For some Bible readers, John’s Gospel is full of gibberish: “…The Father is in Me and I am in the Father (John 10)…you are in Me just as I am in the Father and the Father is in Me…The Father and I are one (John 14)…I am the vine and you are the branches…Live in me and I in you (John 15)…You, Father, are in Me and I am in You…We are one…and I am in them as You are in Me, that they may be perfectly one (John 17).”
The obvious pervasive theme here is that we are united with God and one another in and through Christ. It is easy for believers to concede that God knows us better than we know ourselves; and as well as we know ourselves, we don’t know ourselves all that well but God, the One who created us and is inseparable from us, knows us beyond our ability to know. And He is one with us in a more intimate way than we can possibly grasp. More goobledygook?
A decade ago, many of us read Neale D. Walsch’s, Conversations with God, as well as his follow-up writings about communication with The Lord. The author contends that, during a difficult period in his life, he prayed for divine answers to eternal questions and personal quandaries. While praying, he heard a voice ask him, “Do you really want to know?” and with an intrepid affirmative internal response he began getting replies that he shared through his publications. Though it may all be just his imagination, the dialogue made sense to him as a divine reply to his human request. Whenever heavenly messages are given to saints, like Faustina Kowalska, Margaret Mary Alacoque, or Joan of Arc (or to kooks who claim that God speaks to them), personal revelation is personal—no one else is bound to it. In George Bernard Shaw’s account of Saint Joan, she tells her spiritual director: “I hear voices—God speaks to me.” He responds by saying, “Joan, that’s not God, that’s your imagination,” to which she retorts, “Of course it is. How else do you think God would speak to us?”
When Walsch questions God about such mysteries as incarnation, coming from God and returning to God, reincarnation, and connections between humanity and divinity—past, present, and future—God tells him that many souls have been around for a long time and are connected to other times and cultures, as well as to God’s heavenly dimension. Many of our soulful selves, then, can relate to various people, societies, and ways of life of which we have no known experience. Sometimes we speak of particularly insightful or compassionate people and say, “They have an old soul.” God essentially tells Walsch that souls are planted within us by God at our birth and some of those souls have existed for a while—an inconceivably immeasurable while. They came from God and returned to God. If he is right and if you possess an old soul, you have broad insights and a priori understanding that connect you: e.g., you have been rich and you have been poor. You have been a slave and a slave owner, male and female, gay and straight, a victim and a persecutor, powerful and powerless. You have been black and you have been white, a Jew and a Muslim, a monarch and a pauper, an intellect and an idiot, beautiful and ugly, the center of praise and an outcast. If you have been all of these people, because the soul planted within you preexisted in the mystery of God’s oneness with humanity, wouldn’t we naturally treat each other with more empathy and compassion?
Whether there is any validity to Walsch’s claim, I believe that we are all part of a mysterious oneness: I in you, you in me, me in them, them in us, God in us, and we in God. God is the root, the core, the vine, and we branch out from His divine source, infinitely connected. As we approach our annual ecclesial commemoration of the Days of the Dead (All Hallows Eve, All Saints Day, All Souls Day), it may be of value for us to reflect upon our connection with God and one another. For we are also intimately connected to souls that now share eternal grace in the kingdom of heaven, those enduring purgation and purification, and those like us that are making our way from this world into God’s glory.