Those listening to Jesus teaching in the temple area claim that they’re “descendants of Abraham.”(John 8,31-42) As they look at the splendid buildings of the temple, its well-ordered worship, the structures of ancient tradition they know so well, they probably ask: “Why listen to this man? We have everything God promised to Abraham; they’re automatically ours”.
But God’s promises are not automatic, Jesus says. “If you were the children of Abraham you would be doing the works of Abraham.” The great patriarch, a nomad, found the truth as it was revealed from place to place. He discovered the works of God in time.
John’s gospel was written well after the temple and Jerusalem itself had been destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. At that time were “descendants of Abraham”– Jews and Jewish-Christians– longing for the restoration and comfort of those ancient structures now gone? Does this gospel remind them that Abraham, “our father in faith,” ventured onto paths unknown. One greater than Abraham leads all of us now.
In fast moving times like ours, this gospel offers the same lesson. We’re called to have Abraham’s faith, a mystic faith that seeks for light within? Two centuries ago, St. Paul of the Cross faced changing times by strongly urging those who sought his advice to center themselves in the unchanging One we meet “in spirit and truth.” God within is our teacher.
“Jesus will teach you. I don’t want you to indulge in vain imagery over this. Leave yourself free to take flight and rest in the Supreme Good, all consumed by fire, absorbed, beside itself and in admiration of the divine perfections, especially at the Infinite Goodness which made itself so small within our humanity.” (Letter 18)
O God, you are my God,
For you I long.
My body pines for you,
Like a dry, weary land without water. (Ps 63)
You guide my steps into the unknown. Lead me on.