“If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31).
One of my philosophy teachers wrote a book titled “Freely Chosen Reality.” I never read it – even his editor found it so densely packed it might have been 10 books instead of one – but the title has always stayed in my mind. The word “reality” is so central to any discussion about life in this world, and it is also the point where philosophers veer off into totally different systems. Whatever we think of it, reality is what is, confronting us at every turn. To deny or defy it is to court not just error but disaster if we are building a bridge or diagnosing an illness. We don’t really have a choice but to go with it, yet, as the book proposed, the secret of a happy life is to freely choose reality. Those who fight it or think they can get around it are in for endless frustration and, in the end, defeat.
John the Evangelist held that Jesus was the ultimate reality, God expressed in the world, God’s Word – the template for all creation – manifested in a human being. Jesus is therefore the measure of all our encounters with reality, first at its most basic material substance, then in its immaterial or metaphysical dimensions – the structures and relationships that define the “world,” as it is and as we encounter it each day. Theologically, this means that a happy life comes from freely choosing Jesus, the visible face of the invisible mystery we call God, the ultimate reality. We are mirrored in that face, created in the image and likeness of God, and therefore find fulfillment in being who we are, not some illusion we concoct to satisfy any other agenda.
The invitation contained in today’s Gospel is “to remain in my word.” Jesus’ final command to his disciples to “love one another as I have loved you,” grounds us in God, the source of that love, our “freely chosen reality.” Imagine the energy we could save in a single day of not trying to change or manipulate the world and people around us for our own purposes? Go with the flow, surf the waves of grace that fill each moment with love. Imagine the freedom we could enjoy by letting truth show us the world in both its limitations and amazing possibilities.