April 28, 2014
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from John 20:30-31.
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [his] disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.
I first asked myself whether I believe because of the signs Jesus performed. I don’t think so. Then I read the notes in the New American Bible, which makes more sense for me personally. “[A] small number of quite early ones (manuscripts) read ‘continue to believe,’ suggesting that the audience consists of Christians show faith is to be deepened by the book.”
I don’t look for signs so much as try to be aware of God’s abiding presence in me and all around me, to be cognizant of the miracle of God’s unconditional love and forgiveness that comes to me in so many forms. It’s not that I look for them; it’s more that I try to be open or porous so that the demonstration of HIs love and forgiveness can permeate my self-centeredness and my habitual way of looking at the world. I try to be alert to the unexpected. It’s difficult to be mindful in this way, but when I’m able to do it I am transported beyond my myopic fixation on myself.
I think that’s what John is trying to tell me in wanting me to have life in Jesus’ name, not his name but in the way he lived his life, living in a way that honors his name. Moloney in The Gospel of John puts it this way, “The author (John) has shared his belief in Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, by means of the story from which the reader now rises. The journey of Jesus and the journey of the reader have been completed, but the story-telling is successful only if the one rising from the story has become part of it, led more deeply into belief in Jesus and all he has made known about God, and comes to life as a result of the reading experience.” For me John has met with success.
John Shelby Spong amplifies this notion in The Fourth Gospel, “To have life — not to become religious, not to achieve moral purity, not to win the contest to gain doctrinal orthodoxy, but to have life — that is the function of the Christ. It is to bring us to the experience of living in which we pass into new dimensions of life and cross the boundaries of fear that separate us from one another and from ourselves. That we ‘might have life and have it abundantly’ — that is what Jesus is about; that is what Jesus brings. To be Christian is not to believe that message, but to live that message.”
Reading and reflecting on the gospels, not just John, for more than 2 1/2 years has enabled me to cross the boundaries of fear in many ways, fears that separated me from myself and from others. My journey is certainly not completed, but I have traveled far down the road of living the gospel message — moving more deeply into the embrace of God’s love and living life more abundantly as a consequence. It is a liberating, joyful experience.
P.S. There are a couple of passages yet to write about in chapter 21, an appendage to John’s gospel. Then I will have completed all the gospels. I have been trying to discern for several months what to do next. I have considered many possibilities — Acts, the epistles, the Hebrew scriptures. However, there is something that seems to be drawing me back to the gospels. I’m thinning about starting over again with Mark this time instead of following the daily readings as I did the first year. I value any suggestions or perspectives you may have.