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When I read the words quoted in the Gospel according to John, I am blown away with their potency. It is not a matter of lacking faith or hope or charity. It concerns the human effort to believe in promises since we are a people who seem more in tune with breaking promises than with keeping them.
Divorce is often more readily achieved than working to make a marriage work. Parents promise children to take them to ball games. Something “comes up” that we view as more important or necessary. We plant an “I promise I’ll be there next time kiss.” And off we go. Too often we depart leaving in our wake the perception that the promise was not really sincere. It is over and against this comprehension of promises that we read, “I am going to prepare a place for you...and where I am you also may be.”
What a promise! Where God is...where Jesus is...we will also be. In case that promise was not enough, Jesus continues to remind us there are many mansions, many entries into God’s kingdom.
Whoa! How can this be true? How can we allow those who have not officially professed a faith to which others had never been exposed? If our understanding of God...God’s kingdom or reign...is both static and limited...we cannot understand or embrace those whose comprehension differs from ours.
But, the promise is not static. It is the divine assurance, the divine decree, the guarantee we and God are one. We are not in a contractual agreement. We are in a relationship. That is the deciding factor.
When you and I have a contract to get an activity accomplished and one of us decides to bail out, excuses are easily found and easily used. When we are blood brothers and sisters, so to speak, the bond is far more difficult to break. The feelings are more profound. The sense we are losing part of ourselves pricks our conscience and our consciousness. Our hearts are troubled. Have you not had that experience as you traveled life’s path?
I know I have. As soon as I have breached the bonds of relationship, with God and with others, I am overwhelmed with sorrow. At one time or another, we have said, aloud or silently, “ I could have bitten off my tongue for saying that...for doing the other.”
Jesus comforts us with relational words, “Where I am you also will be.” No fear remains. God will not leave us. That is the promise extraordinaire.
The promise of this unique unity, this identification with the Almighty, is so powerful it boggles the mind. Yet, it is this very power that impels faith in those without faith. Its incredulity is so potent we almost cannot fail to believe.
To link this potency to a static understanding of relationship is to lose the power it carries with it. When we reprimand a child with the words, “just wait until your father gets home,” we do nothing more or less than make Daddy an ogre eager to pounce on his own young to make them comply.
Daddy is no longer welcomed with happy faces, open arms and wonderment that we are in this life journey together. No amount of stuff can replace the grandeur of a relationship.
It is no less true of husbands and wives, friends and family. I suspect nothing is more difficult and more powerful than making and keeping a promise. It demands our getting to know each other.
My family used to tease me mercilessly as I tried, often off key, to sing, “Getting to know you. Getting to know all about you. Getting to love you. Hoping that you love me.” The awesomeness of God’s promise is that I do not have to hope for anything. The promise is already given in our mutual divinity. God promises to be with me always and in all ways. God promises that we are one.
We are one in the Spirit. We are one in the Lord. And one day all unity will be restored and all will know we are Christians by our love. Living the promise of oneness, of dynamic unity, a powerful relationship with God is the impelling force that allows everyone who chooses it to believe.
I know this understanding of promise is both awesome and “aweful.” It asks us to suspend our previous definitions and declarations. It is a mind-boggling transformation of our understanding of faith. It requires a promise on our part.
None of this is easy. All of it is crucial. What is it that I really want from God?
Am I seeking a God whose promise is limited to the few and the mighty? Or, do I wish to be one in, with, and through the Promise Maker who asks only for a profound relationship, a unity with divinity?