Thursday, June 22, 2017

Christ's Farewell Discourse: Reflections on John 14

Dear Bible Study Participants,

"Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid." 
(JN. 14:1)

I believe we had yet another stimulating session yesterday evening as we read and discussed the extraordinary text of JN. 14. With this chapter we have now entered deeply into the unfathomable depths of Christ's Farewell Discourse. At 14:6, we heard one of the great "I AM" statements from Christ:  "I am the Way (odos), the Truth (aleithia), and the Life (zoe)." In a prayerful way, St. Ambrose reveals the quality of this self-disclosure by Christ:

Lord Jesus, we do follow you, but we can come only at your bidding. No on can make the ascent without you, for you are our way, our truth, our life and strength, our confidence, our reward. Be the way that receives us, the truth that strengthens us, the life that invigorates us. (Death as a Good, 12.55)

Following those words, Christ added: "No one comes to the Father, but by me."  Many of the Church Fathers have offered insightful commentary on these strong words of Christ. One example from among many is found in St. Hilary of Poiters:

Except through him there is no approach to the Father. But there is also no approach to him unless the Father draws us. Understanding him to be the Son of God, we recognize in him the true nature of the Father. And so, when we learn to know the Son, God the Father calls us. When we believe the Son, God the Father receives us. For our recognition and knowledge of the Father is in the Son who shows us in himself God the Father. The Father draws us by his fatherly love, if we are devout, into a mutual bond with his Son. (On the Trinity, 11.33)

Later in the Discourse, Jesus offered powerful words of reassurance to his disciples, and to us, through them:  "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you" (JN. 14:27).  I read a passage from the contemporary biblical scholar, Brendan Byrne, yesterday evening, that I would like to share again for its fine insight into the huge difference between the "peace" that comes from Christ, and the "peace" that the world gives:

This is a peace that the world is utterly incapable of giving. Worldly authority can from time to time bring about an absence of hostilities between human beings and human societies; it cannot erode the fundamental insecurity and anxiety at the root of human existence. The peace Jesus is leaving with the disciples extends God's grace and love deep into the human heart. That is why, in the face of his departure, he can repeat the injunction with which he began: "Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid". (JN. 14:1)

At our next session, we will read and study Ch. 15, considered to be at the heart of the Farewell Discourse. As I said yesterday evening, I am still not sure if we will meet next week or in two weeks. That depends on how we celebrate the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul next week. I will keep everyone informed.

Either way, looking forward to our next meeting and discussion. This is one of the major highlights of my week!

Fr. Steven

NOTE: Our 2017 Summer Bible Study continues on Wednesday evenings. Learn more here, and please join us if you are in the area!

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