Genesis? The Lectionary pauses the Genesis readings until the first week in Lent.
Proverbs 1:20-8:36. Israeltended to view the people’s accumulated wisdom as one of God’s primary media of instruction, the priests and prophets being the other two (Jer 18:18; Ezek 7:26). While Proverbs is ascribed to Solomon (1:1), it likely received its definitive shape in the post-exilic period, when Persian and Hellenistic globalization threatened to make “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” a dated provincial opinion. So Proverbs focuses on the imagination; see the world this way: Dame Wisdom, God’s confidant, patiently and lovingly wooing all to pay patient attention, to trust—it’s by no means obvious—that “the upright will abide in the land, / and the innocent will remain in it; / but the wicked will be cut off from the land, / and the treacherous will be rooted out of it” (2:21-22). It’s an attempt to chart a course that doesn’t end in the ambiguities of Ecclesiastes (“all is vanity”) or the violence of the Maccabees. It ends up laying the groundwork for the Gospel of John’s account of the Word (logos) made flesh (Prov 8:22-31; Jn 1:1-18).
1 John 3:18-5:21. “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.” Amen.
If we wonder who the author meant by “one another,” scholars (predictably) differ, but, as noted before, “brothers and sisters” looks more likely, “brothers and sisters” in turn denoting those who share the belief described by the author. In NT usage, ‘brother’ and ‘neighbor’ do not appear to be interchangeable, and neither the Gospel of John nor the epistle speak of love of neighbor. What then? Enter Ignatius, who, at the beginning of the Spiritual Exercises writes “every good Christian ought to be more eager to put a good interpretation on a neighbor’s statement than to condemn it.” And if the “good interpretation” goes against the grain of the author’s evident intention? That’s the challenge the epistle poses for this reader.
Coming at this from another angle, here’s Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago: “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” It is easy to see the speck in the epistle’s eye…
John 11:17-12:26. The raising of Lazarus, the Council’s plotting, the anointing at Bethany, the triumphal entry, the Greeks’ petition: much to wonder about here. For example, “You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people…” After Lazarus’ raising, why does Caiaphas assume that Jesus is going to stay dead? “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Who and what needs to die? Reading John together with 1 John, and recalling Solzhenitsyn, it looks like all of us—including the Gospel writers—struggle to figure that out.