Sunday, June 1, 2014

Not of this World

John’s Gospel is believed to have been written for the church of Ephesus at the end of 1st century; it addresses an emerging Christian community in transition adjusting to their separation from Judaism; many or all of these early Christians have in fact been expelled from the synagogue. Certainly they are disoriented. And so appropriately John writes a highly symbolic text, which invites them to a radical reorientation. It may have been intended as a consolation for them, a reminder that as Christians they and we belong to a different reality, a new world that is hidden under the outer reality of things.

And so in this morning’s Gospel from Saint John, Jesus says to the Father:

I pray for them.
I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me,
because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours
and everything of yours is mine,
and I have been glorified in them.
And now I will no longer be in the world,
but they are in the world, while I am coming to you.

John’s language is one of radical relationality. We belong to God, in Christ Jesus our Lord.  The “world” in this Gospel is all reality opposed to Jesus and his way of compassion and self-offering. As disciples we believers like our 1st century forebears are not in that world but in a new world of radical relationship with God in Christ through the Spirit, imbedded in the Trinity, for we have been born from above through baptism.

Still like those early Christians we too experience the tension of a world not yet fully transformed, a situation that is ‘already’ and ‘not yet.’ And as monks we have Saint Benedict to exhort us, “Your way of acting should be different from the world's way; the love of Christ must come before all else.” Benedict reminds us where we belong, better still to whom we belong. It is our love of Christ, but first of all his love for us that has changed everything.

Indeed only such love can reorient us. And we live now longing for Love’s in-breaking; transformative moments, when we can see that in Christ while we are in the world, we nonetheless belong to another world- out of the system that puts aggression and success first, the world of political discourse where one-upmanship takes hold, a world where ease and accomplishment grant status and prestige. We belong somewhere else; we have been called into a new order, a new cosmos named the kingdom- where Christ’s power over us is shown best in our weakness, where compassion trumps fear, where the truth of Jesus’ suffering and death into resurrection redefine any earthly notion of how to make it in life.