Conservative Dialogue


Saturday 7 July 2018

Not so long ago I had a reunion with an old college friend, who knew my parents quite well. Slapping me on the back, as some old boys like to do, he reprimanded me and asked how it was possible that I became such an “old liberal” when my parents were so “ultra-conservative.” I told him I thought such labels applied to neither my parents nor me. I said drop the labels and talk about the issues, please.

Terms like “liberal” and “conservative” can be very confusing and distorting these days when so much of our language seems increasingly disconnected from reality. My parents valued accuracy, truthfulness, and critical thinking. I as well. In many ways they were traditionalists. I as well, because all genuine theological research and reflection is anchored in tradition, biblical exegesis, and contemporary faith experience. Tradition is not only important but essential.

Tradition gets interpreted, and that is where the discussion/dialogue should start.

An article in today’s International New York Times caught my attention because the author is Roger Scruton, an English philosopher and writer, well-know for his “traditionalist conservative” views. Scruton first came to my attention when I read his 2017 book Conservatism: Ideas in Profile.

Roger Scruton’s New York Times article was titled: “What Trump doesn’t get about conservatism” and I — the “old liberal” — found myself resonating with much of his viewpoint.

Some excerpts:

“I have devoted a substantial part of my intellectual life to defining and defending conservatism, as a social philosophy and a political program,” Scruton writes. “Each time I think I have hit the nail on the head, the nail slips to one side and the hammer blow falls on my fingers…..

In the current president “…. we encounter a politician who uses social media to bypass the realm of ideas entirely, addressing the sentiments of his followers without a filter of educated argument and with only a marginal interest in what anyone with a mind might have said…..

“Institutions, traditions, and allegiances survive by adapting, not by remaining forever in the condition in which a political leader might inherit them. Conservative thinkers have in general understood this. And the principle of adaptability applies not only to law but also to the economy on which all citizens depend…..

“Conservative thinkers have on the whole praised the free market, but they do not think that market values are the only values there are. Their primary concern is with the aspects of society in which markets have little or no part to play: education, culture, religion, marriage, and the family. Such spheres of social endeavor arise not through buying and selling but through cherishing what cannot be bought and sold: things like love, loyalty, art and knowledge, which are not means to an end but ends in themselves.

“About such things it is fair to say that Mr. Trump has at best only a distorted vision. He is a product of the cultural decline that is rapidly consigning our artistic and philosophical inheritance to oblivion. And perhaps the principal reason for doubting Mr. Trump’s conservative credentials is that being a creation of social media, he has lost the sense that there is a civilization out there that stands above his deals and his tweets in a posture of disinterested judgment.”

My point this week end is not so much to critique the current president — worth doing of course — but to stress the importance of evidence-based dialogue. “Conservative” dialogue. “Liberal” dialogue. “Traditionalist” dialogue.

Dialogue with everyone without slipping into the barrel vision of contemporary labels

Ultimately, as history demonstrates, the only alternative to dialogue is war.

Jack

Fourth of July Another Voice


July 4, 2018

Yes I am back. A couple weeks ago, while traveling in Eastern Europe, I decided to resume my Another Voice reflections this summer on the Fourth of July.

No fireworks. Just a few observations.

In an uniquely historic way, the July 4th 1776 Declaration of Independence was truly and is truly another voice in the struggle for human rights and respecting everyone’s human dignity.

The Declaration was a courageous critique of authoritarian and abusive political power. Jefferson’s words, endorsed by representatives of the original colonies, were solidly anchored in REALITY, REASON, and the self-evident TRUTH that that all are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

A clear voice for humanity. A clear voice for compassion and collaboration, rather than denigration and deception. A clear voice for immigrant respect and fellowship, rather than family separation and incarceration. Good material for a socio-political examination of conscience.

There were a lot of immigrants in those first thirteen states: they were British, Dutch, French, German, and Irish. (Not to forget of course Native Americans and African slaves!) They were Protestant and Catholic, as well as Jewish and Muslim. Xenophobia and bigotry are un-American. The authentic American voice proclaims mutual understanding and support for American multiculturalism and a great abundance of ethnic and racial variety: the pluribus of e pluribus unum.

We are not perfect but capable of doing better and being better. Acknowledging popular and political shortcomings and constructive change are key elements as well in our U.S. American experience: we can and have humbly acknowledged our own wrongdoing. We try to repair and move ahead…..

