SALT LAKE CITY — At Lent many Catholics strive to deepen their connection with God and look for ways to make that possible. One chance to do that this year is a six-week study presented by Dr. Brandon Peterson, who will delve into the Gospel of John and the richness it offers.
“Ever since I was a college student, the Gospel of John has always been my favorite of the Gospels,” Peterson said. “They all present wonderful portraits of Jesus, and there’s always so much that you can learn from all of them. But there’s something that captivates me about the imagery in the poetry, the symbolism that’s operative in the Gospel of John that I’ve always found really powerful.”
Some biblical scholars believe that John’s gospel is the most literary of the four but that the synoptics, Matthew, Mark and Luke, are more reliable for historical information. Peterson disputes this perspective. He cites the arguments of the late Biblical scholar Father John Meyer as a valuable viewpoint on this subject.
“Meyer challenged that narrative and said there’s a lot that we can learn from John, that it has a lot of historical value that we can mine from it as well,” Peterson said. “And his own theory is that the person writing this gospel was somebody who encountered Jesus over a period of several years.”
Peterson said he thinks Meyer argued convincingly “that what we’re hearing is an account of the interactions with Jesus from this disciple around Jerusalem over a period of several years. So there are unique stories that occur in John that we don’t really see in the synoptics, and I think there’s something really valuable there, a lot of really rich, symbolic detail. There are also stories about Jesus that offer a unique portrait that we don’t see in other gospels.”
Lent is an ideal time for Catholics to embark on a study series like this one, Peterson said. “I think what Lent is really about is looking at our own lives and finding ways that we can turn toward Jesus and, ultimately, God the Father, and have this close relationship.”
The study series also complements the Eucharistic Revival going on in the Church, he said. “There’s no institution narrative in John like you see in the synoptics. There’s a foot-washing narrative rather than the institution [of the Last Supper and the Eucharist], but there’s still major Eucharistic overtones that occur in John, especially in the sixth chapter, where he’s saying, ‘Unless you eat my body and drink my blood, you won’t have life within you.’”
Peterson is an assistant professor at the University of Utah, teaching topics in religious studies for the Department of World Languages and Cultures. A Cathedral of the Madeleine parishioner, he received a Ph.D. in systematic theology from the University of Notre Dame in 2015. He has taught courses on world religions, Jewish-Christian relations, Christology, methodology in religious studies, medieval Christian thought, modern Christian thought, ancient Christian thought, the Bible and early Christianity, the ancient world, Catholicism and ecclesiology. Peterson also is a member of The Madeleine Choir School Board and an MCS parent.
This is the fifth year a Lenten study series has been offered for the school community and the wider local Catholic population.
“We want to be a whole educational institution, not just providing these opportunities for the young people in the school, but also for their parents and those in other parishes and the larger community,” Gregory Glenn, the school’s pastoral administrator, said. “It is an opportunity to expand our educational mission.”
“Lent is a time when many people feel the need to hunker down and reflect on their life and the life of the Church, so we offer these courses as a way to facilitate that for people and give them the opportunity to engage in a Lenten study,” he added.
WHAT: Lenten study series
WHEN: Tuesdays, Feb. 20 to March 26, 7:30-8:30 p.m. each night
WHERE: The Madeleine Choir School, 205 1st Ave., SLC
Free and open to everyone. Sign up at https://forms.gle/DtFBzBDmUmxX4NG58. Visit UTMCS.org for information.