20 March
Jn 8:21-30

Jesus said, "I am going away, and you will search for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come." Then the Jews said, "Is he going to kill himself? Is that what he means by saying, 'Where I am going, you cannot come'?" He said to them, "You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he." They said to him, "Who are you?" Jesus said to them, "Why do I speak to you at all? I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the one who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him." They did not understand that he was speaking to them about the Father. So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me. And the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him." As he was saying these things, many believed in him.

The Word became flesh: took on our human nature and became one of us.  He is fully human and belongs here.  Yet in this passage he says, “I am not of this world.”  How are we to understand this?

The ‘world’ in John's gospel is not the physical world, but all the forces in human life that oppose the Kingdom of God – in other words, all the forces that originate in the human head.  The great enemy of the Gospel is the alternative world we invent for ourselves, in which we ourselves are the centre of everything.  It is the ego’s creation.   The ego is a world-conqueror.  Its story, its personal history, takes the place of the history of the world.  It cannot be one with anything; when it looks at anything it sees only how alien and different it is.  It sees good in things and people only insofar as they appear to support its claims, or at least to tolerate them.  This is what Jesus means by “this world”, not our beloved blue planet but the human ego that closes its eyes to everything but itself.

In the 1960s, in a series of books that proved difficult to categorise, Carlos Castaneda told of his experiences (fictional but very striking) with the Yaqui people and particularly with one of their shamans, Don Juan Matus.  One day Castaneda was questioning him about his life, when Don Juan replied, “I don’t have any personal history….  One day I found out that personal history was no longer necessary for me, and like drinking I dropped it.”  We have been attaching enormous importance to our personal stories.  Listen for a moment to someone who attached no importance to them at all.  One day when Castaneda was about to leave in frustration, Don Juan said to him, “You take yourself too seriously…. You are too damn important in your own mind.  You are so goddam important that you feel justified to be annoyed with everything.  You are so important that you can afford to leave if things don't go your way.  I suppose you think that shows you have character.  That's nonsense.  You’re weak and conceited.” 

No joy for the ego there!  Anyone, even a fictional shaman, who helps to demolish the ego is helping to make way for the Kingdom of God. 


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This page gives a very brief commentary by Donagh O’Shea on the gospel reading for each day of the month. 


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