Jeremiah 31: 31-34; John 12: 20-33
One of the speakers at the conference I attended at Notre Dame was Nicholas Carr, who has written extensively on technology and the impact it is having on our lives. Not only how we have become dependent upon it but even how it is changing the way our brains work, and not always for the better. He had told a story about the use of the GPS which many of us, including myself, rely on daily to get us from one place to another and of course to get to that place as fast as possible with as little time wasted. He mentioned how that system was introduced to Eskimos in the Arctic Circle who have remained on that land for centuries. As the Arctic Circle changes with climate change and ice melts, it was thought that this would be a great benefit to them in navigating the changing terrain.
However, over the course of time it became apparent that it had become more of a hindrance. Whereas for centuries they had trusted that internal voice and their instinct to get them from one place or another they began listening to another voice and over time people began to die! They were literally falling into the icy waters because they began to listen to a false voice and depending on that voice rather than trusting from within and so they eliminated the use of the GPS in order to save themselves.
That is true of all of us, not just because of GPS but because of our culture and society in which we live. We begin to trust every other voice, and often being deceived, other than the voice within. That is the shift that Jeremiah calls forth for the House of Israel who we hear of in today’s first reading. Jeremiah tries to make the point that this experience of exile in which they find themselves is not necessarily a bad thing. It may feel that way and they may feel lost and abandoned, but it’s a time to learn to trust that voice within to lead you and navigate you through the difficult of times. It’s no longer going to be as he says, a God “who took them by the hand” but rather will “place the law within them and write it upon their hearts”. That’s the real change that is necessary for Israel, and quite frankly, for all of us as well. The eternal that was first given to man in the beginning is once again being given to trust and the more they listen and trust that voice, the more they are led forward in life and out of this experience of exile. From the beginning God has placed the eternal GPS within and yet we doubt, we question, we become deceived by the other voices that demand our attention and even convince us that that’s not of God. Jeremiah reminds us, that’s precisely what leads you to the experience of exile and as crazy as it seems, what will lead you out. The false promise is exposed for what it is and the real promise is revealed again.
The same is true for the disciples and all who now enter into these tumultuous times in John’s Gospel. John is well aware of the lie and deceit that people are led to believe and the false promise that it entails. It sets up this climactic chapter, following the raising of Lazarus, will now lead to the demise of it all. From this point on everything begins to fall apart for the disciples and they are going to be left with the same choice as Israel, their forefathers, as to the voice in which they will trust and there will be many competing narratives the next two weeks and most of which will come from the place of fear and control. They’ll hear from Pilate, the religious authorities who very authority is being threatened along with the political rank, gathering the crowds around fear of the truth in Jesus. What began in the beginning in Genesis when Adam and Eve give credence to the wrong voice, the father of lies, will now come to a head with the eternal Christ. They have convinced themselves that this cannot possibly be God, and yet, for John, in the mouth of Jesus, reminds us today that it all has to fall away into the depths of the earth in order for new life to come forth. The events that will unfold, now that the hour has come for Jesus’ purpose, will not only reveal the truth of this God of love but will expose the lie from the beginning and not only the disciples but each of us will be left with that same choice as to which voice to believe and to trust. The one that promises an absolute quick fix to our problems, the avoidance of suffering, the false promise of a better life or the one that leads to what we too desired from the beginning, the gift of the eternal life here and now and in the age to come.
These next two weeks will provide great opportunity for reflection in our lives and the tumultuous experiences that we often face as well in times of trial and darkness. It is, though, in the darkened earth that the seed takes root and begins to bear much fruit. Lies and deceit seem to become a way of life, exposing all of us to confusing and throwing our GPS out of service, leaving us wandering and like Israel, in exile. Yet, the voices are hard to deny. They seem so right. Yet, they begin to drown out the truth and the eternal navigational tool within that tries to lead us through. These weeks demand of us silence and listening hearts in order to tune back into the voice of the eternal within our hearts. No one is there to take us by the hand and make the choice for us for we have been given what is necessary. It’s a matter of once again being called to trust and believe not only that redemption is at hand, but that the one who is the way, the truth, and the life, continues to guarantee the eternal promise that unites the divine within to the eternal, leading us to everlasting life.