Love Life: Revelation Reflection

12.Revelation

As you pray, allow the light that is all around you to be a constant reminder of the presence of God: always at hand, illuminating our world. Look for ways to embrace the light within you.

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.
(John 8:12)

The Gospel of John reveals to us a God who is love. This love is at once transcendent, beyond all our imagining, and immanent, present and tangible in the world around us. We encounter this mysterious paradox from the very first words of the Gospel, where we read that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” This is John’s Revelation: The Word that is God comes down and takes on our humanity. The Greek term John uses, logos, has a much broader definition than our English “word.” It means a dynamic energy, the animating force. What becomes clear, as we come to know and understand Jesus through John’s writings, is that the energy and force of God is love. Love is God active in the world: Love is God made flesh and dwelling among us.

Throughout his life and ministry, Jesus embodies this active principle of love in the way he interacts with his friends and with strangers. We learn that “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Jesus demonstrates this radical love by offering his life for others on the cross.

But John’s Gospel does not end with Jesus’ death: It goes on to narrate his resurrection and the appearances he made to his followers. The fascinating thing about these sightings of the Risen Jesus is that the disciples do not recognize him at first. Jesus evidently no longer bears the same face his friends knew him to have in life. It is only when he speaks their name in love, or shows them his hands and his side, or summons them from the shore, that they recognize the Lord. The face of God, the face of love, in our lives is always changing. God will come to us in many different guises. Open your eyes today and wonder, “Where is God speaking my name in love, showing himself to me, summoning me to follow?”

How will God be revealed to you today?

Love Life: Vocation Reflection

As you pray, dwell with the image of Jesus as the way. Jesus is not merely with us on the way; Jesus is the Way. Following him, we are led into truth, and toward greater life. Where does your life need more truth? How could you grow into larger life? Toward what new future is Jesus leading you in this chapter of your life?  “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”  (John 14:6-7)

As you pray, dwell with the image of Jesus as the way. Jesus is not merely with us on the way; Jesus is the Way. Following him, we are led into truth, and toward greater life. Where does your life need more truth? How could you grow into larger life? Toward what new future is Jesus leading you in this chapter of your life?

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
(John 14:6-7)

The Gospel of John is book-ended by scenes of vocation or calling: In John 1, Jesus calls two of John the Baptist’s disciples to “Come and see”; in John 21, the Risen Christ invites Peter, saying “Follow me.” The key position and importance given to these scenes reveals how paramount the sense of being called and chosen was to the community who gathered together to remember and commemorate their experiences of Christ. “You have not chosen me,” Jesus tells his disciples, “but I have chosen you.”

Jesus has chosen each and every one of us. Everyone has a vocation. This vocation is not equivalent to our career or our business card, though for some people, their vocation might be related to their career path. Rather, our vocation is the unique life to which we are called as children of God. It encompasses our relationships, our talents, the whole of our identities.

The only constant in vocation is that it is other- oriented. “I give you a new commandment,” Jesus says, “love one another.” We can express this vocation to love in our work, in our relationships, or in our world. One way to step into this larger sense of vocation is to ask yourself: What do I love to do? What makes me feel passionately alive? Where do I respond deeply to the needs and desires of others? God does not shout and God does not force us in helping us grow into our vocations. Often, our desire and our joy can be a very good indication of where God might be leading us. Jesus is in that joy, beckoning us forward toward larger life, saying, “Follow me.”

Love Life: Collaboration Reflection

As you pray, allow the metaphor of the vine and the branches to help you to reflect on interdependency and collaboration: Without the branches, the vine bears no fruit; without the vine, the branches have no root. Where are you bearing fruit in your life? Where do you need to be pruned? How can you tap into the deep source of Life? “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”  (John 15:5)

As you pray, allow the metaphor of the vine and the branches to help you to reflect on interdependency and collaboration: Without the branches, the vine bears no fruit; without the vine, the branches have no root. Where are you bearing fruit in your life? Where do you need to be pruned? How can you tap into the deep source of Life?

