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Identity and relationship
In Vietnamese, the first-person singular pronoun does not exist as such. The “I” needs to be adjusted depending on the relationship with the person to whom one is speaking. I say “I” differently if I am addressing my mother or my sister. And this “I” is still different if my sister is younger or older than I am. This means that the identity of a person is expressed through his or her relationship with other people. In today’s Gospel, Jesus claimed his own identity, but at the same time he affirmed his relationship with the Father. For Jesus, it was not possible to show who he was if he did not remain united to his Father.
Jesus participated in the celebration of the feast of Tabernacles which was characterized by an abundance of lights. It was within this context that Jesus talked about his identity: “I am the light of the world.” Finding himself among a profusion of lights, Jesus claimed to be the true light. His personality was luminous as the light. His light was not only for the Jews, but also for the whole world. When people followed Jesus, the light par excellence, they escaped the darkness of the world.
It seems to be pretentious to claim to be the light of the world. For that pretension to be accepted, a witness was required. According to the Jewish law, a testimony was credible only when there were at least two witnesses. Jesus therefore could not witness to himself. But it was through this challenge that Jesus did something brilliant. He presented himself while talking about the Father. For him, his witness to himself was already a witness of two people because the Father and he were one: “I testify on my behalf and so does the Father who sent me.” Both the Father and the Son testified to Jesus’ identity. When Jesus witnessed to himself, he made known the mystery of the relationship between the Father and the Son. And he did the same when he judged.
Jesus’ judgment was countersigned by the Father: “my judgment is valid, because I am not alone, but it is I and the Father who sent me.” His judgment was reliable because it was not based on his own authority however great it was. His judging activity springs from his union with the Father. Those who did not believe in Jesus as the Sent One of God were already judged. The judgment occurred by itself when someone refused to admit the oneness between the Father and the Son.
As the light of the world, Jesus scatters the darkness of our lives. If we follow him in his footsteps, we are in the brightness of his light. We can be his light in our world if we cultivate our relationship with him and with his Father. We can avoid his judgment when we believe in his oneness with the Father. We can deepen our relationship with him when we participate in their oneness: We are in God and God is in us.
Prayer: God of relationship, help us to strengthen our identity through our participation in your unity.
Resolution: Find a way to develop my identity through my relationship with others.