Thursday, 9 May 2019

ST. JOHN 8:19


                                                                 

So they said to Him, “Where is Your father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither Me nor My Father. If you knew Me, you would know My Father also.” [v.19]

Questions such as asking about Jesus’ father are not posed by the Pharisees as a sincere seeking of faith, nor to discern if Jesus is indeed the Messiah and then become His disciples. This is a type of seeking yet another way to reject Him. Thus, Jesus calls them on it by asserting their wilful ignorance, even though they frequently claim to be well versed in the prophecies about the Messiah. Also, Jesus is asserting anew the truth that in the reality of the Holy Trinity He and the Father are indeed one, therefore, to know the Father is to know Jesus, to know Jesus is to know the Father.

He spoke these words while teaching in the treasury in the temple area. But no one arrested Him, because His hour had not yet come. [v.20]

It may be difficult to imagine Jesus in the treasury of the temple, given St. John has already told us [2:13ff] of Jesus’ attitude towards the money changes. However, the treasury was different in the sense that besides being the place where gifts were brought for the upkeep of the temple, donations to the poor, it was also that area of the temple where the women came to worship.

It was from the monies in the treasury the leaders would take the thirty pieces of silver to pay Judas to betray Christ [Mt. 26:15].

Once again St. John references the ‘hour’ and the powerlessness of Christ’s enemies until His hour arrives.

Jesus’ first mention of His hour is in John 2:4; Mark 14:35 gives us Jesus’ cry to the Father that the hour might pass, yet Jesus submits to the will of the Father; Matthew 26:45 recounts Jesus immediately after His agony in the Garden telling His apostles that it is the hour. When they are arresting Jesus He defines ‘the hour’ as:  “…..your hour, the time for the power of darkness.” [Lk.22:53].

To truly enter into the fullness of the mystery of the hour Jesus speaks of it is important to humbly accept the fact we human beings, indeed we the baptized, have a very poor appreciation of the gift of time, its sacred importance, because we have for millennia tried, and still try, to parse and control time.

Time is salvation history, most importantly for we the baptized called to live in the rhythm and depths of the liturgy and within the liturgical year, Kairos, which means every moment, is the opportune moment of grace.

Only if we live in the deep reality of Kairos, within Chronos, that is chronological time as the world determines it, will we be able to understand, and peacefully embrace, the taking up daily of the necessary cross of living in, but not of, the world: I gave them Your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that You take them out of the world but that You keep them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate Myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth. [17:14-19]

Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world. Yet the world and its enticement are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever. [1 Jn. 2:15-17]

From the moment the Most Holy Trinity created all and everyone that has been, is, will be, Kairos is the reality of time and chronos is the aberration, the disruption of time, since original sin.

Jesus’ hour begins and ends with the beginning of creation, enters chronological time visibly with His Incarnation, thus His hour has within it specific ‘events’. In His Ascension He takes chronological time as we experience it in salvation history, into the heart of the Trinity, thus redeeming, sanctifying time: “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “the one who is and who was and who is to come, the almighty.” [Rv. 1:8]

In the Roman Liturgy the Paschal Candle is blessed by the priest who, with a knife, cuts into the wax the sign of the Cross, cutting at the top of the cross the word Alpha and at the bottom the word Omega, and then also the numerals, to the left and right, above and below the arm of the cross the millennium, century, decade, year, while praying: Christ yesterday and today the Beginning and the End, Alpha and Omega, His are the times and ages, To Him be glory and dominion, Through all ages and forever. Amen.

This is Kairos, lived in chronos.

We do ourselves, indeed the entire human family for whom we are baptized to be witnesses of Christ and of the Holy Gospel lived without compromise, no favours and in a sense frustrate the Holy Spirit in His sanctifying activity, if we approach the Divine Liturgy, approach for Holy Communion, or any Sacrament, listen to the proclamation of the Holy Gospel during Liturgy, as observers rather than active participants in Christ’s every unfolding hour.

True most of us at such times as those noted above may be prone to distractions because we are wounded by the pressures of chronological time, so we must ask the Holy Spirit for the gift of attentiveness.

Every moment is grace-gift, a gift not to be wasted. Every season is grace-gift, most fully each liturgical season in which we are given the opportunity to participate, to be nourished, strengthened for the ‘time’ we needs spend in the world without being of it.

