In a recent homily, one of our deacons publicly announced a literary lacuna on this blog site! He told the congregation he could not find any post that offered “five easy steps” to put into practice the Gospel teaching in which Jesus proclaims that “the truth will set you free.”
It’s good to know SemCasual has such avid readers! For future reference, we offer here a response to his homily.
The deacon did well to highlight the oft-forgotten condition preceding Jesus’ claim: “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32). Rightly did the preacher note what Jesus did not say. Discipleship doesn’t happen merely by reading or hearing the word, nor does it result automatically from studious understanding or interpretation of that word. The key to discipleship, to the knowledge and freedom of which Jesus speaks, is “remaining” (or “abiding”) in His word.
But how does one do that … especially when Jesus no longer remains (physically) in the midst of those whom he calls to be His disciples? The answer lies in various dimensions we can associate with the verb “remain.”
Step 1 – stay near. The “remaining” of which Jesus speaks has a spatial dimension, as in staying nearby or remaining close. Today, we can remain in His word by drawing closer to it through a regular reading of Sacred Scripture (all of which is the Word of God). But this entails more than simply seeking information. The Word of God is, primarily, a Person who speaks. When we see or hear Him in our reading of that word, when we learn more about Him who fulfills that divine word, we draw closer to the One whose work of Redemption sets us free from the bonds of our sinful human condition.
Step 2 – stay with. The spatial dimension also has a transcendent aspect. We remain close to the divine word by staying with the Sacred Scriptures in prayer. In considering a biblical passage in meditation, we savor the word, ponder its possibilities, and can be inspired by a sacred imagination that teaches in ways only God can.
Step 3 – stay strong. This “remaining” also has a temporal dimension, as in the sense of continuing or enduring. We remain in Jesus’ word when we stick with it, stick with Him, despite the multiplicity of other views that vie for our attention. The world offers many ways that purport to lead us to freedom and happiness. But will these really get us where we want to go? In the end, only Truth will get us there, so continuing education in Theology, especially in terms of moral decision-making, is necessary.
Step 4 – stay as is. More than just perseverance, the temporal dimension above also includes the notion of abiding as we are. Said differently, to “remain” means to be where we are, to be who we are, and not to desire or wish to be someone else. In this sense, the word challenges us to become who God intends us to be. For this, we can benefit from a daily examination of conscience that acknowledges the ways in which we do live according to that word and the ways in which we still need to grow in our conversion.
Step 5 – stay attentive. That continual growth in living God’s word as a disciple of Jesus shows that “remaining” is much more active than “resting.” We stay attentive to God’s word when we remain on the lookout for that divine presence in our daily responsibilities and in the persons we encounter each day, such that we learn to see God in all things.
These may not be the “easy” steps the deacon was searching for on this blog site. But at least he can know that his homily did inspire the writing of another post!
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