01 May 2017

Who will help us escape?


Today's readings:

Respondit eis Jesus, et dixit: Amen, amen dico vobis: quæritis me non quia vidistis signa, sed quia manducastis ex panibus et saturati estis.
Jesus answered them, Believe me, if you are looking for me now, it is not because of the miracles you have seen; it is because you were fed with the loaves, and had your fill. (Knox)
John 6:26

You're looking for me, not because of the things that prove me to be the Messiah, but rather because you got food. In the Golden Chain, the Patristic Commentary on the Gospels compiled by St Thomas Aquinas, we find this:
Augustine. As if He said, you seek Me to satisfy the flesh, not the Spirit. Chrysostom. After the rebuke, however, He proceeds to teach them: Labor not for the meat which perishes, but for that meat which endures to everlasting life; meaning, you seek for temporal food, whereas I only fed your bodies, that you might seek the more diligently for that food, which is not temporary, but contains eternal life. Alcuin. Bodily food only supports the flesh of the outward man, and must be taken not once for all, but daily; whereas spiritual food remains for ever, imparting perpetual fullness, and immortality. Augustine. Under the figure of food He alludes to Himself you seek Me, He said, for the sake of something else; seek Me for My own sake.
Seeking him for his own sake.

We hear a lot about the Prosperity Gospel these days - both in the preaching of it and the preaching against it. Some have even found it in the Catholic Church, noting that the "Jesus has a plan/spouse/job for you" can be read as more of the same.  As an Orthodox priest once said to me: we know God's will, "That all should come to a saving knowledge of God." After that it's all trivia.  My two friends, Steve, have done podcasts and videos about God not having a plan for you or me beyond willing our salvation. (Steves: I love you guys.) Reading this passage, I'm mindful of a thing my friend Pietro said one Easter in a Bible Class on John: Are we running to God or away from Hell? And I am reminded of the Act of Contrition, where we say we "Dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell" but most of all we're sorry because we've offended God who is "all good and deserving of all my love." We want God not for himself, but because we don't want to die.

I would venture that it is better to love Jesus for his own sake, because he is the Truth, the very light, the Second Person of the Trinity, he is love, itself... it is far better to love Jesus thus, than to seek him out of "Salvation".  For the latter is objectification. It's turning Jesus into a tool.  It's making Jesus into a Fire Escape, we love the Fire Escape when we're in a towering inferno. But - to Love Jesus for himself, to Love him as he himself is, is salvation. To fall in love with Love himself, is to become saved, to be heaven here on earth to those around us, to become Salvation to those with whom we journey. As St Seraphim of Sarov rather famously said, "Acquire the Holy Spirit and thousands around you will be saved."

Today is 1 May, the beginning of the Marian Month par excellence. Mary opened her heart to God without equivocation, saying "Yes" to the incarnation without ever knowing what it would mean in full. That is the level of trust needed here. To Love God fully as himself, to know that he wills nothing but your good, and so to follow him, not because "whatever you ask in my name" or "pressed down, over-flowing, full measure", Name it and Claim it, or "God has a plan for you..." but to walk in his light because he is light, and to love fully because he is love.

Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Love God.

Love.