WEDNESDAY OF LENT WEEK 5
Gospel Jn 8: 31-42. I have come from him; not that I came because I chose, no, I was sent, and by him.’
John Main once said the purpose of a Christian education is to prepare people for the experience of betrayal.
Betrayal covers a great swathe of human suffering. Being betrayed. Betraying others, intentionally or usually unintentionally. Betrayed by our false hopes and expectations. Falling short, even with the best of intentions. In the end, betrayed by our body. Christ is a teacher whose life, or what we know of it, was shot through with experiences of being misunderstood and misrepresented even by those closest to him. Would there be an Easter without Judas?
And, poor Jesus, it continues. I witnessed a conversation not long ago among a group who had just listened to a talk by John Main on meditation. At one point he had said ‘What is real? What is truth? God is real and the reality of God is the truth revealed in Jesus’. After the talk there was meditation and after the closing bell, a pause. The first comment was about those words. The person had been comfortable with everything up to that point. He said he was confused and didn’t know why. It was not that he did not feel, sense or even believe that Jesus was real – although he backtracked then, distrusting himself. He didn’t know what that meant or what it meant to believe anything.
I may have been mistaken, but I thought the reason he balked, resisting these words were because of the confidence, the clarity in which John Main used the name of Jesus. Did it sound too much like a Christian speaking of Jesus? Even if Jesus may not be suspect for people today, Christians are. The conversation soon went off into abstract territory. What is truth? Just relative and subjective or, as John Main said, ‘absolutely reliable’? Everyone could agree, more or less, that truth is what ‘I’ personally perceive and feel. So, while it’s acceptable to say that, ‘for me’, the truth of God is revealed in Jesus, it is offensive to omit the subjective tone of the apologetic ‘for me personally’. This led on to a discussion of the gnawing pain of continuous self-doubt. It was then that I thought I glimpsed the great betrayal of our time, present deep in the way we have been educated. Not educated how to deal with betrayal but educated into a betrayal about what truth means.
The idea that truth is ‘subjective’ makes for a terrible loneliness. The idea that it is ‘objective’ leads to another kind of loneliness where we cannot tolerate another point of view. As it developed after it divorced itself from mysticism, theology led to a great betrayal of Jesus whom we can only ‘know’ both within and among ourselves. Not objectively or subjectively but non-dually. In the Christian mystical tradition John Main knew this. So did Meister Eckhart when he said the real truth of Jesus is not in what he did or said but in who he is.
Every betrayal is a tragic mistake. How did Christianity come to betray its teacher? And what happens when the one we betray doesn’t not go away but remains who he is?
Lenten Reflections 2021