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God is light, God is love

Our brother, Fr. Marie-Dominique Goutierre's latest book is on the first letter of Saint John. Here is the introduction, translated to English. How is it possible for what John writes about God to be given to us as the Word of God? While the Gospels offer us the words and gestures of Christ Himself, the letters come to us from the Church's first theologians. How does the Holy Spirit, given to us by Jesus that we might enter more fully into His Revelation, enable us to unfold and truly discover, beyond a modern perspective on interpretation, the mysteries of what God said and who He is?
Thank you, father!

God is light, God is love
A theological reading of the first letter of St. John
By Marie-Dominique Goutierre
(Editions Parole et Silence, 2012)

         After the Last Supper Jesus promised to His Apostles that He would send them the Paraclete. And He does so through the Cross, by fully becoming the Lamb of God: “I am telling you the truth: it is for your own good that I am going, because unless I go, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (Jn 16,7); Jesus’ departure, the offering of His life in love, is the sine qua non condition for sending the Paraclete. Now, Jesus surrenders His life, lays down His soul, at the Cross. Because He had promised, and because it was a promise of love, Jesus could not delay in sending the Paraclete to those He had said He would send Him to, and first of all, in love’s haste, to His Mother and His beloved disciple.

        The last priestly act of Christ is to entrust His soul into the hands of the Father, an offering of love of His human life, performed in this ultimate initiative: “After Jesus had taken the wine he said, 'It is fulfilled'; and bowing his head he gave up His spirit.” (Jn 19,30) What Jesus had taught when He revealed Himself as the Good Shepherd is fully accomplished here: “The Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me; I lay it down of my own free will, and as I have power to lay it down, so I have power to take it up again; and this is the command I have received from my Father.” (Jn 10,17-18) And Jesus becomes the instrument for the sending of the Holy Spirit Paraclete after His death, after He has become the Lamb who was as though slain (Ap. 5,6), the victim of love par excellence.

         This outpouring of the Holy Spirit, this very interior Pentecost of love, is as though reserved for Mary and the beloved disciple. This ultimate annihilation of Jesus takes place in the haste of the Preparation, in order to respect the Sabbath: “It was the Day of Preparation, and to avoid the bodies' remaining on the cross during the Sabbath - since that Sabbath was a day of special solemnity - the Jews asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken away. Consequently the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with him and then of the other. When they came to Jesus, they saw he was already dead, and so instead of breaking his legs one of the soldiers pierced his side with a lance; and immediately there came out blood and water. This is the evidence of one who saw it - true evidence, and he knows that what he says is true - and he gives it so that you may believe as well. Because all this happened to fulfil the words of scripture: Not one bone of his will be broken; and again, in another place scripture says: They will look to the one whom they have pierced.” (Jn 19,31-37) Associated to this most ultimate of Christ’s wounds, inflicted upon His Heart when He is already dead and from which flow water and blood, is the mystery of the Holy Spirit: “He it is who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ, not with water alone but with water and blood, and it is the Spirit that bears witness, for the Spirit is Truth.So there are three witnesses, the Spirit, water and blood; and the three of them are one.” (1 Jn 5,6-8)

         John becomes the true witness of God’s ultimate revelation, “God is Love”, under the motion of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised to send the Paraclete, but the immediate realization of this promise of love is reserved for the beloved disciple to whom He gave His Mother and who had become the witness of His cry of thirst and of the entrusting of His spirit into the Father’s hands. “If I go, I will send Him to you”: Jesus has left, He has surrendered His life; He has commended His spirit out of love for the Father. In the haste of His departure, in the extreme poverty of the moment when He is entrusted to the depths of the earth, the true pascal Lamb becomes the instrumental source for the sending of the Paraclete. John, son of Mary, is the witness of this and receives this Pentecost of Love which springs forth from Christ’s wounded Heart. Thus the realization of Jesus’ promise is accomplished for John in such a way that he becomes, thanks to Mary - seat of Wisdom -, the theologian of the very mystery of Jesus and of the Father. Given from within (Jn 14,15-17), the Paraclete, the Spirit of truth, teaches all things and reminds John of all that Jesus said, of all that He taught (Jn 14,25-26). He is the one who makes of John a faithful witness in the footsteps of Jesus (Jn 15,26-27). He it is also who shows “the world how wrong it was, about sin, and about justice, and about discernment: about sin: in that they refuse to believe in me; about justice: in that I am going to the Father and you will see me no more; about discernment: in that the prince of this world is already jugded.” (Jn 16,8-11) Now, this is precisely a theologian’s judgment of wisdom concerning the mystery of Christ’s Cross: the great sin is the refusal to believe in Him; the most profound cause for Jesus’ departure and the fact that He disappears from our sight is His Love for the Father – Jesus hides Himself in the Father; the devil’s work, he who is the Prince of lies and a murderer since the beginning (see Jn 8,44), is unveiled, brought to light. Everything finds order and unity in the light of Christ’s Cross: men and their freedom, the Father’s Love in Christ’s Heart, the unveiling of, and the definitive victory of divine Love, over the devil, cause of sin.

         However, when promising the coming of the Paraclete through the Cross, Jesus had stated further still: “I still have many things to say to you but they would be too much for you to bear now. However, when the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you to the complete truth, since he will not be speaking of his own accord, but will say only what he has been told; and he will reveal to you the things to come.” (Jn 16,12-13) This is precisely what the Paraclete realizes with Mary in the heart of John the theologian who received her as Mother: giving him a very divine intelligence of Jesus’ words; guiding him to the entire truth as a faithful disciple of the One who is Truth, thanks to his fervent, ardent love for Jesus and for the Father. What is the entire truth? Is it not the very mystery of God, Father Son and Holy Spirit, whom Jesus came to reveal to us? This is what is contained mysteriously in Jesus’ teaching and which the Paraclete makes known by introducing John into the Wisdom of the Cross: “He will glorify me, since all He reveals to you will be taken from what is mine. Everything the Father has is mine; that is why I said: all He reveals to you will be taken from what is mine.” (Jn 16, 14-15)

         The first letter of John seems to us to be this great revealed theology, the beloved disciple’s judgment of wisdom concerning the mystery of Jesus, of the Father, of Mary and of the Church. Under the motion of the Spirit Paraclete John is driven to give us this loving intelligence of the mystery of God and to pass on to us this eagle’s view as older brother, as father, and as one sent by Jesus for the Church. The Holy Spirit Paraclete, who is given to him at the Cross as the very fruitfulness of Christ’s offering of Love, introduces him into this great theological view of the mystery of God and of our life as children of God, friends of Jesus, brothers of our brothers. This is what we would like to develop by learning directly from the beloved disciple.

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