There is a translucent aspect to entering any moment, any hour, almost as if time moves towards, embraces and then washes over us.

While in a narrow sense we may say everyone has an awareness of chronological time, such as it is time to go to work, to sleep, whatever, the experience of time is as unique as the person who experiences it. Two people sitting in time on a park bench and one feels the time is passing quickly, the other that time is just creeping along, yet the third person standing there with a watch sees only a specific recorded amount of time has passed.

Returning to St. John’s use of the word ‘hour’ in the life and words of Jesus, this hour rooted in Kairos, experienced in chronology is an experience of transition, of threshold crossing, reminds us that Jesus dwells in, and through baptism we are invited to dwell in, the translucent, shimmering light of the proverbial ‘thin places’, so sought after by Medieval Irish monks.

These places are thin/translucent not because of any physical or material phenomenon but because in such a place the veil between this visible world of chronological time, of history moving towards the end of time, is also, as it were, lifted, experientially perhaps only for a moment, liturgically and always within the reality of baptism, is ever present should we be still enough, forget self and our worries enough, and enter into the garden enclosed in our souls to commune, in love and attentive dialogue with the Most Holy Trinity.

Perhaps the most dramatic affirmation of the above is when the Holy Doors are flung open and left open through the Holy Pascha season revealing the reality and purpose of time, pilgrimage into the eternal Kairos of dwelling within the light and love, the Holy Trinity, God.

Jesus assures us that He is true Light and if we follow Him life within us becomes light, thus we can say Kairos is our true place in time: Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” [v. 12]

With this tremendous gift of faith and discipleship, of true light and life, poured into us at Baptism comes the duty to live out Christ’s command….. your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. [Mt. 5:16]

It was Tertullian, living during the paganism of his time, who noted how the same pagan society, seeing the Christians in their midst exclaimed: ‘See how they love one another.’

We too live in an, if not pagan, certainly a secular society. How many of our contemporaries say to one another of we Christians: “Look how they love one another!”?

Every time we love others as Christ loves us, every time we, as humble servants, care for another human being, forgive our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, every time we are silent in prayer, attentive during Liturgy, humbly confess our sins, approach and receive Holy Communion, every moment we struggle to be faithful to our, included in our foundational baptismal vocation, the specific adjunct vocation the Holy Spirit has brought us to, that is when we are within the thin place, the translucent place, participating in every dimension of Jesus’ Hour.


© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph




Monday, 29 April 2019

ST. JOHN 8:12-18


                                                              



It is Saturday, in the West the Octave of His Glorious Resurrection, so we continue to pray in the Roman Canon: …..celebrating this most sacred day…..and in the East this is Bright Saturday. This morning, there is a heavy spring snowstorm. The light reflecting off the new fallen snow makes is bright indeed, while our brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka bear the burden of such danger all Holy Masses, including for Divine Mercy Sunday, have been canceled.

We experience the power of created light overcoming darkness because the moon and stars illumine the night. Human ingenuity over the millennia – from fire to oil lamps to gaslights to electric lights, along the streets, in homes, fractures the darkness.

All those: sun, moon, stars, human made sources of light, are as feeble and as translucent as a single drop of water.

The True Light, the Real Light, the Powerful Light, uncreated, always existing, always ‘is’: infinite of infinite, translucent, as solid as rock.

Light as we experience it is a result of something which still eludes physicists. The theory is light comes from created energy know on electromagnetic spectrum and photons, known also as light quantum. Man-made sources of light are as numerous as that radiating from a camp fire to electricity firing up a light bulb. Light, not having mass per se has no weight!

Only one Light, the real Light, is not composed of anything, has not, for want of a better expression an ‘external’ source, but simply IS, and is not as a ‘something’, but as SOMEONE, God, the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

Thus we pray in the Nicene Creed:…..God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God. St. John in his Prologue, speaking of Jesus, affirms the truth that: What came to be through Him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. [Jn. 1:3-5]

In Genesis 1:3,4:….. God said: Let there be light, and there was light. God saw that the light was good. God then separated the light from the darkness.

It is critical we never forget we have been created to dwell in light, not darkness.

In hell there is no light.