“I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”
(John 15:5)

There is a wonderfully poignant scene at the close of John’s Gospel: The Risen Christ meets his disciples on the lake shore and shares a meal with them. Then he takes aside Peter, Peter who has lately betrayed Jesus by denying three times that he knows him. And Jesus asks him, “Peter, do you love me?” He asks him this three times, once for each denial Peter uttered. Every time Peter answers, “Lord, you know I do.” And each time, in response to this avowal, Jesus gives him a command, “Feed my sheep.” “Tend my flock.” “Feed my lambs.” Jesus invites Peter and the other disciples to collaborate with God in continuing the work Jesus has begun.

We are all called to this collaboration. Our love for God is not solely an emotion we experience in the silence of our hearts and the stillness of our rooms. It is not meant just to enrich our lives and ease our troubles. Our love for God has a very practical and active component in the world: We love through our actions. We love God by collaborating with God’s work in the world. “Do you love me?” Jesus asks each of us. And his next suggestion holds for us as well, “Feed my sheep.”

Collaborating with God can seem a very lofty, even overwhelming, charge. And it is. Yet like every other element of our call to life with God, it is also utterly personal. God calls you to collaborate in the way that only you uniquely can. There is no cookie-cutter collaboration, no one- size-fits-all answer to how we collaborate in the work of the kingdom: binding up the broken- hearted and setting the prisoners free. Teresa of Avila reminds us, “Christ has no body but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.” What opportunities will come into your path this week? How will you collaborate with God and bless the world?

Love Life: Participation Reflection

As you pray, allow the image of Jesus as the bread to draw you to meditation: What hungers do you know in your life right now? Ask God to fill them. Express your gratitude for all the ways your life is full and your spirit nourished. “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)

As you pray, allow the image of Jesus as the bread to draw you to meditation: What hungers do you know in your life right now? Ask God to fill them. Express your gratitude for all the ways your life is full and your spirit nourished.

“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
(John 6:35)

In our relationship with God, we are called not merely to know ourselves loved by God, but to participate in the relationship of love that we understand is God. The first letter of John explains that “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.” When we love, we participate in the very life of God.

In the Christian tradition, the doctrine of the Trinity aims to express this amazing truth of a God who is love, who is relationship, by speaking of a God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, united in an endless dance of love. John’s Gospel helps give shape to this idea through its portrait of the intimacy between God and Jesus, and its promise of a “Spirit of Truth” who will guide us in the ways of all understanding.

While the mystery of the Trinity may not be perfectly understood or understandable to us, the essential point could not be more clear: “If we love one another, God lives in us and God’s love is perfected in us.” The more we love, the more we participate in the life of God, even to the point where something about God’s own self becomes more perfect than it already was. This is a mystery worth pondering. This is a privilege worth claiming.

We participate in the love of God not only through prayer and worship, the sacraments and the Eucharist, but also in the ordinary, everyday acts of love that populate our lives. We can harness it with a smile. We can embody it with a kind gesture. We can perfect it with an orientation toward the world that asks, as Jesus did, “How can I serve?”

Love Life: Invitation Reflection

As you pray, allow the image of Jesus as the gate to invite you into discovery:  What are the obstacles to abundant life in your experience today? What gates need to be opened? What life still longs to be claimed? “I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.…I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”  (John 10:9-10)

As you pray, allow the image of Jesus as the gate to invite you into discovery:
What are the obstacles to abundant life in your experience today? What gates need to be opened? What life still longs to be claimed?

“I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.…I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
(John 10:9-10)

In the last days of his life, Jesus gathers his disciples around him and tells them, “I have called you friends.” We watch this friendship grow, throughout the pages of John’s Gospel, in the very real and challenging love Jesus shares with those friends, from his first invitation that they “Come and see” to his demonstration of love in the washing of their feet at the Last Supper. “I have set you an example,” he tells them, “that you also should do as I have done to you.” The same love which he shares with the Father, he now shares with them. He asks them in turn to share this love with one another and with the world. “We love,” the author of First John tells us, “because he first loved us.”

