Re the Daily Office Readings August 21 Anno Domini 2020

Photo by Leiliane Fagundes

The Lessons: Job 2:1-13; Acts 9:1-9; John 6:27-40

The second appearance of “the accuser” (haśśāṭān) gives us an opportunity to recalibrate our use of words like ‘satanic’. Our culture tends to use ‘satanic’ for a narrow range of behaviors, explicit worship of the devil, unrestrained cruelty or unrestrained indulgence in the so-called “sins of the flesh.” This is convenient, for what the accuser is about is seeing the worst in people, promoting the most negative interpretation of their actions. (“Job’s ‘blameless and upright’ only for what he gets out of it!”) So the ‘satanic’ is properly the demeaning of individuals or groups, encouraging us to write them off as too bad, dangerous, lazy, etc.

This is not to encourage more frequent use of ‘satanic’—our political discourse is toxic enough already. It is to recognize the satanic as a temptation for “us” as well as “them.” Racism, for example, is satanic. Critique of those involved in racist behavior becomes satanic when it dehumanizes those critiqued. Satan has many ways of winning.

John: Jesus’ use of the bread metaphor is striking. Jesus: the Bread of life. The metaphor by itself puts the onus on us: we eat, or not. So Jesus steps out of the metaphor: “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away… And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me.” Jesus will guard all who come to him (the Good Shepherd metaphor of John 10 resonating here). The Father gave manna; the Father gives Jesus; Jesus’ love is as active as the Father’s. This is good news for those of us whose response to Jesus often leaves so much to be desired.

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