Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday of the Second Week in Lent

Daniel 9:15-19 / John 8:21-29

They said therefore to Him: Who art Thou? Jesus said to them: The beginning, Who also speak unto you.

When a student first learns literary criticism, he is likely to make a common beginner's mistake in trying to find which character in the story represents the author himself, and thus whose words and actions disclose the mind of the author not only to the other characters, but even more so to the reader. While it is true that some novels or short stories work this way, it is also the case that such works of fiction are not normally numbered among the greatest of works. The best examples of fiction never intend to mirror altogether the approved words and deeds of the author in any one character, any one decision or monologue, any one event. One need only read the works of Flannery O'Connor to see that to be so. In her works, one is hard pressed to find even one character who comes remotely near what O'Connor herself would find a laudable expression of a human, much less a Christian, life well lived.

On the face of it, then, we might easily sympathize with the Jews in the Gospel who understood not that Jesus called God His Father. When Jesus spoke, his words to them were cryptic, hidden, obscure. They could make no easy human sense of them, finding for example in his declaration of his return to the Father and of their being bound below, to die in their sins, only perhaps an intimation of suicide. Yet, we might see some wisdom in their mistake. God is the author of all, the one writing the story. To speak to a man, then, is not to speak to the author. To presume that any one man, however virtuous, however holy, is the author, and his words and actions not merely approved by the author, but in truth his own words and deeds, seems a category error of the highest degree. God is God, and men are men. If we would hear God, we would do well to avoid the words of men.

Yet, what if God would speak to us, and speak to us in a way we would and could hear? What if the very principle of all our reasoning, all our speaking and doing, the very beginning should be the one who has decided to speak unto us? Asked differently, suppose someone wanted to know something about an author, and so read all he could of his books, as well as learned commentaries and biographies. He knows he does not know God directly, but rightly feels he has a good sense of who the author is and how he would behave. Now, suppose the author comes to town, and not just to anyone, but specifically to this devoted fan, so that the fan need not know him any more through his writings, but rather might come to know him. What would we say of this so-called devoted fan if he should refuse to meet the author, if he should reject the author because the author did not resemble what he imagined the author to be from a reading of his books? Indeed, what could we make of someone who, face to face with the author himself, preferred rather to continue to seek to converse with paper and ink, not with flesh and blood?

God has come among us. In the Incarnation, the Son of God assumed our human nature, and so the very author of all that is has come among us, and by the power of the Spirit, continues to abide with us even now. If we would live rightly, if we would hear what is true and good, if we would live and not die in our sins, then we must turn to him. We cannot afford to speak about or around him, to regard him as anything but the very source of life, of meaning, of wholeness and of truth. We must, daily, converse with him who is our life, our hope, and our lasting peace. To fail to relate personally and intimately with Jesus Christ is to fail to relate to anything else, to be lost in darkness. To embrace him, to seek out him who has already sought and found us, is to be in contact with the very ground, the very foundation, source, and destiny of all that is, all that ever has been, and all that ever will be.

Be attentive to our supplications, O almighty God, and graciously grant us the effect of Thy wonted mercy, to whom Thou givest confidence in Thy loving kindness. 

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