And he who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.
He had always yearned to please his father and win his approval. Long into his maturity, after he was married with children of his own, his father held back from him that final seal of approval and affection which he longed for. As his father reached a significant birthday he bought his father what he knew he had always wanted, a Harley Davidson.
It touched a secret wish his father had shared with him in a rare moment of intimacy years before. When he presented the gift he knew instantly it had not worked the miracle he had hoped for.
His father accepted it politely, coldly but held himself aloof, hiding his feelings from his son as he had always done. His grown son’s heart was shattered; suddenly he became a devastated little boy again crying out for the male affirmation he had never received.
This, however, has nothing to do with the theme of today’s reflection. Jesus is referring as he often does in the Gospel of John to his relationship with his Father (our father). But it is not, like the relationship described in the anecdote above, a psychological connection. The image of a father or mother is so powerful for most people that one might question the wisdom of referring to God by either term, so loaded with psychological baggage in every individual story as they are.
For one thing, Jesus and his culture were, of course, pre-Freudian. As we assume that the Freudian paradigm has got beneath the surface of all human interaction the pre-Freudian is often perceived as naïve or primitive. More than this however is the level at which Jesus is using this symbol of his relationship with ‘my Father’ - who is his universal reference point and source of authority. It is human, but not psychological. It is ontological: the nature of being as such, not this way or that way, individual or inter-personal, but the way everything is in itself. Being.
Put like that we might say ‘well, what on earth does that mean’? Perhaps that’s why, after all, Jesus used the symbol of father, as something we can engage with, yet illustrating something impossible to put into words; yet more real than any thought. For this reason, feeling affirmed by reality at this deepest and simplest of all levels might be the bets or only way the unloved son could heal his unfilled need in his pscyhe.
In the desert, in meditation, we drop right through the psychological realm (with a few bumps on the way), directly into the ground of being.
Our mantra is our fiat. Let it be.
Laurence Freeman OSB