Saturday, May 13, 2006

I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together

Feast Day of Our Lady of Fatima

Communion Reflection on John 14:7-14

I can identify with Philip in this reading. “Master, show us the Father.” Just let us see God, and that will be enough. For years that has been my secret prayer. If I could only see God then this troublesome uncertainty would go away. I would know God and that would set me free.

It’s my secret prayer because we’re not supposed to see God. Moses heard the voice of God coming from the burning bush, but he did not see him. “My face you cannot see, for no man sees me and still lives,” he was told. In First Timothy we read that “no human being has ever seen or can see” God.

But that doesn’t stop me. I still want to see God. Mystics in the past have reported encounters with God. Even poor Job got to behold His majesty. I’d settle for a pillar of fire, a burning bush, even a still small voice.

Philip, like the stubborn Peter who gets it wrong so many times, does not hear Jesus. The disciples are gathered around their teacher for the Passover meal. In John’s Gospel they wash each other’s feet. Although they do not know it yet, this is the last time they will be with Jesus and he has some important things to tell them.

One of them is: if you want to see God, look at me.

The Evangelist did not record Philip’s reply. The disciples must have been puzzled. How could a man be God? Perhaps they had forgotten that he earlier said: “The Father and I are one.”

It’s two thousand years later and now we think we know, unlike the poor disciples, what Jesus meant by these words. Theologians have explained to us the mystery of the Trinity, which is hinted at in the Gospel of John, and many of us believe, with little doubt, that Jesus is God. They are one and the same.

But rather than bringing God closer to me, the idea that Jesus IS God takes Him father away. I am still left with the absence of God and my secret prayer to see him face to face.

I think if we read the passage from John over carefully we will see that Jesus does NOT say he is God, but rather “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” He says it twice for emphasis. What does this mean? It signifies a very close intimacy, but not identity. This intimacy will expand with the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete. And – what is most amazing – this intimacy that we call the Trinity will include us.

At the close of his last discourse, Jesus prays “that all may be one as you, Father, are in me, and I in you…that they may be one in us.” In this cosmic communitarian view, we are all one in one another, in Jesus and in God.

Because we are all one, mutually indwelling, the entire universe is connected with a thread of the divine. The late great preacher Martin Luther King wrote that: “We are all caught up in an inescapable network of mutuality.” This is not unlike the ecological insight that everything in nature is interdependent and interrelated. For John Muir, the prophet of ecology: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe. “The Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, said that “through mindfulness (or meditation) we experience interbeing, which means everything is in everything else.” And finally, the Beatles sang: “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.”

The risen Christ has made it possible for us to see God everywhere.

One day in 1958, Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk, was standing on a crowded street corner in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, when, he writes, he “was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, that they were mine and I was theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. “ He continues: “I have the immense joy of being human, a member of the race in which God himself became incarnate. The sorrows and stupidities of the human condition can no longer overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. If only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”

I’ve spent some time in Asia, and there – in Buddhist and Hindu countries alike – people greet each other with the palms touching in front of the heart. “Namaste,” they say in India, and I’ve been told that it means “the divine in me acknowledges the divine in you.” It’s a good gesture, and I suggest we do that with each other: “The Trinitarian God in me acknowledges the Trinitarian God in you. May we be all one in one another, in Jesus and in God.

1 comment:

ted vcarl said...

namaste t