Saturday, 21 May 2011

Step Eleven

Gospel John 14:1-12 

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Trust in God still, and trust in me.
There are many rooms in my Father’s house;
if there were not, I should have told you.
I am going now to prepare a place for you,
and after I have gone and prepared you a place,
I shall return to take you with me;
so that where I am
you may be too.
You know the way to the place where I am going.’

Thomas said, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus said:

‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.
No one can come to the Father except through me.
If you know me, you know my Father too.
From this moment you know him and have seen him.’

Philip said, ‘Lord, let us see the Father and then we shall be satisfied.’ ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip,’ said Jesus to him ‘and you still do not know me?

‘To have seen me is to have seen the Father,
so how can you say, “Let us see the Father”?
Do you not believe
that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?
The words I say to you I do not speak as from myself:
it is the Father, living in me, who is doing this work.
You must believe me when I say
that I am in the Father and the Father is in me;
believe it on the evidence of this work, if for no other reason.
I tell you most solemnly,
whoever believes in me
will perform the same works as I do myself,
he will perform even greater works,
because I am going to the Father.

Step Eleven: “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for the knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”

At first glance, the Gospel of John seems so much more 'spiritual' that the other three Gospels. Certainly Mark, with his simple words, paints a much more down to earth Jesus; someone who most people could imagine sitting down for a meal with and having a decent conversation. 

It feels that you would have to have an 'ology' to have a chance of a conversation with this Jesus. His words twist together and he answers all questions with a question. No wonder the disciples struggle to follow what he is saying. A sign of the Divine Jesus? Or maybe a Jesus who knows the Divine; a mystic?

"Mysticism, according to its historical and psychological definitions, is the direct intuition or experience of God; and a mystic is a person who has, to a greater or less degree, such a direct experience -- one whose religion and life are centered, not merely on an accepted belief or practice, but on that which the person regards as first hand personal knowledge."
-Evelyn Underhill

Jesus certainly fits Evelyn's definition of a mystic. Yet YOU could also fit this definition - you do not have to be divine - you just have to have the experience of a  personal, intuitive relationship with God. 

Tales of the supernatural and the rise of the Age of Reason gave mysticism a reputation for being downright 'un-Christian', unless, perhaps, you were at the other extreme - a saint. 

Yet there is no magic involved, no otherworldliness, no secret societies. Mysticism could be, should be an everyday experience for everyone. A development of our personal, spiritual growth that we should aspire towards; as Karl Rahner wrote:

“the Christian of the future will either be a ‘mystic,’ one who has experienced ‘something,’ or  will cease to be anything at all.”

The Christian of the future, of now, should seek to follow the prayer and spiritual life of Jesus. John's Lord is the same man as Mark's but John reveals a different side to his character. The practical proclaimer of social justice is the same man who accepts the gift of anointing, who feels the power drawn from him by another. The Son of Man has to be human, through and through, he can't jump from one to the other- he can't be God when it suits him. Following the temptation in the desert, so long ago now, Jesus relinquishes that opportunity - he chooses humanity. 

The only difference between him and us, Jesus might say, is he knows who his Father is; he knows.

All of Jesus' miracles, healings and feedings have happened for one of two reasons - because the person who is healed has had faith enough to admit their need - or-  Jesus' own faith in his Father means that when there is need, he will ask and the Father will not say 'no'.  

Jesus never says - 'it was me'.

What Jesus is trying to tell us is that we can do the same - that his absolute faith doesn't come from being God himself but from being utterly human; from being vulnerable; from being powerless; from seeing his Father's hand in the world around him; from his confidence that God's Will is enough; from the experience of relationship that has no doubts. 

This should be our strength; this is the faith we must nurture. To want to belong to the Father, as Jesus belongs to him. To commit our lives through prayer and meditation to the desire to experience God,  praying only for the knowledge of His will for us and then, for the  power to live that out.”



claire said...

I have always liked Karl Rahner's quote.

Like you, I also believe we each need to become utterly human, vulnerable, if we want to reach the Divine...

Thank you, Word. I will be sad when this series ends :-)

Word in the Hand said...

Well there's always the lesser know twelve traditions - maybe I'll look at them...? Thanks for reading. m+x

sattler said...

I've been reading Dorothee Solle's 'The Silemt Cry' recently. She certainly stretched my view of mysticism and comes very close to the mysticism in the ordinary you describe here. These 'I am' sayings stretch me too. Sadly they have been used ideologically by a church seeking a rationale for exclusivism. How we deal with that observation depends a good deal on our hermeneutic approach. Even more, it depends on uor willingness to allow in truth a sense of journeying playfulness. Too often the 'play' is squeezed out by a soul-killing dogmatism.

Word in the Hand said...

I was speaking to the priest at my sister church today and we were commenting on how different the Gospel can be depending on just how you read it. So often it is proclaimed -loudly and proudly - when really it was often a conversation around a table or a campfire.

Anonymous said...

Oh this is beautiful Word! So true, what is said about mystics. There are mystics all around us and how wonderful they are. Reminds me of little children who see 'fairies'. Mystics see a different world...the real world.

Anonymous said...

I have been reading the dialogue between Radref and Reluctant Sinner blogs and checked out yours since you are a Roman Catholic commenting to Sattler.
I had hoped that the Rome Blogmeet would result in a new blog that was tolerant of liberal and trad. viewpoints, publishing without prejudice.
The Guild has not welcomed or illustrated any tolerance of other positions yet, RC or otherwise. Sattler's offer has not yet been taken up.
As a Roman Catholic do you think the Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma blog would accept your position and publish something from Word in the Hand?
If not I will have to conclude that the Guild is just more of the same.

Please can you direct me to other blogs that rejoice and celebrate VAT II, ecumenism and progressive Catholicism.
Thank you.

Philomena Ewing said...

Someone said to me the other day that they had overheard a child asking someone the question "Is Jesus real?" and the answer the person gave was : "Well, put it this way ; he isn't tangible."
I felt really sad when I heard this and I thought how can I answer this person and say Jesus IS real I can touch him without sounding pious.

Word in the Hand said...

I don't think you can answer people Phip, I think people meet the 'real' Jesus in their own time - if they want to. What may make them want to is seeing him at work in you or me - which leads me on to Step Twelve....