Saturday, April 5, 2014

“Preconceived notions are the locks on the door to wisdom.”

“If someone is able to show me that what I think or do is not right, I will happily change, for I seek the truth, by which no one was ever truly harmed. It is the person who continues in his self-deception and ignorance who is harmed.” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Gospel Text: (JN 7:40-53)
Some in the crowd who heard these words of Jesus said,
“This is truly the Prophet.”
Others said, “This is the Christ.”
But others said, “The Christ will not come from Galilee, will he?
Does not Scripture say that the Christ will be of David’s family
and come from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?”
So a division occurred in the crowd because of him.
Some of them even wanted to arrest him,
but no one laid hands on him.

So the guards went to the chief priests and Pharisees,
who asked them, “Why did you not bring him?”
The guards answered, “Never before has anyone spoken like this man.”
So the Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived?
Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him?
But this crowd, which does not know the law, is accursed.”
Nicodemus, one of their members who had come to him earlier, said to them,
“Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him
and finds out what he is doing?”
They answered and said to him,
“You are not from Galilee also, are you?
Look and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”

Then each went to his own house.

Jesus does not fulfill the characteristics of the Messiah the Pharisees were expecting. They were probably expecting a righteous and avenging Messiah, who would reveal the kind of God that Jeremiah and the psalmist thought they knew. But Jesus reveals a God who loves us all and his salvation is for all. But the catch is, salvation is not imposed on us, it is lovingly offered to us and we have to choose it and accept it. It is only after we experience our own poverty, our own sinfulness, our own ignorance that we will be free of preconceptions to accept God’s loving mercy and salvation. If we think we are righteous, then we do not need God and we will not “thirst” for salvation.

“Never before has anyone spoken like this one” (John 7:46). Unlike the “scholars and theological experts” of Jesus’ day, simple working men, fishermen to be exact showed a great openness to Jesus’ words about the love of God. This contrast raises a question: how do we distinguish between knowledge that is beneficial and knowledge that is harmful?

God gave us amazing minds that were meant to learn. In this sense, knowledge is valuable. Yet there is a point at which knowledge can become an idol, when we begin to treasure what we know more than we treasure the God who has helped us learn it. All true knowledge, whether it is practical, theological, or philosophical, is meant to help us love God and serve our neighbor. It’s meant to help us share his good news and build his kingdom here on earth.

Pride moves us to love ourselves. Humility moves us to assess our motives carefully. Pride leads us to love our thoughts and to blur the truth when it challenges us. Humility leads us to listen humbly and judge the truth on its own merit.

I think that the invitation today is to strip ourselves of all those preconceived ideas that we have about God and let ourselves be completely open to the God Jesus reveals: a God who, in Jesus, walks our same paths and tells us that God’s invitation is not contingent upon where we have been, or what we have done, or who we have been with. But the only important thing is to come to Jesus and to believe in him and he will give us his Spirit.

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