Under the net

Long before the net, as we know it – the seemingly infinite connections we can now make with each other and with knowledge past and present – Iris Murdoch, an English novelist, wrote a book, Under the Net. The idea for the title seems to be that under the complex web of human relationships there is the individual searching for her or his identity or true self.

open_bibleThe main character of the book becomes involved in this seemingly never ending but elusive search: “one does make far too many concessions to the need to communicate … All the time I speak to you, even now, I’m saying not precisely what I think, but what will impress you and make you respond. That’s so even between us – and how much more it’s so when there are stronger motives for deception. In fact one’s so used to this one hardly sees it. The whole language is a machine for making falsehoods.” (p 59).

In the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery in John, chapter 8, we know that “the scribes and Pharisees” used the woman to trap Jesus. Their words show they had zero interest in helping the woman. They were bound up in their complex web of conventions and traditions which served them to support their privileged position in society and they were alert to any threat that would disturb it. But to their chagrin and confusion Jesus cuts a way through all their expectations and compulsive traditions and turns the whole question around, “Which of you has not sinned?” This had happened before when God cut a way though the Red Sea for the Israelites; a metaphor for cutting through all the bonds of culture and tradition, fashion and convention, flattery and deception that bind us and prevent us coming to truth.

When I think of myself, or anyone I know reasonably well, I find we are part of a complex network, caught up in compulsions, expectations and “proper procedures”. We say we are free but we also know we are as conditioned as a rabbit before a leaf of lettuce. We seem to have no choice. Though in our heart we know we are not like the rabbit, in practice we have something in common with it.

Jesus’ compassion for the woman cuts a path through her life. She can rise up and “go on her way and sin no more.” The Paschal Mystery of Holy Week cuts such a path for each of us. We can get out from under the net – both the internet and the personal net I have woven for myself over a lifetime of choices. The closer we come to Jesus in his Passion the clearer our life appears to us. And this clarity opens up a path we can follow “along the way” (Mark 10:52).

12 March 2016                        Sunday 5C in Lent

Isaiah 43:16-21                       Phil 3:8-14                               John 8:1-11

Post published in: Faith

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