Reflection for Holy Week – Tuesday – Love and Light II

Reflection for Holy Week – Tuesday

Light and Love II

“the light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in darkness you do not know where you are going.
While you have the light, believe in the light that you may become children of light”
St.John 12:34-35

Last night, in effect we reflected on the question ‘what do we see in the Crucified One?’; the One who graciously invites us to lose our own life to participate in His Life.
In what I termed ‘the Great Contradiction of our faith’: that God who is Light and Life and Love is revealed in and through the Darkness, Death and Hatred of the Cross; we understand that a different way of Seeing is involved. We recall that John in his gospel highlights this Seeing, this comprehending of the Truth with the use of a word which our more traditional translations render ‘Behold!’. Behold the Lamb of God! We might call this ‘seeing with the eye of faith’, for surely it can only be that faith which God grants to us which reveals the One through whom all things came into being – the One without whom not one thing came to being – in the Crucified One. To Behold God’s Glory in the One lifted up from the Earth.

That seeing, that believing Is New Life. As John puts it ‘through believing we have Life in His name – not purely a new understanding, but New Life. And new Life is revealed in works which announce that New Life. Jesus in his actions announces the New reality of the Kingdom of God. If we are born anew in Him, then our lives are expressions of that New Life, that New Self, our participation in Him, in God-Self. Our Actions reveal us as children of Light; our lives at once judgement and hope for the World.

Tonight we take a step back – indeed if John is right then we step back in time before Palm Sunday, to an incident which happens in Bethany, but which Matthew and Mark record occurred during that first Holy Week.

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him.

Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’ (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.)

Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’

Here I want to suggest is another aspect of the Great Contradiction of our faith – our faith which is in, through and known in its entirety in Jesus. This Contradiction takes us from the realm of the nature of our Life in Christ, to its concrete Works.
And it is this. That in the Presence of the One who has nowhere to lay his head, in the Presence of the One laid in a manger for there was no room in the inn, in the Presence of the One whose parents offered the sacrifice of the poor, two turtledoves or two young pigeons – That is in the Presence of the One who is Poor – there is Always Abundance. The Presence of the Poor One is always the occasion of the manifestation of Abundant Life. So Mary correctly accuses Jesus after the death of Lazarus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would still be alive!’. Death cannot be present in the presence of Jesus, who Is Life. And again, in the Presence of Jesus, who is Bread, there are non hungry. All are fed and to Abundance. Yet Jesus Has nothing . . .

So Judas, who does not See – who does not Behold the Lamb of God – only sees what to him is poverty and waste. How readily we accuse the poor of wastefulness . . . and thus deny them life. He does not realise that in front of him sits one who Is Abundance – so blinded is he by Jesus’ material poverty. Hatred or Love? Darkness or Light? Death or Life? Poverty or Abundance? What do We See in Jesus? How do We Live as a result?

It is surely important to note that the only miracle Jesus performs which is found in all four gospels is the feeding of the 5000. John tells us the meaning of this Sign – that Jesus IS bread – He is The bread of Life. In his presence none can be hungry, just as in his presence none can ever die.

But there a couple of further intriguing points here in this incident, things which direct us to the nature of that New Life and its actions.
Firstly – that John, uniquely in his gospel quotes words of Jesus which are common to two of the other three gospels . . . I wonder if we noted them? John’s Gospel is SO different – surely if he quotes but One saying of Jesus which is found in other gospels, it must be of Great significance?
It is this. ‘You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me’ (Matthew and Mark also record this saying of Jesus – Mark adds the parenthetical comment – ‘and you can show kindness to the poor whenever you wish’. Luke of course has no need to record this, the announcement of the Life of Jesus as ‘Good News to the Poor’, and the warning parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus does the work for him amply.)

Secondly that this story of Abundance and that of the feeding of the 5000, are the only places in John where money is mentioned. First in relation to the disciples who do not See Jesus Is the Bread of Life, and here in relation to Judas. John does not even trouble himself to mention the betrayal ‘Reward’ – the mention of Judas and money here does that for him.

Judas only sees limited resource – he is a thief – but there is more going on here than just Judas’ character. ‘He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief. He kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.’ The two go hand in hand – for in the Light of God’s abundance – treating that which is for all as your own, is to steal. God has provided for all – thus we share so that there are no poor amongst us – but most do not live by this – thus the poor are always present. Not to live with an open hand to the poor is to be nothing less than a thief – one who comes by night – one who is in darkness. It is to deny that we have received daily bread from God, for the sake of the world. It is to refuse to participate in the abundant Life of Jesus, which receives only to Share that Life with All.

To live with an open hand to the Poor who are always with us, is to live with an open hand to the One who for our sake embraced poverty. To live with a closed hand to the poor is, with Judas, only to see scarcity, to so love our lives that we finally lose them, failing to see that our Life is with The Other – Blind to the Abundant One. To steal the Life which God has given for All. To live with an open hand is to freely give for we have freely received. It is to release the Life that is within us. It is to know that  the bread of heaven which is daily given – is given for the life of the world. Not to Share what He has given is to hoard the Bread of heaven. And stored manna  rots. It is to hate our brother whom we can see, because in Truth we have not beheld Christ. He is a stranger to us. His Life just a pretty idea.

“the light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you. If you walk in darkness you do not know where you are going.
While you have the light, believe in the light that you may become children of light”
St.John 12:34-35

 

 

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