Perspectives | Baa !!! | A talk by Gavin Brown

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Espace spirituel anglophone

dimanche 5 juillet à 8h45

Durée émission : 10 min

Espace spirituel anglophone

This Sunday we have come down from the sequence of theological heights which marked the end of the Easter season, as Pentecost gave way to Trinity and Trinity to the solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ.

Today’s Gospel seems so simple by comparison, but what it does is - bring us back face to face with the reality of the everyday challenge in the Christian message: “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened” … We are being invited to choose for ourselves which way to go; nothing is imposed, nothing is commanded, nothing is ordered. If we come to Jesus we do so in freedom. But still, we hesitate. Why is it that we resist the prospect of finding rest for our souls? Goodness knows, rest is what we want!  But we are like the sheep in that TV program, One man and his dog; ready to go anywhere except where the shepherd indicates. What is it prevents us from bowing our heads in submission?

There’s a very popular request made often for funerals, a song by Frank Sinatra which seems to strike a chord with many people (especially perhaps, those who didn’t go to church very often) – “I did it my way”. It’s a perverse choice for a funeral in my opinion: it seems to suggest that even in death we are getting one up on everybody else, simply by asserting our individuality; whereas for most of us death is a moment of levelling, when individuality no longer counts for much, when indeed the prime objective is to get back to that state of absolute love and integration with the whole – the state which we first came from at our birth. For me, this is a point of separation between the sheep and the goats. Personally, I’m happy to say “Baa” and follow the Shepherd. And yet if I'm truthful, I still feel I’m doing it my way; I know I’m making a choice; I’m aware of making a decision, even if it’s the decision to submit.

All the same, Jesus is in fact making a huge theological point when he addresses God as Father, one which he explains fully: “Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father, and no-one knows the Son except the Father, just as no-one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him”. This is as complete a statement as one could wish about the relation between the persons of God. God our Father, state of absolute love and integration, is revealed to us in Jesus, giver of rest to the soul. We can only know as much of the Father as Jesus chooses to reveal to us; just as we can only know as much of Jesus as we choose to accept. If we are to know Jesus more fully we have, at some point, to submit ourselves, to accept his status as superior to our own. We can do things our way till we are blue in the face; but at last we’ll decide – like the reluctant sheep that we are – to say “Baa”, to go through the gate and skip along with the others who've already made the better choice.

The up side to the relationship between Father and Son which Jesus reveals to us, is that the Father sees us through his Son’s eyes. Jesus is our mediator with the Father in the sense that the Father’s knowledge of us is filtered to Him through the revelation made by the Son – just as the knowledge we have of the Father is filtered to us through that same revealing prism. In other words, Jesus reveals what is observed, in both directions, between God and man. Thanks to Jesus, our guilty secrets are veiled by the compassion of the One who shared our humanity, who was tempted  in every way we are, yet did not sin. This is what it means to be saved by grace. Shouldering the yoke relieves us of a burden which we would otherwise still be carrying around with us. To continue the sheep analogy, it’s like having a big pair of shears take off the excessive burden of a woolly winter coat. At the same time, thanks to Jesus, the ineluctable, unchanging nature of God the Father is tempered by the gentleness and humility of the interpreter who mediates between the parties. Shouldering the yoke protects us from a punishment we perhaps richly deserve. It’s still a free choice though. Join the flock! Baa.

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