Jean Vanier is the founder of l'Arche and co-founder of Faith and Light, communities with and for people with disabilities. He lives in Trosly-Breuil (France) in the first l'Ache community. In this visionary interpretation of the fourth Gospel, he shares with us the spiritual values he sees as central to Christianity. This paperback is the outgrowth of 25 talks on the Gospel of John in a series titled Knowing Eternity that was broadcast on Canada's Vision TV. As Vanier says: "The Gospel of John is like a mine of precious stones. I have extracted but a few; other people have extracted many more. And in the years to come, still other precious stones will be uncovered. There is such life and wisdom contained in this gospel that no one person can discover or hold on to it all."
The mystical element of the Fourth Gospel is Jesus and his call for his disciples to become one with him and one with the Father. Vanier sees this Jew from Nazareth as having a special mission:
He came to unveil lies, illusions and hypocrisy,
to give witness to the truth,
to lead people to the God of
compassion and forgiveness. He sends his disciples into
our world of pain and conflict to bridge the gap between
the powerful and the powerless
and between people of different cultures
and to reveal a way to universal peace.
Again and again in the Gospel of John, Jesus is an exemplar of unity, a person who courageously breaks down the barriers between people. In the story of his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, Vanier sees a way to approach people who are broken and wounded. Here love is demonstrated in deep listening and true communion.
In our time, a huge gap exists between the "haves" and the "have-nots." This is because our society favors the strong, the clever, and the beautiful and looks down on those who are weak and vulnerable. Yet Jesus finds solidarity with the outcasts and the downtrodden and in his act of washing the feet of his disciples shows that he identifies with those who do the dirty jobs, those who are viewed as losers and in last place. Vanier is convinced that there is a connection between the spiritual practice of unity and peace. He writes:
In order for peace to come in our world,
don't we have to come out from behind the walls we have created around our hearts
and around the group we belong to,
to discover the beauty and gifts of those who are different
and, together, discover our common humanity?
Jean Vanier is an inspirational writer who always brings us back to Jesus as the barrier breaker and the bridge builder. Jesus is the one who best demonstrates the ways in which we can lessen the gap between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots. Vanier's reading of the Gospel of John is radical since it goes to the roots and shows how love and forgiveness are the antidotes to a world of hateful separations and divisions. But the most powerful spiritual practice elucidated on these pages is unity, a pathmarker for peace.