Satan does not radiate light; he only brings darkness. Which is why St. John specifically notes, as Judas leaves the Last supper to do his dark deed: And it was night. [13.30] Satan cannot enlighten anyone. He only darkens.

Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” [v.12]

During the Exodus the chosen people were led, illumined, at night, by the pillar of fire. During the feast of the Tabernacles in the temple, huge candelabra were lit to remind the people of God as light, their, and yes our, light. During the time Simeon held Jesus, held Light Himself, in his arms, Simeon prophesied that Jesus would become a light to the entire world. [cf. Lk. 2:32].

Commenting that Jesus declared Himself, while in the ‘full glare’ of the burning candelabra, to be the light of the world, the Ven. Archbishop Sheen also notes that: He who was standing in the temple in which the lights were gradually dimming proclaimed Himself the Light of the World….He affirmed that He is the Glory and the Light of that Temple. He was declaring Himself more necessary for the life of souls than the light of the sun is for the life of our body. It was not His doctrine, nor His law, nor His commandments, nor His teaching, that constituted this light; it was His Person. [cf. Life of Christ, Fulton J. Sheen, pp.179/80; Image Books, 1990].

Essential to experiencing the life-giving power of Christ as Light is to follow Him, be His disciple.

It is a matter not only of ascent of our wills saying Jesus is our Light, but of the daily nitty-gritty of choosing, through living the Gospel with our lives without compromise, to walk only in the light of Christ, following in His footsteps.

Deviation from such following, stepping off the illumined path, is to choose to walk in darkness.

A most hazardous choice which can imperil our very souls, risking our plunging into the abyss of an eternity of dark fire.

So the Pharisees said to him, “You testify on Your own behalf, so Your testimony cannot be verified.” [v.13]

It is indeed pathetic that these men who claimed to be experts in the Scripture, certainly they knew the law about two witnesses, [cf. Deut. 17:6], deliberately, consistently close their hearts to everything in the Scriptures pointing to the Messiah, to Jesus Himself.

It is also the choice, right there in the presence of the Life-Giving Light Himself, to stay in the cold darkness of pride and hate.

What also leaps from this encounter is Christ’s patience with them, patience which flows from His merciful and loving Heart:  Jesus answered and said to them, “Even if I do testify on My own behalf, My testimony can be verified, because I know where I came from and where I am going. [v.14]

Just as the illuminating and comforting pillar of fire led the Chosen People through the desert, so the Hebrew Scriptures were an illumination about the promised Redeemer, which is precisely why Jesus can speak truth to the Pharisees that indeed His testimony can be verified.

A profound truth in Jesus’s assertion He knows where He came from and where He is going, is a type of ‘I am’ statement, for every time Jesus says ‘I am’ He is affirming His divinity.

Likely it shook the Pharisees to the very core, yet that core, i.e. their consciences, was engulfed in the clammy darkness of refusing not only light, but Light Himself.

But you do not know where I come from or where I am going. [14.cont.]

In the Roman Rite for the ordination of a deacon there is a point where the bishop hands the deacon a copy of the Holy Gospels and, as the ordinand and bishop both hold the book at the same time the bishop, among other words says: Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.

If the Pharisees truly believed what they read, taught only what they believed, and lived what they preached, Jesus would not have had to constantly challenge their lack of fidelity to the very faith and Scriptures they constantly asserted they knew better than anyone.

You judge by appearances, but I do not judge anyone. [v.15] Since St. John began this section with the reference of Jesus speaking ‘to them again’, it may well be that some of them would have known the truth that Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in adultery. Perhaps they had been there, left and then come to the Temple.

And even if I should judge, My judgment is valid, because I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me. [v.16]

Real judgement of human beings, in the reality of salvation, is of the Divine. Jesus asserts His judgement is valid because it is enacted in union with the Father. Each Person of the Holy Trinity is distinct, yet not, in the poverty of human language, ‘separate’, but mysteriously one as God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit. This is the mystery of One God, Three Divine Persons. Every divine act is Trinitarian.

Again, the ‘I am’ is a statement of the other great mystery of faith: the Incarnation, that is the one person Jesus, within whom co-exist the two natures: the Divine and the human. Jesus here is urging His hearers to embrace the truth that as man, He does not judge, but as God He rightly does so. Also, Jesus is once again referencing the Law about witnesses: Even in your law it is written that the testimony of two men can be verified. I testify on My behalf and so does the Father who sent Me.” [vs. 17,18]

Once more our Most Gracious Lord, the patient one, the Teacher, is giving them the opportunity to step out of the darkness into the light.



© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph


Sunday, 21 April 2019

ST. JOHN 8:10,11


                                                             

While every Sunday is a ‘Little Easter’, today is Pascha, the day of Jesus’ Holy Resurrection, the day, in matins of the Orthodox, the Eastern lung of the Church – for we must always breathe with both the Eastern and Western lungs of the Church – we pray: It is the day of the Resurrection, let us be radiant for the feast, and let us embrace one another. Let us say, Brothers, even to those who hate us, let us forgive all things on the Resurrection, and thus let us cry out: Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs lavishing life.

With the Sequence in Holy Mass this morning the Church in the West proclaims: Christ the just one paid the price, reconciling sinners to the Father.

Not every human being is baptized, filled with the radiance of Christ Risen. We who are, are mandated by baptism to radiate Christ to everyone.

Billions of our brothers and sisters, some unknowingly, are still on a hungry journey in search of Christ our life.

Some, however, perhaps in ignorance, perhaps not, give themselves over to the cold, hate-filled darkness of satan, and horrific acts of evil against other human beings result.

No one except Christ is able see with pure eyes into the heart of someone else. We can only observe objectively that such and such an act is an evil act.

Referring to the violent terrorist attack against people participating in Easter Mass in two Catholic Churches, Sunday service in an Evangelical Church, vacationing in three hotels, all this in Sri Lanka, with hundreds dead and injured, Pope Francis condemned the violence and added: “Before the many sufferings of our time, may the Lord of life not find us cold and indifferent,….May He make us builders of bridges, not walls.“

One may well ask what is the connection between all the above and Jesus with the Woman caught in adultery?

There is a similarity between the hatred of those who accused her, were seeking to kill Jesus, and what lurks in the heart of every perpetrator of terrorism.

Those who are incapable of repentance for their own sins are not only incapable of reconciliation with other human beings, but the poison of self-hatred, which renders repentance impossible, keeps us in a bondage which hobbles the ability to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and thus to live out the Great Commandment: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind…….You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” [22:37-39]

Another connection flows from the Resurrection of Jesus and the encounter in the Garden of the Resurrection, between Jesus Risen and another, formerly adulterous, repentant woman: ……she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”  She thought it was the gardener and said to Him, “Sir, if you carried Him away, tell me where you laid Him, and I will take Him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. [cf. Jn. 20: 1-18]

Only by encountering the Risen Christ, not simply in baptism but through lives that strive to be peaceful, holy, without sin, and attentively gazing upon Jesus the Beloved, who never takes His loving eyes away from us, will we then hear Him speak our name, and at that moment our eyes become open to see Him, yes to see ourselves as a real person created in the image and likeness of God.

Without such hearing, and accepting, without such seeing and surrendering to His loving embrace, we remain strangers to ourselves, split, bent towards self, through sin walking, as it were, beside ourselves, and every other human being is as unrecognizable to us as all the creatures paraded before Adam until the Lord put him to sleep and when Adam awoke he opened his eyes, was able to see one like himself.

Only when we recognize every other human being as one like ourselves are, we able to love one another, forgive one another, to see our real self, repent and forgive ourselves.

It is to experience the immense grace, so long as we live on this earth, in each moment to begin again: for His merciful love, His Divine Mercy, His radiant-healing Beauty shines upon us in every moment.

This Risen Jesus, though not yet having suffered, died, risen, is the very Jesus present to the woman and it is no accident how St. John phrases the beginning of verse 10: When Jesus had raised Himself up…..

Jesus, loving this deeply hurt, embarrassed, frightened human being spoke “Woman” with tenderness, love, respect, the way we should speak the name of any person or group for everyone is a brother, a sister, even if we have not , or will never, on this earth, meet them face to face.

V. 10 cont.: ….and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

Jesus knew full well where they were, like most predators in the animal kingdom, and most human beings given over to crime, hiding away from daylight, more deeply, trying to hide away from Christ our Light, from whom no one can hide.

Jesus is comforting this frightened woman through His question assuring her she is now safe from harm.

