Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’ They answered him, ‘We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever.” (Jn 8: 31-35)

So it’s not enough, to be “descendants of Abraham.” It’s not enough for true discipleship and true freedom, externally to belong to God’s chosen people. Just as today it is not enough, for me externally to belong to the Church of the Fathers, merely repeating their words. I must “continue,” as the Lord reminds us here, “in” His word, internalizing it in my own context, so that I may “know the truth,” which makes us “truly His disciples.” But if I smugly engage in what Fr. George Florovsky called “a theology of repetition,” I am bound to “miss the mark,” that is, commit “sin” or “amartia” in Greek, which means “missing the mark.”

As the Holy and Great Council nears, many of us are tempted to focus on our exclusivity as “Church,” focusing on this one word, as if true discipleship depended on being “descendents of” our great Tradition. This focus tempts us to “miss the mark” of brotherly love, compassion, and conciliarity, enslaving us to perpetual disunity. So let me be reminded of another word of our Lord today, and let me “continue” in it, as He liberates me toward true discipleship: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Jn 13: 35)

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