Gospel Jn 7:40-52. The people could not agree about him
A meditator wanted to introduce her grandchildren to meditation. Her daughter, who was a strong atheist, agreed on condition she kept religion out of it. The woman respected her wishes but when she had to choose what mantra to give the children she couldn’t decide, so she asked them to choose one for themselves. The little boy chose ‘shepherd’s pie’ because it was his favourite food. After some thought, his sister chose ‘dictionary’ because it ‘contained all words’.
People can take a long time before settling on a mantra and sometimes never do. They endlessly search for a more meaningful, more ‘powerful’ word, not understanding that meditation is not what you think. The tradition says you make the mantra uniquely your own by saying it faithfully so that it comes to contain every conceivable meaning and feeling.
When people are asked ‘what is the sacred language of Christianity?’ they are puzzled. We know the sacred language of Hindus, Jews and Muslims. But the Christian sacred language? Greek? Aramaic? Latin?  It is, must be, the human body because God translated himself into the body of the son of Mary. It was a body just like ours that grew from infancy to maturity, felt tired, hungry, knew pleasure and pain, wept and died. In the apocryphal Acts of John Jesus is described dancing in a circle with his disciples after the Last Supper. He summons them to join him because ‘if you do not dance you will not know what we know’.
Like many others I’m a reluctant dancer. We say, ‘I’m no good’ or ‘I prefer to watch’. Our self-consciousness or fear of looking foolish blocks the experience of the body as the language of the incarnate God. We cannot see that we belong not watching from the margins but that we are summoned to join in the dance of life in the best way we can, our unique way. Tragically much Christianity over the centuries has encouraged just the opposite, a self-alienation from our own bodies that prevented us from entering the Body of Christ. ‘We played the flute for you and you did not dance’ (Mt 11:17).Guilt, embarrassment or shame prevents us from seeing how much we belong in the dance of life that contains every conceivable kind of dance - including the one that seems to trouble the Church most, the dance routines of sexuality of which there are many. Where does Jesus show that he is in any way troubled by this part of the dance?
Our body is an encyclopaedia containing every kind of knowledge. Human beings are a microcosm of the universe. The human body extends as wide as the cosmos. And so, we cannot know everything about its mysteries any more than we can know all the wonders and mysteries of the cosmos. But, if one word is enough to combine all the thoughts and longings of our hearts, so one body is enough to be aware of our oneness with creation and its source and the Word that called it into existence. Meditation brings these two scales – the immense and the tiny – together. It cannot be analysed. It cannot be observed while it is happening. We know it in the divine dance into which the risen Christ summons us as Jesus once invited his friends to join him.
Laurence Freeman
Lenten Reflections 2021