She replied, “No one, sir.” [v.11]

We, through baptism, have the power to lift the burden of condemnation off the backs of those who sin against us by being Christ-like forgivers of others.

Imagine the relief beginning to pour into this woman’s life as she realized those who had condemned her and were prepared to murder her were gone!

V.11 cont.: Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”

While it is true, as sung in this morning’s Holy Mass in the sequence: Christ the just one paid the price, reconciling sinners to the Father., to participate in this reconciliation we must have truly contrite and repentant hearts, compassionate and forgiving hearts for others AND avoid further sin.

That latter may seem as a sort of moving horizon goal for most of us, nonetheless it is something which, constantly asking the help of the Most Holy Spirit, we must always work towards and if we fall then go to, rejoice in, the grace of sacramental confession-reconciliation, resuming the journey in the Light of, and walking with, Jesus Risen.

Walking with open, humble, honest, yes often with wounded, confused hearts, with Jesus Risen, like the Emmaus disciples we within, the journey, when He speaks and enlightens all we have spoken of, encounter Jesus glorified in the Holy Eucharist wherein He feeds and strengthen us with Himself.

The more we strive to be faithful disciples the more we will radiate the Light of Christ Risen and the less hatred and violence there will be within the human family.



© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph


Thursday, 18 April 2019

ST. JOHN 7:53-8:9


                                                             

And everyone went to his own house. [7:53] There is a suddenness to this simple line. Clearly after the long back and forth between Jesus and the crowd, the crowd amongst it self, they were either exhausted and out of argument, or perhaps simply having much to ponder, either way it is a rather abrupt moment. It also is reminiscent of St. Luke’s words after Christ has died on the cross: When all the people who had gathered for this spectacle saw what had happened, they returned home beating their breasts…..[23:48]

This evening we cross the threshold into Holy Week and, revealing his profound understanding of Divine Mercy, which we are about to witness in chapter 8 of the Holy Gospel according to St. John, St. Gregory Nazianzen urges us: If you are a Simon of Cyrene, take up your cross and follow Christ. If you are crucified beside Him like one of the thieves, now, like a good thief, acknowledge your God. For your sake, and because of your sin, Christ Himself was regarded as a sinner; for His sake, therefore you must cease to sin.

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. [8:1]

The very name of the place, Mount of Olives, refers to a place which is an important one in salvation history: As David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, he wept without ceasing. [2 Sam.15:30]; On that day God’s feet will stand on the Mount of Olives….[Zec.14:4]; When they drew near Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives…[Mt.21:1]; As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples approached Him privately and said, “Tell us, when will this happen, and what sign will there be of your coming, and of the end of the age?” [Mt.24:3]; As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple area…[Mk. 13:3]; As He drew near to Bethphage and Bethany at the place called the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples.[Lk.19:29]; During the day, Jesus was teaching in the temple area, but at night He would leave and stay at the place called the Mount of Olives.[Lk.21:37]; Then going out He went, as was His custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed Him. [Lk.22:39] Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. [Acts 1:12]

The above passages link the Mount with the promises of a Redeemer, Jesus, and with the constant communion in love and prayer between Jesus and the Father, the entry into Jerusalem the week of His Passion, the place of the agony in the Garden and the Ascension of Jesus. But early in the morning He arrived again in the temple area, and all the people started coming to Him, and He sat down and taught them. [v.2]

There is here a statement of both ordinariness in the life of Jesus and of fearlessness. He knew the Pharisees hated Him, were constantly seeking ways to trap Him that they might eventually kill Him. St. John now presents us with one of these traps, particularly vile because the evil men use a vulnerable human being, a woman, to set the trap.

Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and

made her stand in the middle. [v.3]

How could they have possibly caught her? Clearly either she was a known prostitute and they had the police arrest her, or some neighbour spied upon her, or some wife whose husband was having an affair with her reported her, however it happened no mention is made of the man who was complicit in this. Perhaps he was the one who denounced her and struck a deal to save himself.

The evil behind what the scribes and pharisees is about should not be ignored, because it goes to the heart of what Jesus will say shortly as a challenge to anyone who would judge or condemn another human being, either in our hearts, thoughts, or by some external action.

