If you are following the daily gospels for Mass, you will have noticed that we are relying on Jesus’ Farewell Discourse presented in Chapters 13 through 17. The context is the eve of the crucifixion, and Jesus knows he will be leaving his disciples shortly. In that context, he offers them departing instructions and words of farewell – four chapters and more. It is in John 13:33 he says, “My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.” Immediately the protests against their abandonment begin. As you continue to read through the Discourse people often comment: (a) these apostles and disciples are not the brightest bulbs in the box because (b) Jesus keeps repeating the same things and they don’t get it.
Years ago, in a Bible Study I received a question that contained those two points. I answered with a story. The very first thing I told the group was that what I was about to tell them was not true. I asked them to confirm that they understood that – and they agreed that they did. And then I began the narrative. Its content is not important, but it tapped into several well-known pieces of knowledge and information about the Friars and the parish. Several minutes into the narrative I offered, “And that is why it will soon be announced that the Friars are leaving the parish, our work accomplished, and turning it back over to the diocese.
The room exploded in disbelief, protest, question, humbridge, a few tears, and more. I let the room remain in its titter, then asked for quiet and posed this: “What was the first thing I told you?” After a few moments of silence, someone responded: “That none of what followed would be true.”
Now you have a sense of why the Farewell discourse seems, at times, to be talking in circles. Now the words of Jesus hopefully make a little more sense: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me tell you, ‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’”
We spend a lot of our lives like these apostles. The Word of God and the Spirit have been given and we are so often not the brightest bulbs in the box. Things need to be repeated until we “get it.”