O God, the King eternal, whose light divides the day from the night and turns the shadow of death into the morning: Drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to keep your law, and guide our feet into the way of peace; that, having done your will with cheerfulness during the day, we may,when night comes, rejoice to give you thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Gospel Reading of the Day, John 8:33-47
33 They answered him, "We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, "You will be made free'?" 34 Jesus answered them, "Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word. 38 I declare what I have seen in the Father's presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father." 39 They answered him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing what Abraham did, 40 but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are indeed doing what your father does." They said to him, "We are not illegitimate children; we have one father, God himself." 42 Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot accept my word. 44 You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is from God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not from God."
When I read this Gospel, I couldn’t help thinking to myself, “Jesus seems to be talking in riddles! He’s not answering their questions. It’s like he’s picking a fight.” Then I noticed that he is not addressing hostile Jews but Jews who believe in him! Why is Jesus accosting those who he is teaching when they already believe, and want to learn? Many times, when I study Jesus’ words and pray over them, it turns out that I have been listening to him just as the early, befuddled Jews were by taking him literally, superficially.
St. Paul states that "the carnal mind is enmity against God” and that we must learn to “let the mind of Christ dwell in [us].” What is the carnal mind? As best as I can tell, Paul is referring to that part of the human mind that we call the ego. If we think of Jesus’ words in today’s gospel as though they are addressed not to specific individuals but to the human ego, his message makes sense. He is teaching believers who want to understand his teachings by challenging their ego view of reality and asserting a new view, the mind of Christ-view. It is our ego that wants recognition, power, and importance. It considers itself to be separate from God, separate from others, and at the mercy of others.
This separateness promotes selfishness, greed, fear and many other “human” sins. But Jesus continues to align himself with the one God. He asserts he does and says only what God does and says, that there is none good but God. Basically, an ego filled life is a sinful life; a Christ filled life is a sinless life. We are slaves of sin only as long as we are slaves of our egos. We can take heart that Jesus tells us that the slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place forever. As we change our perspective from ego centered to Christ centered by giving up our selfish pursuits and work to serve others in Christ, we also give up our slave status and become full members of the household of God.
Blessings, Deacon Doug