Friday 22 June 2012

Enter the Logos [Pt 1]

For many centuries the author of the fourth Gospel has been known to the Orthodox East as Saint John the Theologian. It is an apt title, his is the most highly structured of the Gospel accounts we possess. Each word, each incident serves a purpose and fits into a pattern. They signify themselves and beyond themselves. It is no surprise then to see that the first seven utterances of Jesus in the Gospel of St John, all contained in Chapter 1, constitute in a way an effective summary of our Lords mission and the life of the Church and the Christian. These are His seven first words-

“What are you looking for?”
“Come and see.”
“You are Simon, son of John, but you shall be called Cephas” (which means Rock).
“Follow me.”
“Here comes an Israelite, a true one; there is nothing false in him.”
 “Before Philip called you, you were under the fig tree and I saw you.”
 “You believe because I said: ‘I saw you under the fig tree.’ But you will see greater things than that.
 Truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
(Christian Community Bible, Catholic Pastoral Edition)

His first words are directed to St Andrew and one other (possibly the Theologian himself) who follow after Him because He has been pointed to as the Lamb of God. Few people in the world today know nothing at all about Jesus. The disciples who left John the Baptist to find out more about the Lamb had no clear idea what this title meant and still less did they have an understanding of the One who bore that title. We also when we begin to walk after Jesus, not to obey Him but to question Him, have no clear idea whom it is we are behind or what power for us He carries within Himself. So He first questions us and not we Him. What are we looking for? Truth? Peace of heart and mind? Love? Rest of soul? Perhaps all of these things, maybe others beside. We do not need to know in detail what it is that we seek. All we need to know for certain is that we are restless and will never be at rest until we find that one thing we need. Nor, at the beginning of our journey, do we need to know or affirm that we will find that certain rest in Jesus. What we need is to acknowledge the reality of our permanent restlessness and express the hope and desire that in knowing Jesus we will come to know just what it is we are looking for. Something we can only really know in full at the moment when we see that we have found it.

"Come and see," it is an invitation to abide with Jesus. It is a journey from where you are now to some other place. It is the promise of a vision at journey's end of something unseen before by your eyes. How can we, thousands of years later, accept this invitation for ourselves and walk where St Andrew walked and see what he and one other, beloved of the Lord, saw? We must make the same decisions which they made, for then we shall be in an identical place with them. They first accepted the authority of St John the Baptist, they believed him when he pointed and said "Behold the Lamb of God". There are a cloud of witnesses before us who point in the same way, some famous some perhaps known to only a few within our own little circle. If we accept on the authority of the sanctity and purity of their live's, of the fruits they have borne, that they are a powerful testimony to the One who has changed them then we can seek to learn more about that One also. That is the first decision. The second is a twofold abandonment. Having heard John's witness the companions straightway abandoned him. Later he would say of Jesus  It is necessary that he increase but that I decrease. (John 3:30). In a purely human scale this has an inescapably sad ring to it but John himself gave this as a reason for him greatly to rejoice. Indeed, he said that his joy was now full. For if we abandon a truly faithful witness to fly to the heart of Jesus we will find, amidst other treasures, that same faithful witness only now we will understand them better and love them more.

Almost simultaneous with their abandonment of St John the companions abandoned themselves. The direction of travel they left to another. To another they gave the guidance of their eyes so that they would come to see what He put before them to gaze upon. On the apparently slender basis of John's brief witness and Jesus's brief invitation they struck out in a new direction, impelled by a divine restlessness and buoyed up by a divine hope. It has been the fate of many over the centuries deceived by charlatans, misguided by rogues, to set out on similar journeys only to end up bitter and crushed, robbed, deceived, betrayed and themselves abandoned. Indeed, a few short years later that seemed to be the experience of the companions themselves as they saw their beloved one dead upon a Cross. This was, ultimately, what Jesus was calling upon them, and us with them, to "come and see". If we abandon all and stumble at the Cross then we lose all. And if we, with Mary, stand firm at the Cross then we gain all. But for us, without the firmness of a perfect faith, it is always a gamble. If we make the same decisions as the companions then it is a promise that we could see what they saw and abide where they abide. It is not a guarantee that we will though. A journey is not itself an ending.

His first words to Simon are of an altogether different kind. He looks at him and immediately gives him a new title. He is to be the Rock. Almost at the beginning of the Gospel Peter becomes the Rock at the command of Jesus. Almost at the end he becomes the Shepherd “Feed my lambs.” “Look after my sheep.” “Feed my sheep" (John 21) The word reported by the Theologian  are never without significance or purpose. If he places Simon Peter in a special place then it is a sure sign that his Divine Master had done so before him. Each of us who seeks Jesus has a reason for doing so, we desire something or a something from Him. But it is a two way relationship, He desires something or a something from us also. And that something is different for each one of us. Some, and not the least important in the Kingdom, spend their lives and fulfil their purpose in obscure well doing, prayer, service, in solitude or in the midst of a bustling family. Others are called, not by themselves, to live prominently. To lead, to guide, to discipline, to exhort, to command. If the first word of Jesus was to call for followers his second was to establish a hierarchy amongst them. We cannot, if we are faithful to the words of Scripture, pretend that the Jesus Community consisted of one Saviour and an undifferentiated mass of followers. It consisted of first Jesus, then Peter. As it was so it now is in the Church He left established with His blood and upheld through His Spirit and that of the Father.

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