December 12, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters,
I have been out of town the last week and have missed my daily reflections. Today’s good news comes from John 7:40-44.
Some in the crowd who heard these words said, “This is truly the Prophet.” Other said, “This is the Messiah.” But others said, “The Messiah will not come from Galilee, will he? Does not scripture say that the Messiah will be of David’s family and come from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?” So a division occurred in the crowd because of him. Some of them even wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.
It seems we are always wanting to divide ourselves from one another even we really agree on a larger issue. We so often let small differences get in the way of what is important — harmony, living in the kingdom of God. As Barclay writes, “A great religious experience had ended in the aridity of a theological wrangle. That is what above all else we must avoid. Jesus is not someone about whom we argue; he is someone to know and love and enjoy. If we have one view of him and someone else has another, it does not matter so long as both of us find him Saviour and accept him as Lord. Even if we explain our religious experience in different ways, that should never divide us, for it is the experience that is important, and not our explanation of it.”
As I’m sure you know, Time magazine just selected Pope Francis as its person of the year, at least in part because he is trying to lead us beyond the unimportant to what is tremendously important. Time’s managing editor Nancy Gibbs explained the magazine’s choice on Wednesday, calling the Pope “a new voice of conscience. In his nine months in office, he has placed himself at the very center of the central conversations of our time, about wealth and poverty, fairness and justice, transparency, modernity, globalization, the role of women, the nature of marriage, the temptations of power,” she said. “When he kisses the face of a disfigured man or washes the feet of a Muslim woman, the image resonates far beyond the boundaries of the Catholic Church.”
The Pope’s spokesperson responded, “The Holy Father is not looking to become famous or to receive honors. But if the choice of Person of Year helps spread the message of the gospel– a message of God’s love for everyone– he will certainly be happy about that.”
God’s love for everyone. How is it that we continually deny the gospel message in our desire for everyone else to acknowledge that our own way of believing is the right and only way of believing? Ego, I think, and fear of having our beliefs challenged. Barclay wrote something lovely about the preceding passage where Jesus stood up and exclaimed, “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him.'” Barclay writes, “It is as if Jesus said: ‘Come to me and accept me; and I will put into you through my Spirit a new life which will give you purity and satisfaction, and give you the kind of life you have always longed for and never had.'”
That’s all I need to keep in mind and in my heart and living water will flow from within me. That’s how I’ve been feeling and will continue to feel as long as I return to the gospel. It’s good to be back.