Gospel John 10:1-10
I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full.
Sometimes it doesn’t really feel like this is the case. The Christian faith is so often as a straightjacket than a way of life characterised by fullness and freedom. Jesus’ statement here about having life and having it to the full follows what is a fairly stern admonition to abide by his way of doing things. It reads something like a ‘do it my way or else…’ type of reading, with the bit about ‘life to the full’ just thrown in so things don’t sound too harsh.
It seems though, that the fullness of life of which Jesus speaks, is a fullness that is, in a very particular sense, beyond what we can conceive of – it far exceeds our own expectations and hopes.
We often think that a full life is characterised by a freedom that is characterised by doing whatever I feel like, whenever I feel like doing it. When we live like this though we know that, in the end, we remain unsatisfied. We only really feel free when our desires are fully satisfied. Our desires are endless and our desire to love and to be loved is infinite. This is what St Augustine referred to as the restless heart, which cannot rest until it rests in the infinite love of God (Confessions 1.1).
Fr Luigi Giussani wrote that ‘If freedom is the experience of satisfaction, of completeness, then this completeness, this satisfaction, in its total acceptance, comes about in relationship with the Mystery, with the infinite’ (p. 66). Here it all begins to make sense. Jesus, explaining why he has come says, ‘I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full.’ He came to complete our freedom – to offer us completeness through a relationship with him.
This circumvents and corrects a moralistic reading of the Christian faith and places it squarely back into the realm of relationship – a relationship which gives life. As Pope Benedict wrote,‘[b]eing Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.’ (DCE,1)