Not speaking the same language
There can be times when there is a conversation and a disagreement arises because there is not a common understanding of the language that is being used. A great classic work of literature is a different language than a science textbook. Faith language is not the same as science language.
Unfortunately, too often it is the case that when we are talking about certain things, perhaps in the areas of morals or in circumstances that involve values, having a situation where words are not used or understood in the same way can make for an argument that seems to have no solution.
This is often what happens in discussions involving faith and science. If one person believes that all of the bible is literally, word-for-word true, and another person thinks it can only be fairy tales, then there will be little the two can agree on in the discussion.
Consider though, what happens if one understands the position of the Catholic Church concerning the bible. Because there are many different styles of literature, there are different ways in which the bible is true. We can look at the book of Genesis, for example, as a great theological myth, telling us great theological truths about God, while at the same time holding that it need not be literally true for the book to be true.
Two languages are at play in the gospel we read today. Jesus says this: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” For those who hear Jesus speak, they understand the word “death” to mean bodily death. But Jesus is referring to the great gift of redemption he gives, offering himself for the sins of the world. Those who keep the word of Jesus will never die because of the great redemptive act of Jesus.
Those who hear Jesus today in the gospel actually do understand the implications of what Jesus is saying. While they misunderstand the reference to death, they clearly understand the claim Jesus makes about being God. And since they can only see Jesus as a human being, and not as one who is God, they seek to kill him.
Sometimes we can misunderstand the language of faith too. We can seek to reduce Jesus to only being a human, or only being divine. And yet, in the Incarnation we celebrate the great total self-offering of Jesus for our sins. He does this out of his tremendous love for us.
So Jesus invites us into the magnificent loving relationship he wants with all of us. Consider what he did in the gospels. He healed. He performed miracles. He spoke with authority. He offered himself, body and blood, soul and divinity for us. He died on the cross for us. He rose from the dead. And to grasp this, we only need the language of love, God’s love, unconditional for each one of us.
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