“Where angels fear to tread”…John and Contemplation

5 he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. [1] Jn 20:5

The savoring of meditation, of contemplation.  The drawing out of both the meaning and the experience.  Was this hesitation or the recognition, the respect of juniors to elders, of followers to leaders, of John to his cousin, Peter who was in charge.

It is said that fools rush in where angels fear to tread.  We often attribute greater wisdom to caution.  But in this case, was there a threat that warranted caution; yes, at least a mystery.  The “they” to whom Magdalene referred, the Romans, the Jews, all who had conspired to kill Jesus, were still about, still had enmity toward his followers, still had plots to at least kill Lazarus.

Where is such prudence warranted in my life? Absolutely. Not that I say this because of need, for I have learned, in whatever situation I find myself, to be self-sufficient.…I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me. [Phil 4:11,13] This is a perfect time to express trust in the Lord.  But prudence combines timing with trust, it weighs all the aspects, reviews the entire picture and then makes a decision.  Contemplation allows you the perspective, the ability to step away, step back and consider…and observe.  As John does here.  He bends down, saw the burial cloths, but does not go it.  He was absorbing the enormity, the reality of what he saw; he was processing the present and incorporating it with the knowledge of the past.

The past…“Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee,…his words. [Lk 24:6-8] The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. [Mk 8:31]  Three times he told us…and rise after three days…

The past…“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” How to reconcile that with his comment on our admiration of the temple: “Look, teacher, what stones and what buildings!” Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be one stone left upon another that will not be thrown down.” [Mk 13: 1-2]…Was he speaking about the temple of his body? [Jn 2:19-21]

Contemplation…the pause that refreshes, renews, realigns our perspective, reevaluates our decisions, reconfirms our commitment, reestablishes our priorities, regenerates our enthusiasm…

John did not reach the answer immediately, but he will…as he later wrote: Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.[Jn 2:22]  Amen.  Alleluia!!!

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.


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