Sometimes, all I can do is shake my head and admit that I just don’t understand. That happens to me a lot when I try to read the Gospel of John. It’s not the entire gospel, mind you, just the extended discourses, where Jesus seems to say the same thin in slightly different ways five different times. Even after all of that, I’m still left scratching my head and asking myself, “What did he just say?”
Take, for instance, John 12:44-50. It’s the gospel reading from the Lectionary for Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter (today). There’s something there about belief, something about judgment, and something having to do with equivalence between Jesus and God the Father, but for the life of me, I can’t make mush sense of what He’s saying. I know that whatever it is, it has to fit in with the rest of scripture and with what the Church has infallibly taught through the ages. So the passage can’t possible be saying that as long as long as I believe that Jesus is the Messiah, none of my other sins matter. Belief carries with it some moral imperative, and we cannot know just what calculus God will apply at the Judgment when he separates the sheep from the goats.
I read passages like this, and I think, “It’s no wonder your disciples didn’t understand what you were saying to them.” I live in a post-Pentecost world. I’ve received the Holy Spirit through Baptism and Confirmation, and I don’t understand!
It’s almost enough to make me want to go and read Newman’s essay on the development of doctrine to see how the Church itself had to work through all of this.