“Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it and he will be the judge. Amen, amen, I say, to you, anyone who keeps my word will never see death.”
John 8: 50- 51
The section of John’s gospel we are reading these days is set in the context of the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. That Feast celebrates the Temple as the light of the world and the water of life. The Gospel writer has Jesus assert that to keep his word is to live in the light and in eternal life. The promise God made and showed to Abraham has been fulfilled in Jesus himself: “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad.” (Jn 8: 56)
In his encounter with the Samaritan Woman, Jesus said to her: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water” (Jn 4: 10). The routinization of life, including of worship and religious practice, tends to become inevitably tedious and even deadly. Without living from the source of light and life, we tend to become drudges who are surviving life rather than living it. Be it at home, at work, or at church we often live by “going through the motions” until we can find relief in some form or other of escape.
Today we are reminded where light and life are to be found. It is in our keeping the word of Jesus, and we keep it by remembering who we are and where we really live. Jesus never wavers before his enemies because what he says and does comes not from him but from the “One” that glorifies him. We too can live from “off the top of our heads” or from our unconscious drives for comfort and ambition, or, rather, from the fountain of Life that is a wellspring within us. We can struggle to survive our days, or we can live in the eternal life that God is always giving us.
“Anyone who keeps my word will never see death.” We have one great work in life, and it is to keep the word. This is a keeping that is not only a holding on to but a living out of. To live in and by the word is to know eternal life and to be an instrument of eternal life to others. Unfortunately, as Freud noted, we are drawn both to life and to death. We must keep choosing life over death in each of the moments and experiences of our days. From the moment of waking, to the successive encounters and experiences of our day, do we remember and hold to the Word that is our life? Too often in laziness or discouragement we choose the route of habit, routine, conformity over the life of an active and courageous faith, hope, and love. As Lent draws to a close, we pray to awaken to the life of the One whose glory longs to be manifest in us and in our world.
Now the topmost part of our soul is always thus prepared, for it is bare and devoid of images and is always gazing at and tending toward its source. It is therefore an eternal and living mirror of God which ceaselessly receives the eternal birth of the Son, who is the image of the Holy Trinity. In this image God knows himself and all that he is according to both his essential being and the Persons, for in the essential being of God and in each of the Persons the image is all that the Person is in the divine nature.
We all possess this image as an eternal life—apart from ourselves, prior to our creation—while in our created being this image is the superessential being of our essential being and is eternal life. From this the substance of our soul has three attributes, which are but one in nature. The soul’s first attribute is an essential bareness devoid of images. Through it we are like the Father and are also united with him and with his divine nature. The second attribute may be called the soul’s higher reason. This is a mirrorlike resplendence through which we receive the Son of God, the eternal wisdom. Through this resplendence we are like the Son, and through receiving him we become one with him. The third attribute is what I call the spark of the soul, which is the soul’s natural tendency toward its source. Through it we receive the Holy Spirit, who is God’s love. Through this tendency we are like the Holy Spirit, and through receiving him we become one spirit and one love with God.
Jan van Ruusbroec, A Mirror of Eternal Blessedness, II, B