INTRO We are now exploring the ‘Book of Glory’ – beginning with the Last Supper and concluding with the Resurrection appearances (John ch 13-21). Having explored the Washing of the Feet and the Betrayal by Judas, we come to the ‘Farewell discourses’ – that long section in which Jesus speaks of what it means to be His disciples – people and communities that allow the Spirit of Jesus to shape their individual and communal lives – ie what is to be Church, the Body of this Crucified and Risen Lord, to be the People who are reborn in this ‘Glory’. In other words it is an extended meditation of what it is to be ‘Church’ and central to it all is – LOVE. Love alone is the ‘being’ of God, Love alone is the Glory of Love! Love alone is our witness to and proclamation of this God!

[1] ‘Now has the Son of Man been glorified’ (John 13: 31-38). In non-biblical ancient Jewish writings there were often long discourses of a dying Patriarch to his children, exhorting them to faithfulness to the Law and the tradition being handed on to them. The ‘Farewell Discourses’ (which are, remarkably, more extensive even than the Passion and Resurrection Narrative) come from this literary form. Jesus is the founding Patriarch speaking to his ‘little children’ (only place in John’s Gospel where this Greek word is used), but what is different from the dying Patriarch’s discourse is His speaking of the future of the ‘children’ (the Christian Community) whereby they experience a ‘renewed presence’ of the Founding Patriarch (Jesus) among them. There is no exhortation to obedience to laws – except that which is beyond Law – the invitation to Love! Jesus speaks emphatically of Glory. The Glory has already begun – with the betrayal! 

[2] The Glory is both His (Jesus) and the Father and will be intensified (the journey to and beyond the Cross) (John 13: 31-32). Yet again this ‘Glory’ of God is totally different to our expectation of Gory and can only be seen with the eyes and heart of Faith. And this Glory in intrinsically connected to Love – loving one another as he has loved us. The world can glimpse the Glory of God by this depth of love for each other (John 13: 34-35 – see also John 15: 8 – the fruit is Love).  Only when our Liturgy, songs of praise etc are expressions of the real love of the community, both for one another and for the world around us, is God glorified. The real beauty of our Liturgy is not in its forms, words or music, not in the eloquence (or otherwise) of the preaching – the real beauty is in the Love they express and the Love they generate among us. Liturgists, choirs, presiders – please take note! The death of Jesus on the Cross is the ‘perfection of Divine Love in the human person of Jesus’ – the pinnacle of loving, the ultimate love (see also John 15: 13-14). Only a Church, a Christian community, that is willing to die to itself truly loves as he has loved and so gives Glory to God. This commandment of Love is ‘new’ because it is not grounded in obedience to laws (the Torah) but because it flows from the Crucified Christ, flows from the heart of Jesus broken open on the Cross for us and flowing with the Blood of Sacrificial Love and the Waters of the Holy Spirit, who is the eternal dialogue of endless Love in God. This Love, this Glory is expressed and given in the context of Judas betrayal and Peter’s threefold denial (John 13: 36-38) – as well as the desertion of the other Apostles.

[3] Jesus is ‘The Way, the Truth and the Life’ (John 14: 1-9). Jesus calls his disciples (us) to faith – faith in Him, not in Laws (John 14: 1 & 11). Faith and Love are to be the two sides of the same coin for Christians. Our behaviour (Jesus-Love) flows from our faith (union in Jesus). That is why at Baptism our promises are: 3 expressing a commitment to walk the Way of holiness (Jesus-Love); and 3 expressing our commitment to witness and proclaim our faith in the living God. Apocalyptic writings often describe ‘heaven’ as a house, the dwelling of the righteous guarded by the angels. And access to this ‘place’ is a journey (like Enoch’s ‘assumption’ and Elijah’s final journey on the fiery chariot). But with Jesus the journey is different – He IS the Way – it is a journey into Jesus-Love (the journey ‘to the cave of the heart were we encounter the Divine’). This is the goal of our journey, the Way or path we walk to ‘life in all its fulness’.  He is the Truth to believe and  allow to reshape our lives and proclaim by our living and loving to the world; He is the Life – fulness of divine life in our humanity, the true Life we live if we live in Jesus-Love. Jesus is not just a wise teacher, a good model, a sure guide – He is the source of life and love, truth and freedom. Communion with Him and in Him is the well-spring of the Christian and the power of our ‘re-birth’. This passage (Joh 14: 6-7) has been greatly misunderstood: interpreted in a very exclusive manner – only those who profess Jesus as their Way, their Truth, their Life are saved. But if Jesus is the Universal brother who has come into the world not to condemn but save (John 3: 17); if in Him all sin is forgiven, then this text is about what it is to be a Christian, rather than what it is to be ‘saved’. There is nothing conditional about God’s absolute and saving love, because it is the very being of God to be infinite and unconditional self-giving love. But the Christian, the disciple of Jesus (we are not by any means the only ones to be ‘saved’!) is called under the influence of the Grace and Truth brought by Jesus (John 1: 17) to so live in communion with the Word made Flesh that Jesus is our Way, our Truth, our Life. The community of disciples, the Church, is the Sacrament of the New Humanity in Christ, the Sacrament of the New Way, the Liberating Truth, the Life of infinite Love; the Sacrament of the New Community, the New World. As St Paul teaches in Romans 8 and the Johannine Apocalypse (ch 21-22) salvation embraces all creation, not just professing Christians. Otherwise Jesus’ parables of the Kingdom that are about transforming growth, often hidden ( the leaven in the dough, the wheat in the field, the mustard seed that becomes a tree for the birds of the air) make no sense.

[4] ’To have seen me Philip is to have seen the Father’ (John 14:9-11).  St Paul describes Jesus as the ‘visible image of the invisible God’ – living Icon of the Father! (Colossians 1: 15). John talks of ‘seeing the Father’ in seeing Jesus. This does not mean Jesus and the Father are the same person (destroying God as Trinity), but means that we glimpse the Father in the Son who is constantly in total communion (‘I am in the Father and the Father is in me … it is the Father, living in me, that is doing this work’ – John 14: 10-11). Just as we do not see the Spirit, but like the wind driving the clouds or blowing through the trees, we see the effects of the Spirit; so Jesus is the ‘effect’ of the Father’s love, the visibility, the flesh in human history, of the eternal communion in Love of Father and Son in the Spirit. If we live in that Love, drink from that well, then we too become a glimpse of the Divine, witnesses of the Good News. 

AFTERWORD Have we surrendered ourselves to that Love, without which we cannot be witnesses to the Truth of God Who is Love? Do we show the ‘effects’ of Divine Love deep in the cave of our hearts and lived out in the everyday of our world?

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