“CAN I READ BETWEEN THE LINES?” (Jn 8:21-30): 11 March 2008 (Tuesday)

“CAN I READ BETWEEN THE LINES?” (Jn 8:21-30):  11 March 2008 (Tuesday)

Today’s Readings

Back in 1997, Edwin McCain released an album, for which he gave an interesting title:  “Misguided Roses.”  The only hit from that album is “I’ll Be,” a love anthem–if there is ever one–where the singer confesses his near-desperate love for his beloved and virtually promises heaven and earth.  The refrain goes:

“I’ll be your crying shoulder
I’ll be love’s suicide
And I’ll be better when I’m older
I’ll be the greatest fan of your life.”

You can’t get any more devoted than that, can you?

Reading today’s gospel, I can’t help but remember this song–not because it’s similar to what our Lord says, but on the contrary, precisely because it is so opposed to the words of our Lord.  In the gospel, our Lord tells the Pharisees:

“I am going away
and you will look for me,
but you will die in your sin.
Where I am going you cannot come.”

You can’t get any more blunt than that, can you?  Our Lord’s sentiments are the exact opposite of the Edwin McCain song:  There is hurt and sadness, perhaps even anger and bitterness.  And he gives his reason:  “For you do not believe that I AM.”

For biblical scholars, “I AM” is the name that God used to introduce himself to Moses during their first encounter at the burning bush.  When Jesus says he is “I AM”–that is, “Yahweh”–he is making a divine claim, a claim that the Pharisees consider blasphemous and so have continually rejected.

When you think about it, that’s really how the Pharisees have treated the Lord all throughout his ministry.  They have never given him a chance.  He preaches eloquently; they question his authority.  He heals the sick; they nitpick about the day on which he heals them.  He shows compassion to sinners; they criticize him as a friend of tax collectors and prostitutes.  He performs a miracle; they dismiss the witnesses as a bunch of liars.  He drives away evil spirits; they call him Beelzebub.

No wonder the Lord is hurting.  But even as he reacts in this manner to the rejection he’s been consistently getting, you can’t help but wonder how he must really feel deep inside. Even as he speaks such strong words of condemnation, you can’t help but sense that beneath his hurt and anger, there is something else.  Are his feelings of hurt and sadness over the stubborn rejection from the Pharisees not rooted precisely in his love for them?  So I wonder:  Perhaps we can read between the lines.

The words the Lord speaks are painful to hear, but they hide the deep, desperate longing that he feels for every person to belong to him and especially his desire for every sinner to return to him. Even when angry, the Lord still loves.  Who knows?  He probably regards his enemies as “misguided roses”–lost but roses nevertheless.  So even while he repeatedly says “I AM,” as far as I’m concerned, he may as well be singing the words to “I’ll Be.”

Here’s a Quick Question for you:  “As you listen to the words of our Lord today, is there anything else that you can read between the lines?”  Think about it, and share a thought, a feeling, or a question.

Note;  Click here to watch Edwin McCain’s music video of “I’ll Be.”  Listen to the lyrics of the song (printed below), and if you wish, imagine the Lord singing the song to you.

I’LL BE

The strands in your eyes that color them wonderful
Stop me and steal my breath
And emeralds from mountains thrust towards the sky
Never revealing their depth

And tell me that we belong together
Dress it up with the trappings of love
I’ll be captivated, I’ll hang from your lips
Instead of the gallows of heartache that hang from above

And I’ll be your cryin’ shoulder
I’ll be love`s suicide
And I’ll be better when I’m older
I’ll be the greatest fan of your life

And rain falls angry on the tin roof
As we lie awake in my bed
And you’re my survival, you’re my living proof
My love is alive, and not dead

And tell me that we belong together
Dress it up with the trappings of love.
I’ll be captivated, I’ll hang from your lips
Instead of the gallows of heartache that hang from above

And I’ll be your cryin’ shoulder
I`ll be love`s suicide
And I’ll be better when I’m older
I’ll be the greatest fan of your life.

And I dropped out, I burned up, I fought my way back from the dead,
I tuned in, I turned on, remembered the thing that you said.

And I’ll be your cryin’ shoulder
I’ll be love`s suicide
And I’ll be better when I’m older
I’ll be the greatest fan of your life

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