Yes I am proud to be an American and celebrate that with my U.S. friends this Fourth of July.

And I close with an adaptation of a statement painted on a coat:

“I do care. Don’t U?”

Jack

Historical Theologian

—————————-

Power over people is not a virtue; and history shows again and again that in religion and in civil society absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Prophesy, Visions, Dreams


Pentecost

May 20, 2018

Once again we find encouragement in Acts of Apostles: “ I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions. Your old men will dream dreams.”(Acts 2:17)

One Spirit, enlightening all people, across all ages. A cause for Pentecost celebration and again the source of our challenge. To speak out. To have a vision. To dream.

We live in strange times, when truth has become do-itself fantasy, violence has become a value, and the people who should speak out close their eyes, turn off their brains, and turn their backs in silence.

A fellow blogger, whom I greatly respect, Joris Heise (https://jorisheise.wordpress.com/about/), said it so clearly a few days ago:

“So much distrust, anger and hatred rise like weeds from our ignorance of one another. We see someone whom we don’t know – and who might look or talk different – and, too often, because our instinct is to fear what is different, to become uncomfortable with what is strange, we turn off the love of God. On the other hand, someone who follows Jesus – and who tries to be Jesus in our present world – sees another person of whatever kind as someone loved by God, and kept in existence by our loving Creator…..the love that God has for our world is within—inside ourselves, our conscience, and our mind, waiting to emerge. Only the habit of prejudice, the failure to grow up, an environmental culture of caution and fear – these keep us from feeling and expressing the love of God for our neighbor.”

So yes… in our prophetic witness, in our visions, and in our dreams the Spirit beckons. We are indeed human beings, made in the image and likeness of God. We have dignity. We have self-worth. We are multicultural brothers and sisters…not immigrant “animals,” as a Western head of state said last week. (First step down the road to genocide? It began that way once before.)

The signs of the times should be prophetic eye-openers.

Extreme Israeli violence against Palestinian protestors on the day the U.S. Embassy was opened In Jerusalem? At least sixty dead and thousands wounded. Many children and young people. Justified because the Palestinians are terrorists?

Meanwhile, some 40 miles away there was Pastor Robert Jeffress, one of President Trump’s closest evangelical advisers. He offered a prayerful reflection at the U.S. Embassy ceremonies in Jerusalem. Pastor Jeffress has strong religious convictions. Can one reconcile them with the message of Jesus? Or with historical American values? According to the Reverend, “God sends good people to Hell. Not only do religions like Mormonism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism — not only do they lead people away from God, they lead people to an eternity of separation from God in Hell.”

In my own RCC tradition, the signs of the times are historic. On Friday, May 18, every Roman Catholic bishop from Chile offered his resignation because of sex abuse and the cover-up scandal. Indeed, the biggest shakeup in the Catholic Church’s long-running sex abuse saga. At the end of an emergency summit with Pope Francis in Rome, all thirty-one active bishops and three retired bishops signed a document offering to resign and putting their fate in the hands of the pope.

And that same Friday, as I was writing this reflection, nine students and one teacher were killed at Santa Fe High School in Galveston County, South of Houston. Since 2000, there have been 213 school shootings in the USA. The highest number in other countries (Australia, Canada, Germany, and South Africa) 5.

Challenges abound. The Spirit has not abandoned us. It appears however that a lot of believers have abandoned the Spirit.

Warm regards this Pentecost.

Thanks for traveling with me!

Jack

Jadleuven@gmail.com

P.S.

I am not running away from the challenge. This week end, however, I am again stepping away from my blog for a while. Going on a kind of R&R retreat with my wife. A time to relax and escape to a quiet place. Time to reflect. Lots of thoughts going through my aging head; and I enjoyed a busy year, still teaching three classes a week. I hope to log in again towards the end of June. Another Voice is not gone. Just dreaming dreams.

Christian Humanism


Sunday 13 May 2018

The Path to the Divine, at the heart of Reality, is through Christian Humanism.

Erasmus of Rotterdam (c1466 – 1536) explored it already when he wrote in his Enchiridion Militis Christiani (1503) that God is simply the life of the human soul. Much earlier, Augustine the Bishop of Hippo (354-430) could write to God in his Confessions “When I recognize myself, I recognize you!” For Augustine, God is the inner illumination of the mind, which propels the self beyond itself into the Divine. God is the light of the world reflected in the human soul.