This invitation to intimate relationship crystallizes in John’s Gospel around the figure of the “beloved disciple” who appears at the Last Supper, reclining on the breast of Jesus. We find him again later, at the Crucifixion, waiting beside the Cross. Tradition has assumed that this disciple is also the author of the Gospel, John. Whether or not the “disciple whom Jesus loved” is the same person who wrote the Gospel, it is actually most significant that this disciple is never named. Anonymous, the beloved disciple becomes a stand-in for every disciple.

We are all invited to be beloved disciples. Every one of us is invited to step into that privileged place, close to the heart of Jesus, and thus close to the heart of the Father. “For it was you who formed my inward parts,” we read in Psalm 139, “you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Knowing ourselves to be beloved by God allows us to share that love with a world in need.

How do we accept this invitation? There is an old story that comes to us from the church at Ephesus, where, legend has it, the beloved disciple lived out his final years. By then he had become quite aged and decrepit, unable even to walk into the church. He had to be carried into the church to preach. And week after week his sermon was one single phrase repeated again and again: “Love one another. Love one another. Love one another.” We accept God’s invitation to become beloved disciples by the love we share with the world.

Love Life: Reflection on Gospel of Love

We Brothers have chosen as our focus for this five week course of study the Gospel of John. It is the gospel with which we have the deepest affinity. Its message defines our spirituality as a community. It shapes our theology, our spiritual practice, and our corporate life and worship. We are a Johannine community.

This has been so from the earliest days of our Society. Our founder, Father Richard Meux Benson, was captivated by the Fourth Gospel, and believed it held answers for many of the challenges the Church in his day was facing. For one thing, it was a profound telling of the story of Jesus, one that reflected decades of theological thought on the part of the author and his community. Of all the gospels, Father Benson believed, the Gospel of John had the most appeal to intelligent, well-educated Christians whose assumptions about the Bible and the world were being challenged by new revelations coming from the scientific community and from Biblical scholars in the 19th century.

The Fourth Gospel was also relevant to the needs of a society in which the poor were being trampled underfoot. It was this gospel that emphasized that “God is love” and that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him
may not perish but may have eternal life.” This gospel called believers to love one another as they themselves had been loved by God, and to serve one another by laying down their lives, as Jesus had laid down his life for them. Father Benson envisioned a society of priests and brothers who were sent into the world (as Jesus had been sent by the Father) to reveal this God of love to all those who would receive him, so that they might have life – abundant and eternal life – in this world as well as the next.

Whereas the three synoptic gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke – share a common viewpoint, John’s perspective is unique. In John’s gospel, Jesus is not only the long-awaited Messiah; he is “the Word” which was in the beginning and through whom all things were made. This Word was made flesh and lived among us. John’s gospel makes it clear that Jesus was sent into the world to assume our human nature and to live among us. Because he is “close to the Father’s heart,” he is able to reveal God to us, and to offer us God’s light and life. He is “full of grace and truth.” To those who believe (i.e. to those who receive him and trust in him) he offers abundant life in union with himself and with his Father and with the Spirit. He teaches his disciples the importance of “abiding” in him, so that his life can flow in and through them. He is the bread that will nourish them, the living water that will spring up in their hearts, the shepherd who will guide and protect them, the vine that will sustain them, and the light that will drive away their darkness. He is for them “the way, the truth, and the life” by which they will come to know the God of Love.

We who bear John the Evangelist’s name find in the Fourth Gospel inspiration for our own life and mission. We are inspired by its testimony that God is Love, its conviction that Jesus is the revelation and revealer of God, its insistence that the Christian community is to be a community of love, bearing witness to what they have seen and heard and experienced. We hope to share our enthusiasm for this gospel through this course of study.

As you read this gospel over the course of the next few weeks, as you watch the videos and write your answers to each day’s question, as you ponder the images and stories found in the text, we pray that you will find it as nourishing and as life-giving as
we have found it. With the Evangelist, we pray that you who hear the words of this gospel may discover more deeply the abundant life it offers.

Love Life.