Yes, I have come from him; not that I came because
I chose, no, I was sent, and by him.
Yesterday, I was watching some new-born lambs. Like young children they bounce wildly along a spectrum: at one end, obsessive attachment to their mother, at the other boundless energy in exploring a brave new world. They are adorable, endlessly fascinating and delightful. Well, maybe not endlessly, but very charming. I thought ‘who could ever wish them harm?’ It must be their very innocence that makes them such a powerful symbol of innocence abused. From the paschal lamb sacrificed in the dark days of the Exodus to the ‘Lamb of God’ acclaimed at every mass.
Everywhere here the world is greening. Fertile smells long buried in the cold earth are emerging. Winter’s long solitude is expelled by endless new relationships of all kinds of living things appearing from nowhere, emerging into light and bringing light with them. Even on a chilly spring day there is the warmth of life. It’s all happened since time immemorial but it’s always fresh and new. The English poet George Herbert caught it in the opening lines of his great poem, The Flower, comparing the cycle of nature with the cycle of his spiritual darkness and rebirth: ‘How fresh, O Lord, how sweet and clean Are Thy returns!…’
In contrast to the oppressiveness of dark forces, like fear and oppression, or violence and rejection, with their secret history of guilt and shame, a new authority appears: the authority of innocence. It can look oppression and fear directly in the eye and disarm them. Spring is very tender compared with the brutishness of winter but it is irrepressible. At the right point in its cycle it is irresistible.
In the gospel of John, Jesus’s words often reflect what early Christians’ dawning realisation of who Jesus really is. Taken out of context, some of the words sound overbearing. They are spoken in the echo-chamber of the community that was discovering the Christ dimension. Today’s gospel includes the words I selected above, which show not self-fixation but a person in whom the dimension of eternal springtime is dawning. In the consciousness of Jesus, his innocence of pride is his authority. It is not constructed by him, but drawn entirely from an other: the one who ‘chose’ and ‘sent’ him.
‘Chose’ and ‘sent’ are words to describe an experience that awaits us, too, if we penetrate deeper than ego-consciousness. When we become our true self, we see that we are already living in a network of relationships as wide as the cosmos, a communion of being, a community of beings immersing us in ultimate reality. It makes us as humble as we can ever be. In Jesus that same humility flashes out as authority and self-knowledge. As an innocence of powerful vulnerability.