Augustine of course was echoing the Apostle Paul: “The God who made the world and everything in it is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands….From one ancestor God made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for God and find God —though indeed God is not far from each one of us.” (Acts 17:24-28)

Christian humanism affirms that at the core of authentic human existence there is some revelation and experience of the authentically Divine.

Here then, for reflection and discussion, are ten affirmations about Christian Humanism:

1. Human beings possess capacities to sense, understand, and respond to events of transcendence manifest in everyday existence.

2. The sense of the transcendent, or what one could call ‘an instinct for the Divine,’ responds to real disclosures within the natural, historical, and lived experiences of Reality.

3. “God” names what is actually present in the power, depth, scope, intensity, and claim of life.

4. These disclosures of divinity within the natural and historical lives of peoples need to be read and interpreted like one reads a text. Sometimes one needs to learn the necessary language….

5. Human beings can gain real intimations of the Divine via signs of sacredness in the world around them. Some people are vision impaired……

6. A Christian humanist freely decides to sense, attend to, and reflect on those intimations of Divine presence in human lived experence.

7. Critical thinking remains a necessary moment in the interpretation of Divine disclosures.

8. Christian humanism demands that we develop a conscience that is self-critical. And to become people of conscience we adopt spiritual and religious practices that actualize our capacities to be aware of and open to the fullness of life.

9. Christian humanism aims at inculcating a vigilant faith, a resolute hope, and an abundant love as modes of openness to the Divine.

10. Christian humanism fosters attitudes and feelings of heartfelt gratitude, steadfast humility, and demanding compassion.

Disciplined attention to Christian humanism discloses that in spite of sorrow, pain, and agony, human life is nevertheless saturated with worth and that responsible human action is to draw together that goodness into a complete vision of life with others and for oneself.

That my friends is our big challenge.

Jack

jadleuven@gmail.com

A Constructive Contemporary Theological Agenda


Sunday — May 6, 2018

As I stressed last week: TODAY, we need to find a way to articulate the human experience of the Divine that reduces it neither to the extreme secularity of the “post-theistic theologians” nor to the unthinking and closed-minded certitude of the static believers. We need to find a way to understand the positive, substantive and normative meaning of transcendence as it makes a claim on human beings within contemporary historical existence: within contemporary culture.

We need to find a new theological language. As Paul Ricoeur had prophetically noted already in his “The Symbolism of Evil” (Beacon, 1967, p.349), “It is not regret for the sunken Atlantis that animates us, but hope for a re-creation of language.”

Contemporary people want the security of answers – yet much official contemporary religion seems to give them answers from a place far away from their daily lives. Indeed religious fundamentalism and static belief theology seems motivated by this longing for the sunken Atlantis!

I suggest five principles for the contemporary theological agenda:

(1) The AIM of theology cannot be a kind of nostalgic retreat to recover a lost mode of being in the world. (I often think about this when I see some conservative cardinals prancing around in their colorful late medieval costumes. And their language fits their red dresses.)

(2) Theological thinking today needs to feel and experience the “call” of the Sacred (the Faith experience) by interpreting and thereby re-creating the meaning and power of religious language.

(3) We also look for the resonance and dialogue with tradition: with the theological expressions of earlier cultures. We resonate with them not just repeat them again and again….

(4) A truly authentic theology can never be simply the expression of individual, subjective experience. We belong to a community of believers…the Body of Christ.

(5) Theology therefore relies on culture but can never become locked within a particular culture. Nor can it venerate exclusively any particular culture….. One should not expect, for example, that African believers should use Western European language and rituals nor should their Christian cousins in China. And none of us should feel comfortable with the thought categories of a Neo-Platonic creed from the fourth century. We live, think, and speak today….

All cultures perceive reality through their own particular lenses; and these lenses are shaped and adjusted by shared human events and great movements in human history.

Every healthy theology (because its focus is what lies within and yet beyond culture in all of its historical manifestations) is continually engaged in a critical reflection and a critique of the contemporary and previous cultures.

When a theology becomes so locked within a particular culture that it is hardly distinguishable from it, we are on the road to idolatry: when the words, symbols and rituals of a particular culture no longer communicate and connect people to the depth of the human experience but become objects of worship in themselves.

The road around both regressive static belief and exaggerated humanization is an authentic Christian humanism. And that is my focus for next week!

Jack

jadleuven@gmail.com

Contemporary Belief and Reality


Sunday 29 April 2018

For many people, contemporary religious belief is twisted and distorted by two contending and often exaggerated tensions: Static Belief and Short-Sighted Humanization.

