Lenten Daily Gospel Reflection - 14 March 2013
The Jewish opposition grumbled about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”
They asked, “Isn’t this Jesus, Joseph’s son, whose mother and father we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”
Jesus responded, “Don’t grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless they are drawn to me by the Father who sent me, and I will raise them up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets, And they will all be taught by God. Everyone who has listened to the Father and learned from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God. He has seen the Father. I assure you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that whoever eats from it will never die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever, and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
“And they will all be taught by G_d.”
That sentence bothers a lot of people. Well, a lot of religious people. Well, a lot of exclusive religious people. (If you’re like me, you said that like the 10th incarnation of The Doctor.) It usually follows something like this: a person reads that passage and can’t believe Jesus would say something like that and, even if he did, it can’t mean what it appears to mean. So, she checks the reference (Isaiah 54.13). Here’s how that reads in the Common English Bible: “All your children will be disciples of the Lord—I will make peace abound for your children.” Next, if she’s really curious, she’ll read the whole chapter. Then she’ll notice that the context is about G_d’s people. The conclusion then will be that Jesus is really talking about “the Church.”
Well, not quite.
One thing that we notice by comparing the two quotes above, is that, well, they don’t match! “And they will be all taught by G_d” verses “All your children will be disciples of the Lord.” One is universal - “all,” and the other is specific - “your children.” The difference is, of course, the latter text is based on the Hebrew, whereas the former is based on the Greek. I’ve stated this before, but it seems to go unnoticed by a lot of people - the “Bible” the writers of the New Testament used was the Septuagint, i.e., the Greek translation of the Jewish Scriptures (also seen as LXX). If one checks the New Testament’s quotations of the Jewish Scriptures against the LXX, one will see that the discrepancies melt away (the big one is looking up the reference of Mary being a virgin).
And I find that fascinating. The quotation could just as easily come from the Jewish source. But it didn’t. The writer chose the Greek text without any editorial remarks. You know that type where there will be an explanation of a phrase or scene. An example of that can be found here. To me, this shows that we should take that exactly as it’s read - all people will be taught by G_d.
As soon as I think I have it all figured out (which is a rarity), something or someone comes along with a bit of insight that really rocks my world. The Lindisfarne Community does that for me. Lindisfarne, as a community, is a place where there is a lot of room for G_d. G_d is not limited to our thoughts. We’re open to G_d’s Truth wherever it may be. We know that we are finite beings, that our experiences are limited, and our understandings even more so. We try and be sensitive to wherever the Wild Goose (the Celtic way of seeing the Holy Spirit) leads us.
I was just speaking about this with a friend of mine the other day. We were talking about a book I’ve been reading that showed that the Transfiguration of Jesus should not be seen as a sign pointing to his divinity. The author did that by relating a similar story about a 19th century monk who was transformed with one of his disciples. The disciple came and asked the monk about the knowability of the presence of God. When the monk took the disciple by the shoulders, they were both transformed into a radiance that the disciple could barely look at.
We then speculated about the stories of other people, other saints of old, that had other out-pourings of G_d. “What if,” I asked my friend, “we take those stories as true instead of the cynicism and skepticism of our day?” In other words, there are similar stories of G_d’s dealing with people from other wisdom traditions. In the past, I have simply swatted such stories away. I even looked at the stories from others within my own wisdom tradition with some dubiety. “Only the stories in the Bible are true,” I would tell myself.
But, as I’ve been seeing for a while now, G_d isn’t limited to my version of truth. I see now, because of the work of Jesus, that G_d really does speak to “all people.” G_d actually teaches “all people” in ways that are familiar to them. G_d isn’t limited to my narrow perception of what is and is not acceptable to G_d. G_d’s ways are past finding out! Like St. Paul wrote,
We cannot wrap our minds around God’s wisdom and knowledge! Its depths can never be measured! We cannot understand [God] judgments or explain the mysterious ways that [God] works! For,
Who can fathom the mind of the Lord?
Or who can claim to be [God’s] advisor?
Who can give to God in advance
so that God must pay him back?
For all that exists originates in [God], comes through [God], and is moving toward [God]; so give [God] the glory forever. Amen.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC