31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’
Yesterday, I decided that I needed, for my own faithful sanity, to spend some time this week reflecting on the daily office. I am grateful that there is an easily accessible source for the daily lection readings.
In the past, when I have consulted this site, I have been amazed at the way some lesson has leaped off the page at me. Whether a Psalm, something from St. Paul, or one of the Gospel readings, a passage spoke to me in a way that was immediate.
Today, I am faced with the conundrum that this didn't happen.
Part of the problem is I was looking for something that would reach that place within me that is enraged by current events. I wanted something that would either dissipate or channel that anger. Instead, I got triumphalist Psalms and the beginnings of the Gentile mission in Acts; Job's apologia for God even as he sits on his midden heap covered in sores just doesn't cut it, because it is, in a way, a kind of naive faith. He hasn't challenged God yet, which would give a greater profundity and depth to his faith.
I kept returning to the passage from the Fourth Gospel, though, in particular the ending. Part of me wanted to pick it up and run with it in a particular direction, yet that just didn't feel right, so I sat and pondered the passage, and came away . . . empty.
So, I did something I realized was necessary. I prayed.
After praying, it dawned on me that I was with the crowd to whom Jesus was speaking that day when he says in verse 25, "Why do I speak to you at all?" Jesus was trying to tell these folks that he was the one they had been waiting for. They weren't getting the message they wanted, so they were all standing around saying to one another, and to him, in effect, "Huh?" This provokes Jesus to his last nerve.
That's the trouble, I think. All of us come to the Bible with baggage. Whether we are opening it for the first time, or spending time with it like an old friend, we carry our wants, our needs, our hopes, our fears with us in the desire to have our questions answered, our hopes fulfilled, our fears assuaged. Instead, we get cryptic crap like this: "I am going away, and you will search for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come."(John 8:21) I will be up front - I don't want to hear this right now. I don't want a message of hope; I want a weapon I can use against others. I don't want to hear about the sacrifice I will have to make in order to be called a disciple. I want a word like a hammer to beat on those who mock the name of Christ for transient ends.
There. I said it.
Except, of course, that isn't what I really needed, I guess, because it isn't what I got. I got this passage, in particular the ending. Stripping away my pride, my self-righteousness, my vanity, I hear that I am to continue in His word to be a disciple. Before I can gird myself to oppose those who, in my estimation, drag the good name of the Church through the muck and mire, I have to hear what it takes to be a true disciple.
I need to be free of my rage, my fear, my desire to set the world aright. I need to reset my priorities, to remember that Jesus and the Kingdom he proclaimed and embodied is, in the end, God's. Not mine.
Not what I wanted to hear. Not what I want to hear. What I needed, though.