Static belief advocates simply revert to and reproduce the old static theology: they unquestioningly defend the beliefs and practices of earlier ages. For them historical critical reflection is not only unnecessary but dangerously unorthodox. They consider the old theology, clothed in the language of an earlier culture, to be self-evident, authoritative, unchanging, and exclusive. In my own Roman Catholic tradition, static belief cardinals and bishops are openly denouncing Pope Francis, whom they consider dangerous and most probably heretical.

For static believers, truth is obedient conformity to time-locked sacred stories, doctrinal understandings, and moral directives. Nothing changes. They insist that no one should question their “traditional” truth and morality. Nor should there be openness to new theological, historical, or biblical discoveries. Many contemporary Catholic and Protestant fundamentalists, for example, are locked in a static literal understanding of Sacred Scripture and are avid static believers. For them, Adam and Eve and Noah’s Ark were historic events. Curiously, 60% of the today’s Americans believe the Biblical account of Noah’s ark to be literally true. (About 12% of today’s adult Americans believe that “Joan of Arc” was Noah’s wife. But that is another issue….) These literal believers are repulsed by the very thought of biblical mythology. Obviously they cannot resonate with biblical scholar John Dominic Crossman’s famous observation: “My point, once again, is not that those ancient people told literal stories and we are now smart enough to take them symbolically, but that they told them symbolically and we are now dumb enough to take them literally.”

Today’s static believers have a number of challenges coming from respected contemporary New Testament scholars and church historians. So much has been discovered since the middle ages, even since the nineteenth century. Four examples: (1) ORDINATION. The historic Jesus did not ordain anyone. Jesus had no understanding of ordination. Nevertheless, one of my cardinal friends still loves to tell the story, in his ordination homilies, that Jesus, at the Last Super, ordained the apostles as bishops. Well in fact ordination did not arrive until decades after Jesus’s death and resurrection; and it was not about some kind of “sacramental power” to “confect the sacrament.” It was more about quality control — an assurance to Christian communities that their designated leaders were trustworthy. (2) WOMEN APOSTLES. Among Jesus’s followers there were women disciples as well as male disciples; and yes, there were also women apostles, like Mary the Magdalene, Prisca, and Junia. (3) WOMEN AND EUCHARIST. The people who presided at Eucharist in early Christianity were the heads of households. Some heads of households were women. Yes, that means women presided at Eucharist. (4) JESUS’S SIBLINGS. About the historic Jesus, a number of biblical scholars would agree that he had brothers and sisters. His brother James was in charge of the Christian community in Jerusalem. Were they Mary’s sons and daughters as well?

And there are still more questions…….Something for future reflections……

Turning quickly to short-sighted humanization, we also see today a profusion of barrel-vision humanized responses to theological questions. “Experts” who see the human being as just a material object and substitute physical and psychological theory for genuine theological thinking. I contend they have scientific barrel-vision because they cannot see the breadth and depth of Reality. I am thinking in particular about people like the best-selling authors Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), Daniel Dennett (Breaking the Spell) and Sam Harris (The End of Faith).

Many of these “post-theistic theologians” (if one can really call them “theologians”) are strongly influenced by the postmodern thinking of the French philosopher Jacques Derrida (1930-2004). They celebrate the creative capacities of autonomous human beings by deconstructing all that is considered sacred.

Radical “post-theistic theologians” fall victim to what can be called a short-sighted humanization of theological questions. It is really extreme secularism. The signs of the sacred are simply reduced to signs of linguistic, political and often repressive social theories. In the end, it is but a short step to nihilism.

TODAY, we need to find a way to articulate the human experience of the Divine that reduces it neither to the extreme secularity of the post-theistic theologians nor to the unthinking certitude of static believers.

NEXT WEEK: A Constructive Contemporary Theological Agenda

Jack

jadleuven@gmail.com

How We Understand and Speak About REALITY


Sunday — 22 April 2018

In 1886 the French sociologist Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) dismissed all gods as unimportant window dressing and insisted that religions are just rites and rituals.

In The Origin of Species (p. 470), Charles Darwin wrote that: “The feeling of religious devotion is a highly complex one….Nevertheless, we see some distant approach to this state of mind in the deep love of a dog for his master, associated with complete submission, some fear and perhaps some other feelings.”

