Today’s reflection has been offered by parishioner Kathleen Sacks, based on today’s Gospel from John.
“The truth will set you free” How many times have I heard that? Jesus is speaking to the “Jews who believed” yet from this excerpt, it sounds like they don’t believe…….oh John, how ironic! Let’s get to the truth! Were the Pharisees caught up in the narrow, literal meaning of the Law of Moses? Were they missing the Spirit of the Law: love and mercy? As a teacher, I am often caught up in the rules of the school…….a rule is a rule, right? If you don’t follow the rule, then you break the rule! I forget that the rules were made to provide an environment where learning can take place for everyone. Sometimes, I get so caught up in enforcing the rule, I forget to see the person in front of me. I forget that the person is more important than the rule…….but I’m learning. It’s not easy! I am learning to say, “I was wrong, I’m sorry.” No phones during class sounds like a good rule, right? Not for the student whose mother had surgery that morning.
“If you remain in my Word”……… (John 8:32) During my senior year in High School, we studied the Gospel of John under the guidance of Sr. Dorothy Tighe. We read from the Gospel of John every day and I thought that it was the most difficult to understand of all the gospels. It wasn’t real to me and very cryptic and confusing. Over the years, I would go through spurts of John again and the fog would lift for certain passages……..I did have some “ah-ha” moments. This Living Word seems to change to meet me where I am…….no, I change in the way I receive the message. The Word is constant and clear when I am open and ready.
“You will truly be my disciples”……The root of God’s Law is love and mercy…….remain in my Word, follow my laws and you will be free. But Jesus came to say it’s not just following the rules. He came with a new Law…….love one another as I have loved you. That means relationship. It’s not all about me and how many rules I follow. How is my relationship with others……with Jesus? The Pharisees didn’t get it. Oftentimes, I don’t get it.
“Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin”……I like being a rule follower…..it’s safe, easy…….it’s my personal gauge of how good I am, right? What about the train wrecks I have caused or the pile of relationships I ignored while looking out for “number one” so that I could say, “Well, I followed the rules!” That makes me a slave to sin.
“So if the Son frees you, then you will truly be free”…….Where in my life can I be freer? Freer to love, freer to forgive, freer to be merciful and to comfort others? Following the law is easier than being merciful. Mercy builds a relationship. Laws won’t change me in relationships with others; mercy will. Back to my classroom, as the teacher I have to follow certain rules……I am required. But I pray for the wisdom and the courage to be to each student what they need at that moment. We recently experienced the passing of 2 beloved members of our school family…….rules seemed silly these past few weeks. Students were hurting…..teachers were hurting. Relationships with each other helped us support each other. Some of the rules were broken……but I saw love and mercy reign in our hallways.
“The truth will set you free”…….This truth is God’s Living Word. Often painful to hear because it calls me to change……change my sinful ways. You ever try to change an old habit? That’s sin! Comfortable like an old habit……try changing that! That takes work. When Jesus went out to the desert to fast for 40 days, He was not alone. I almost missed that part. (Luke 4:1) He was not alone! He was led by the Holy Spirit! Hurray! I am not alone either. Fasting is not easy, prayer is not easy…..alms giving? NOT easy….but somehow when I open my heart to the Spirit and allow Jesus to walk with me……when I follow Jesus, follow his law of love…….allow his mercy to flow through me in my relationship with others, I get to the truth of the matter. It is hard work. And I am free! Holy Spirit, help me to walk in true freedom. Jesus, I surrender ……..to you.