A Peek Behind the Veil

The word “revelation” has its roots in a Latin word (revelatio) which means “to draw back” (re-) the “veil” (velum). Often we associate this word with the person who has gained knowledge. He or she has discovered something which was always present but unknown; like a tropical island or a chemical element. But what distinguishes a revelation from a discovery is that the latter can be made according to one’s own powers. The discoverer is the active agent in the process of detection. A revelation, on the other hand, needs to be given. It is the giver who is the active agent, who lifts the veil, and who allows the receiver to accept or reject what has been shown.

In today’s Gospel (Jn 10:27-30), Jesus offers his followers a revelation concerning his true identity. His disciples could not have “discovered” this on their own, nor are they compelled to believe what has been revealed. “The Father and I,” Jesus says, “are one” (Jn 10:30). It is difficult to describe, in both scope and depth, what this one little sentence must have inspired – or perhaps incited – among the Jesus’ Jewish audience. The Gospel states that at least some persons who were present “picked up rocks to stone him” (Jn 10:31). Indeed, to an audience accustomed to praying the Shema – “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone!” (Dt 6:4) – this statement would approach the height of self-aggrandizing sacrilege. But Jesus neither recoils at the threat of stoning, nor demurs from the accusation of blasphemy. Rather, he confirms his previous statement by adding that “the Father is in me and I am in the Father” (Jn 10:38). In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives his disciples, if you will, a “peek behind the veil”; a glimpse of his identity which will only be known after his Resurrection and through the gift of the Spirit.

Christ Pancrator

Christ Pantocrator (mid-6th cen.) St. Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai

This revelation of Christ’s personhood is not a matter of abstract dogma, or of learning a fact like so much other data available to us in this “Information Age.” The demons “know” that Jesus Christ is Lord (e.g., Mk 1:24), and yet they revile him. Jesus’ mission of salvation is an embrace of the human person. He conquered death so that we might come to him and receive new life. As St. Paul writes: “the Son of God…has loved me and given himself up for me” (Gal 2:20; emphasis added). Nothing could be of greater importance for me, for my present life and eternal destiny, then Christ’s true identity. For if he and the Father are one, if he has conquered death, and if I am united to him as member of his body, then I too can proclaim: “Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:54-55; cf. Hos 13:14).

Anthony Coleman teaches theology for Saint Joseph’s College Online.

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