Ever since Darwin equated human devotion to God with a dog’s devotion to its master, biologists, psychologists, and some philosophers have been postulating religious instincts and other neurological bases for religion. Their work always attracts attention, especially in the popular media. Time Magazine and Newsweek, for example periodically announce a “new” revelation about religion. In his best-selling 2006 book, English biologist Richard Dawkins tried to say it all: The God Delusion.

And so the contemporary REALITY questions:

Dose God exist?

Have we discovered God, or have we invented God?

Are there so many similarities among the great religions simply because God is the product of universal wish fulfillment?

Have human beings historically created supernatural beings, because of their need for comfort in the face of existential tragedy and to find purpose and significance in life?

Or….have people in many places and in many times, to a greater and lesser degree, actually gained glimpses of God?

Theologians try to understand and interpret our experience of REALITY. I see three approaches in contemporary “theology,” as it tries to answer the above questions: (1) Static Belief, (2) Short-Sighted Humanization, and (3) Christian Humanism.

Before moving into these three categories, we need to clarify what theology is and is not.

Faith is our experience of God: the human experience of the Divine. Theology is an interpretation of that faith experience and finds expression in words and symbols. The best definition of theology is still that of Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109): Fides quarens intellectum – “faith seeking understanding.” Theology is an interpretation. When we do theology we express ourselves in the symbols, words, and rituals that are products of our culture.

Cultural change means that theology changes as well – in small ways and occasionally in big ways.

In every age people scratch their heads trying to best express what they experience in their faith experiences of the Divine. There is always change in theology just because words change, thought categories change, and symbols and rituals that worked in one era do not always work in another time frame. This has always been my point with my blog “Another Voice,” the challenge I read long ago in Little Gidding by T. S. Eliot: “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language; and next year’s words await another voice.”

Next week: Two strong but unhealthy contemporary theological trends – Static Belief and Short-Sighted Humanization…..Bear with me please!

Jack

jadleuven@gmail.com

Human Rights / Human Dignity


Sunday — April 15, 2018

“‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” Acts of Apostles 2:17

In my first post Easter reflection, some thoughts — for people of all ages — about being prophetic in living our dreams and visions.

First a brief story.

A friend sent me a short video about a young man’s vision of Jesus. A young white fellow was deeply troubled and tearfully crying and praying in church: “Jesus help me! Lord help me please!” Suddenly a dark-skinned man in a robe appeared and said: “Hey man, what’s the problem?” The fair-skinned fellow cries out: “I need Jesus!” The dark-skinned man replies: “Yes. I am here. What’s your problem?” The young man says: “but…but you don’t look like your pictures!” Jesus replied: “Get over it kid. I am dark-skinned and speak and act like a foreigner. I grew up in a different part of the world. My Mom and Dad were very dark-skinned as well. We all looked like migrants to people like you……now what’s the problem?”

The message of Christ proclaims the dignity and worth of every human person. There can be no exceptions. The must basic human right is the right to be oneself: to be accepted, to be acknowledged as a human being who by nature has value and deserves to be respected.

In authentic Christian behavior all must be acknowledged, respected, supported, and helped: male, female, transgender. Black, white, yellow and colorful combinations. Gay, straight, and uncertain. Americans, Mexicans, Syrians, and other foreigners. The young and old. Rich and pour. Handsome and ugly. Smart and stupid. Saints and sinners.

Are you listening bishops? Are you listening rabbis and imams? Are you listening White House? Are you listening Democrats and Republicans? Are you really listening United Nations representatives from around the world?

In the revelation of Jesus Raised from the Dead, this is authentic Christian behavior. It is authentic human behavior: not just our challenge but our duty. It is our responsibility. Political party or religious tradition differences allow no exceptions.

Next week some pointed theological questions.

Jack

jadleuven@gmail.com

Easter 2018


Happy Easter!

May we move forward, supporting each other,

in the Way of Jesus who is our Truth and Life.

“Instead of reading the Bible to assure ourselves that we are right,

we would be better to read it to discover where we have not been

listening.”– Raymond E. Brown, The Churches the Apostles Left Behind, p150.

Jack jadleuven@gmail.com

I will be away for a couple of weeks.

Courageous and Confident


Palm Sunday – March 25, 2018

Today as we enter Holy Week 2018, I conclude my Lenten reflections about Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John, with some final thoughts about the Johannine Gospel and its challenge to contemporary Christians.

