Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tuesday of the Fourth Week in Lent

Exodus 32:7-14 / John 7:14-31

My doctrine is not Mine, but His that sent Me. If any man will do the will of Him, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God, or whether I speak of it Myself.

Is the Christian vision inclusive or exclusive? Must one be a Christian to be saved? If God wills all to come to him, to know him in knowing the Son, the Word made flesh, the image of the invisible God, can we presume ill will or culpable blindness of those who reject his claims? These and questions like them plague the modern mind, and indeed the minds not only of those who do not believed, but also those within the household of faith. On the one hand we accept the primacy of Christ, that Christ is God, the Word of God, in whom the fulness of divinity dwells, and that no one shall come to the Father and enter into the Kingdom except through him. On the other hand, we know neighbors, coworkers, friends, even family members not of the faith who, by any existential measure, clearly seem to do the will of Him that sent Jesus, receiving the revelation of the Son excepted. How, then are we to accept Jesus' insistence that those who do God's will not only can but will recognize Jesus as sent by the Father, will recognize Jesus' teachings as coming from the Father?

It would be folly to presume any simple answer here. The Church, after all, has clarified that one cannot presume from the mere fact that one is not, during his lifetime, in any visible way a member of Christ's body, that ipso facto we may conclude he is forever excluded from life with God. On the other hand, for all their cleverness, every attempt to account for that fact, to seek to justify and explain either Jewish refusal of Christ as the Messiah, Gentile attachment to religions, however noble, of human devising, or heretical proposals of an enhancement, fulfillment, or other testament completing, sealing, or reaffirming the revelations on Sinai and of the Word made flesh, inevitably falls into one of two errors. Either it ultimately says nothing except vague generalities about respect, justice, and eschatological hope, undefined, of course, or it positively requires the rejection of the clear teachings of the Lord about himself.

There is no easy answer to this puzzle, at least on the intellectual level. In fact, it was trying to puzzle it out that misled so many who encountered Jesus — Is not this He Whom they seek to kill? And behold He speaketh openly, and they say nothing to Him. Have the rulers known for a truth that this is the Christ? But we know this Man whence He is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence He is. They are left with a quandary; what they think they know about Jesus both implies that he is the Christ and that he cannot be the Christ. The problem is not their reasoning, however, but their failure to accept how distant they have become from the God whom they thought they served and worshiped.
You both know Me, and you know whence I am: and I am not come of Myself, but He that sent Me is true, Whom you know not.

If any would seek of us to know the truth about God, we can only present Jesus Christ. Anything else is not the Word he has spoken from the beginning. It is not for us, in the end, to puzzle or worry about who may or may not receive that Word, so long as we have remained faithful and true, preaching Christ in hope and in love.

Have compassion, O Lord, on Thy people: and mercifully grant relief while they labor under continual tribulations.

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