new blog ). Our study this year focuses on the gospel of John, and so a couple of days ago I sat down and read the whole gospel through, from beginning to end -- i.e. from "In the beginning was the Word" to "But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written." It is a wonderful work of literature, full of layers of story and symbol, and reading it this way, suspending critical thought, without stopping to look at too many footnotes, but just paying attention to the figure of Jesus and who he seems to be, was for me a profoundly prayerful experience. Since the gospel starts out with the radical claim that Jesus is "the word made flesh," who "came to dwell among us" (John 1:14), the whole book can become a meditation on what in the world that can mean. Every human interaction in the story has a double meaning: it is both a human interaction and a clue about what God is like, and an invitation to relationship. This is the gospel where we learn about a God who wants us to love one another, who desires to be in relationship with us, who shows us the way to do that, as disciples in community. And we learn about this through the way Jesus relates to people and what he says about himself.
There are also some things in this gospel that can derail us if we don't have a little background/historical knowledge (notably the apparent anti-semitism, where the persecutors of Jesus are called "the Jews" -- this comes out of the historical situation -- the community this gospel was written for had just been kicked out of the temple for insisting that Jesus was divine, and the Messiah, the "word made flesh." So there's definitely some sectarian conflict there and the people who kicked them out of the temple are called "the Jews" even though Jesus and his followers were themselves Jewish and the book is permeated with quotations and allusions about Hebrew Scripture). So, some background is needed. Aiding this effort, for me, is a fascinating study of the gospel of John by Sandra Schneiders, a distinguished New Testament scholar who proposes a reading of this gospel that is both spiritually oriented and grounded in scholarship. I am loving it and finding it helpful -- and energizing to grapple with the gospel's presentation of a Jesus who is at once divine and human, very vividly, in the story. Anyway - I do commend the practice (also recommended by Sondra Schneiders) of reading the whole gospel through, beginning to end. It helped me see many things I hadn't noticed before, even in this very familiar text!
I'll be posting on the young adults/pathfinders website over the course of the year my thoughts about our discussion of this fascinating gospel, and some of the thoughts and questions that come out of our discussion. Please feel free to check out that page for more!
- Kathleen Henderson Staudt
- I work as a teacher, poet and spiritual director at a number of institutions in the DC area. My teaching focuses in various ways on writing, poetry, Spirituality and Christian vocation and ministry - especially from the point of view of the laity. I also offer classes and retreats encouraging people to explore their inner lives, engage their creativity and reflect on their beliefs about God, vocation, and how we can discern and pursue new ways to transform our broken world. I enjoy speaking of faith in the secular academy as well as reminding those preparing for ministry in the Church that our primary purpose is to love and serve the world beyond the church's doors. I love helping people to grow in faith and to find their own voices, and I also love encouraging them to use their minds. I see no contradiction between these impulses, believing as I do that faith, reason and creativity work together.