Thursday, April 27, 2017

A reminder and an invitation into a hall of mirrors

The word has popped up quite frequently in our daily Office readings the last couple weeks. The reason for that is we have been reading from he Gospel of John and 1 John. The blueletter Bible identifies 33 appearances (in 29 verses) of the word 'abide' in the RSV. Thirteen occur in John's writings. However, it also appears in the Jewish Scriptures.

The first, in Genesis 6:3 "My spirit will not diyn ( Hebrew: to judge, to rule, to strive; Septuagint translation is katameno-abide for a long time) with man forever for he is flesh", when God determines that the human life span will be reduced to 120 years. The next three times abide appears in RSV are three different words in Hebrew. This caused me to pause.

However, in the New Testament things get tricky. The first appearance of abide in the New Testament is John 15:4, the Greek word is 'meno.' However, if you look up the word meno, The blue letter bible reports it occurs 120x. Suddenly, the word is everywhere [Mt 3x, Mk 2x, Lk 6x but Jn 33x]. It's just not translated as abide most of the time. This is why it is important to remember that our Bibles are English translations of Greek and Hebrew. Many times, a point being made in the Greek or Hebrew text is lost on us because we have only an English translation.

A brief reflection on 'abide':
"Where do you stay?" This question was asked of Jesus by the first disciples who followed Him at the baptizer John's urging. The question is to be understood on many levels. "Where do you stay?'' means "Where is your house?" It is a mundane question like "Where do you work?" (the sort of opening for polite conversation) But in the paradoxical Gospel of John, questions are really reflexive. Later, Jesus will make this clear, "Where do I abide?? How about, where do you abide?! Is my word abiding in you? Is my Father's love abiding in you? Will you abide with me? Will you let me abide in you?" In Gospel interchange, we think we are seeking God, so we ask such questions, but it is we who are lost sheep, He is a shepherd. He seeks us. (Jesus says, "you did not choose me, I chose you") We ask the questions because we fail to recognize that we are the object not the subject.

At another level, the question, "where do you abide?" is a question of identity. Jesus abides in the bosom of the Father from eternity and is now incarnate among us. He continues to abide in the Father and the Father abides in Him. To ask, "Where do you abide?" is to invite an answer of identity. Jesus says, "I am" (the divine name from Exodus). I am in God and God is in me.

"Where do you abide, Jesus?" His first answer is "Come and see." It is an adventure response. It is not information for your head, it is experiential; requiring a full engagement of the whole person. "You want to know about me?", Jesus says, "then it will cost you. Only disciples get the answer to that question, through life experience, observation and reflection."

"Where do you abide, Jesus?" His answer, ultimately, "I abide in the heart of the one who trusts and loves me, the one who does what I ask." "Where do you abide, Jesus?" The option, at least in that case,  is ours.

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