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Belonging to What is Above


A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell.” ~ C.S. Lewis

Enigmatic words from Jesus in today’s Gospel (John 8:21-30), a favorite of mine whenever I seek quiet time to reflect upon the mysterious glory of the Heavenly Kingdom or to simply engage in an honest examination of conscience. In this passage Jesus foreshadows his coming Crucifixion as well as God the Father’s role in his coming death, all the while encouraging all of us to answer the age old question: “Who do you belong to?”

“Where I am going you cannot come,“ Jesus tells the Pharisees. “You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above,” he goes on to say. These mysterious words would be a source of great confusion for the Pharisees, leading one of them to even theorize that Jesus was going to kill himself. “You belong to this world,” Jesus continues, “but I do not belong to this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.”

Questions of course still remained, prompting one particularly exasperated Pharisee to ask “Who are you?” It is at this point that Jesus essentially plays his final card, saying “When you lift up the Son of Man,” a clear reference to what would be his fate, to be lifted up on the cross, a cross he freely accepted, “then you will realize that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me.” This passage is paired smartly with today’s 1st Reading (Numbers 21:4-9) wherein the bronze saraph was mounted high on a pole so that everyone who was bitten by the horde of serpents ~ the venomous scourge of concupiscence, ingratitude and sin ~ would nonetheless live by simply turning one’s gaze towards it in true contrition. This too would be the fate of those who similarly turned to Jesus in repentance and humility, allowing Him to transform them. It still is. In the words of Saint Vincent Ferrer, whose Feast Day we celebrate today, “Once humility is acquired, charity will come to life like a burning flame devouring the corruption of vice and filling the heart so full,
that there is no place for vanity.”

For when we witness this “lifting up of Jesus” during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, this ethereal encounter with the divine wherein our Savior comes to us in the disguise of a small white host, we too realize that this is indeed Jesus.


The faith journey is if course a lifetime endeavor, made evident in the closing words of today’s Passage; “Because he spoke this way, many came to believe him.” (John 8:30). So it goes for us, for this is how Jesus reveals Himself to his children, those who belong to him and thus strive for the things that come from above. There is no beginning, middle, and end to Jesus’ transformative love and our response to it, as there might be with the advertising campaign you’re managing at work. Or a football game. Or a semester at college. Or a presidential term. Or any other secular endeavor that comes to mind. The faith journey is instead wrought with fits and starts, peril, joy, dryness, frustration, and glorious lucidity just to name but a few of the gamut of emotions and experiences. At times we complain like the Israelites today in Numbers 21:4-9. But as Jesus also says in the waning words to today’s Gospel “The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone. I always do what is pleasing to him.” The same can be said for us, those whom his has sent forth to carry out his mission. He will never leave us alone. Which means there is but one very important bit of unfinished business for us to tend to. Like Jesus, we too must always do what is pleasing to Him.

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When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw you all to myself, says the Lord.” ~ John 12:32

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