Saturday, May 15, 2010

Reflection on 7th Sunday in Easter: It's All Well and Good That Jesus is the Beginning and End, but What Ever Happened to the "Middle"?

This Sunday's readings for the 7th Sunday in Easter give us the opportunity to examine a very important question regarding forming a contemporary and relevant Christian faith up to the task of meeting the challenges of the 21st Century. In the second reading we read from the Book of Revelation that Jesus is the "beginning and the end." In the Gospel we encounter Jesus prior to his Crucifixion basically offering a long intercessory prayer on behalf of the Apostles he is about to suddenly depart from. His prayer is that they might be one in communion just as intimately and intensely as he and the Father are. When I reflect on the second reading in light of this Gospel passage from John, the question that comes to my mind is, "If Jesus is the beginning and end, what about the middle?"

I pose this question because our faith has placed such a strong emphasis on Jesus as the beginning ("In the beginning was the Word") and the end (emphasized in Revelation) that the middle has often been sorely overlooked. In stating that Jesus is the beginning and the end, what the Book of Revelation is also implying is the very important fact that Jesus is the "middle" that keeps both beginning and end united in meaning, purpose, and trajectory.

What might the "middle Jesus" have to offer our faith and world? "Jesus-as-middle" offers nothing less than the promised eruption of the Spirit into our lives, forming bonds of fraternal communion where before there was alienation, shaking the ground beneath our feet with the tremors of New Creation, and transforming our world more and more into the pattern of the New Heavens and New Earth. What Jesus is essentially praying for prior to his departure in John is that the Apostles might be open, receptive, and responsive to his (and the Father's) "interim" presence in the Spirit. This is the only way that the world will believe that God has sent Jesus and that God and Jesus have sent the Spirit, if the community of believers are united in communion, mission, and enlivened by the transforming Spirit. A shift in focus to "Jesus-as-Middle" can open our lives and tradition to the important work that Christians are called to in this life: not so much proclaiming Jesus "as Lord and Savior" but by declaring through unity in communion and mission that God's saving power continues to be hard at work in a world that desperately needs to experience it. Pat, TOR