You had to be there

The Feast of Pentecost
Year C
John 14:8127

"You had to be there!"

It’s what people say to you who believe that the personal experience of something is everything and they aren't really able to describe it adequately.  Such statements sometimes make me doubt whether the fact being related is really true.  If you can't explain it to me, maybe it was a figment of your imagination or of your emotions or those of a group gone wild.  On such a subjective basis hangs every adolescent ghost story which has ever been told.

Should not men and women, rather, be presented with a narrative which is comprehensible  and objective enough to be believed even if they weren't there themselves?  Should our statements not be equally convincing to a believer or a doubter?

What do we make, then, of Jesus' words: "This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him."

Jesus would seem to suggest that there is such a thing as truth which must be experienced and not merely talked about, dissected and laid out in propositions.   

We are not without some experience of that.  The love we have for the humans who are closest to us – fierce, protective and forgiving – does not require a case to be made.  The dreams which motivate us are not always explicable  - we find ourselves moved by deep things which defy clear explanation.

A case can always be made.  The Christian faith needs to be presented comprehensibly to the world.  But when you are explaining it you are talking about something you tasted for yourself first and experienced as mystery and paradox.  You felt it before you could talk about it – because you were, in fact, there yourself.

Popular posts