WEDNESDAY OF HOLY WEEK
Gospel Mt 26:14-25. The Master says, ‘My time is near’.
At the heart of all spiritual traditions is the religious, the mystical, experience of the founder. It is what empowers their teaching and awakens in their followers the slow sense that they are called to the same knowledge and union with God. No authentic spiritual teacher, in fact no real teacher, wants to reserve their experience for themselves as a way of dominating others. At the Last Supper Jesus told his disciples ‘I call you friends, because I have shared with you everything I have learned from my father.’ This unsettled them. They preferred to think of him as their master – ‘you shall never wash my feet’ said Peter – rather than as a friend. Even if one knows more than another friends must be equal.
In a way, saying that he shared everything with them was not true. He had tried to share it with them, but they were slow to expand the horizons to receive it. It is always dangerous to be a disciple, to learn, because we are changed by new knowledge. The world becomes stranger the more we learn. You have to keep on adapting to a new vision of reality which makes you vulnerable. But what he said was true; he knew that in time their resistance would melt down. They, or some, would then be able to receive all that he so longed to teach. But he left a deposit that would be activated after he had left them and had returned in a way that brought the knowledge with it. All they had to do was recognise him
The experience he wanted to share was by its nature meant to be shared not possessed. Sharing is transformation of all whether they give or receive. In full sharing, the distinction between teacher and disciple, too, is transcended. Jewish mystical tradition has expressed this in the concept of ‘tikkun olam’. It is applied concretely to social and political situations and all human suffering calls for it to be practiced. It means ‘repairing the world’. To ‘share everything’ we have learned is the great healing that corrects the imbalance, the sin, of the world and re-orientates it towards God.
‘‘Tikkun Olam’ is mirrored in the bodhisattva ideal in Buddhism. Those who commit themselves to it dedicate all that they gain from spiritual practice to the relief of suffering in the world not for themselves. St Paul understood this other-centredness within the call to know God: ‘I am pulled in two directions. I want very much to leave this life and be with Christ, which is a far better thing; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. (Phil 1:23-24). In Sufism, too, the individual whose self-divisions are healed on the way of love becomes an agent of oneness for all others.
The experience of knowledge, that Jesus longed to share is not something we add to what we already know. It is a healing gift of self to another. When the crowds mocked Jesus on the Cross – ‘He saved others, but he can't save himself! – they misunderstood but were ready to learn.
Lenten Reflections 2021