Words on the Word

On Erring

Monday in the third week of Eastertide

John 6.22-29: You look for me because you have had all the bread you wanted.

Today’s collect for the divine office is an ancient prayer for Paschaltide. It prays first for Christian errantes, wayfarers who’ve lost their way, seduced by error, that they’ll get back on track; then it prays for all who are counted as belonging — censentur — to the Christian profession, that they may reject what goes against it and follow what pertains to it.

The Church, we read in Acts, was first known as ‘the Way’. To be a Christian is to be in movement. But that isn’t enough. We’ve got to move in the right direction. This requires constant reevaluation of the course I am taking, on my own or in company, in the light of Christ’s teaching and example. One false step easily leads to another. Not always on account of malice, but since sin has rewired our original sense of orientation.

We can be walking after Christ yet not follow him; we can be doing the right thing, but for the wrong reason — which, as Thomas Beckett says in Murder in the Cathedral, is ‘the greatest treason’.

In today’s Gospel Christ questions his followers’ motivation: ‘You are looking for me not because you have seen signs but because you have had all the bread you wanted’. ‘Signs’ in the Fourth Gospel are irruptions of the eternal in time; significant events that point beyond themselves, inviting us to lift up hearts and minds. A full belly is, well, just that.

We are challenged, then, to ask: Do I let myself be fully defined by inscription in the Christian census? Do I believe, in my circumstances here and now, in the one God has sent? Do I hunger, not just for lunch, but for the ‘food that endures to eternal life.’

Error, the loss of direction, may confer momentary thrills, but its long-term effect is frustration and sadness. It is worth being attentive to intimations of frustration and sadness. Should they occur, it is time to check the compass. Christ’s Pasch has restored joy to the world. Let us not settle for less than its fullness.

Deus, qui errantibus, ut in viam possint redire, veritatis tuae lumen ostendis, da cunctis qui christiana professione censentur, et illa respuere, quae huic inimica sunt nomini, et ea quae sunt apta sectari.


Image from the porch of the cathedral in Luxembourg: life going off course.