Scholars like Pheme Perkins, at Boston College, emphasize, that the author of John presumes that much of the narrative about Jesus and its people and places was already well known to the Johannine audience. They would have been familiar with the various titles for Jesus, with Baptism, Eucharist, and the Spirit. They were already Christians, entering the second century of Christian life and experience. The Fourth Gospel then is a call to re-examine their lives as followers of the Risen Lord. That challenge of course rings true for us as well.

Last week we looked at the “Book of Signs.” Today we move to the “Book of Glory”: John 13:1 to John 20:31.

John 13:1-4 is a turning point in this gospel. Jesus’s “hour” had come “for him to pass from this world to the Father….he had come from God and was returning to God.”

The occasion in John 13 is the Last Supper. Unlike the Synoptics, the Johannine Gospel has no mention of Eucharist, but Jesus washes his disciples’ feet. “I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you.” (John 13:15) I think we forget that people’s feet back then were really dirty! Washing feet was not a pleasant task. Reading this scripture, I think we forget as well what Jesus also said: “Whoever welcomes the one I send, welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” (John 13:20) The Johannine author did not mention the Eucharistic bread and wine because he wanted to emphasize that Jesus is present in the Community of Faith. Jesus promises that his Spirit (the Advocate) will be with them. (John 14:15-16, 15:26, 16:15) For centuries, in my Roman Catholic tradition, people have argued and fought about Jesus’s “Real Presence.” The Johannine Gospel is very clear: the primary real presence of Jesus is in the community. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches (John 15); and we are to love one another. The branches cannot survive without the vine; but the vine cannot survive without the branches. The profound mystery of life. No one can do it alone…. In Mark, Matthew, and Luke the stress was on Divinity talking on humanity. That is true in John as well, of course. In John, however, we see another emphasis: humanity taking on Divinity. God is truly with us: in the very heart of our being. (Some of the old images of God no longer speak to contemporary people; but God has not abandoned us. We should not abandon God. We simply need to reflect on better ways of conceptualizing and speaking about our experience of the Divine.)

The Johannine account of the crucifixion does not stress Jesus as one who suffers, as we saw for example in Mark 15.25–39. In the Fourth Gospel, Jesus is the one who is exalted, “lifted up” in his moment of glorification. In John 13 to John 16, Jesus prepares his disciples for his imminent departure followed by his “high priestly prayer” in John 17. Here we see a very strong and confident Jesus. “I have glorified you on earth and finished the work you gave me to do. Now, Father, it is time to glorify me…” (John 17:4-5)

The final Johannine chapters contain the accounts of Jesus’s trial, crucifixion, and resurrection. The Jesus who stands before Pilate is strong. On the way to Golgotha Jesus carries his own cross. He does not need the help of a Simon of Cyrene as we saw in Mark, Matthew, and Luke. Also in John, unlike the other three gospels, Jesus crucifixion occurs on the day of preparation of the Passover (John 19:14) rather than on the Passover holiday itself. Here Jesus prepares himself for the departure to the Father and seems to be in complete control of his destiny, even to the extent of commending his mother to the Beloved Disciple (John 19:26–27).

The Book of Glory concludes with the discovery of the empty tomb by the women and other disciples (John 20:1–10), Jesus’s appearance to them (John 20:11–18), and the narrative of “Doubting” Thomas (John 20.24–29). The last two verses contain what many scholars think may have been the gospel’s ending: “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31)

Appendix: Many scholars consider John 21 to be a later addition to the Johannine Gospel. It not only contains resurrection appearances in Galilee, but it also emphasizes the authority of the Beloved Disciple, who likely died a normal death in contrast to Peter’s martyrdom (see John 21.15–23). Quite possibly, this appendix reflects a controversy among the second or third generation of believers, who may have considered the Beloved Disciple inferior to Peter. Chapter 21 reinforces the Beloved Disciple’s role as the authorized witness of the Jesus tradition for the Johannine community.

I titled today’s reflection “Courageous and Confident.” That is how I perceive Jesus in the Johannine Gospel. With courage and confidence, Jesus spoke out against the hypocrisy of the self-centered arrogant. In conflicts with Judean religious leaders he stressed that religiosity is not faith.

Today we encounter the same kinds of hypocrisy and are confronted with un-Christian religiosity from religious and political leaders. As members of Jesus in the community of faith, may we sustain each other with courage and confidence. That is the message for this Holy Week, as we prepare for Easter 2018.

– Jack jadleuven@gmail.com