Interior judging of others quickly morphs into anger and anger devours both the angry person and everyone around them.

Love is of Christ.

Anger is of satan.

They said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do You say?” [v4,5]

Their sneers and disdain for the woman, their hatred of Christ, wafts across the ages as a stink that hangs in the air. This too oozes from anyone who disdains another human being.

They said this to test Him, so that they could have some charge to bring against Him. [v.6]

There is a way human beings, with crafty questioning, test others regarding their faith, political alliance, race, and so forth, to be sure they are ‘one of us’.

To do so is to test Christ Himself.

Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. [v. 6 cont.]

Nowhere else in the Gospel accounts is mention made of Jesus writing.

Scholars have speculated for millennia as to what Christ might have written since St. John does not say. Clearly whatever He wrote was not considered by St. John as important as what Jesus says and does.

But when they continued asking Him, He straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” [v.7]

Jesus does not enter a legal dispute with them, rather His answer implies: The hands of the witnesses shall be the first raised to put the person to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. [Deut.7.17]

Frankly that makes these men, who by their very presence indicate they were witnesses,

on top of all the other evil darkening their hearts, clearly lacking any shred of compassion.

Again He bent down and wrote on the ground. [v.8]

It may appear Jesus is showing disdain by appearing to ignore them. Rather what clearly Jesus is doing is allowing them time to be stirred in their consciences.

It is to be hoped that such stirring would have motivated them to compassion, but what happens next might indicate self-preservation as clearly, if anyone of them threw a stone, the people would have reacted, harshly no doubt, at such blasphemous arrogance, for Jesus pointedly said only the sinless one could throw the first stone.

And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So He was left alone with the woman before Him. [v.9]

In the pre-Vatican II ritual of prayers for souls at the hour of death, one prayer has the line: We implore You, O Lord, do not remember the faults of his [her]youth and his [her]ignorance…..

It is a grace, perhaps this is what the elders experienced, to be mindful that what we may have done out of youthful ignorance, if repeated in adulthood, is a far heavier burden in old age.

If graced with enough years to be an elder, our hearts, from life experience and hopefully wisdom, should have transformed into hearts like Christ’s own.

 We elders should be living icons of compassion.



© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph




Friday, 5 April 2019

ST. JOHN 7:32-52


                                                           

Even in our day, the evil of those in power sending police to arrest dissenters is, tragically, very common. In democratic countries where such oppression does not happen there are still ways in which, those in power, by stirring up public opinion, assure that people can be cowed into silence through massive pressure from so-called voices on social media.

The Pharisees heard the crowd murmuring about Him to this effect, and the chief priests and the Pharisees sent guards to arrest Him. [v.32]

Perhaps the Pharisees might be given some slack if there existed any evidence their primary concern was for the safety of the people in case Jesus was just another person inciting rebellion against the Romans, a fool’s errand given the military might of the Romans. However, the preponderance of the evidence is that their main fear was losing their own power over the people, something certain religious leaders, such as in some Muslim countries, do even today with their ‘religious police.’

We who live in countries with religious liberty, an aspect of human dignity and a human right, should pray for such freedom for all our brothers and sisters, whatever their religious belief, who live in countries where freedom is denied them.

Vs. 33,34: So Jesus said, “I will be with you only a little while longer, and then I will go to the one who sent Me. You will look for Me but not find me, and where I am you cannot come.”

Not just here but also in chapters 8:21; 13:13 & 33; 16:16 Jesus tells the crowd and His disciples that He will be going and that they cannot follow, because He is referring here to His passion, death, entombment, resurrection and ascension.

Only after Pentecost and the descent and gift of the Holy Spirit can anyone truly follow Jesus into the depths of the Holy Gospel, into the depths of discipleship.

Without their knowing it the people, as they continue to discuss Jesus’ words, actually are pointing to the future: So the Jews said to one another, “Where is He going that we will not find Him? Surely He is not going to the dispersion among the Greeks to teach the Greeks, is He? [v.35]

There is a very human beauty in the somewhat anxiousness experienced when someone we either care for or are seeking to know better seems to abruptly say they are leaving but that we can neither know where they are going, nor follow. It is also very human, as in their wondering if He is going off to the Greeks, to try and figure out where is the where someone is abruptly announcing they are going to!

The Greeks, as Gentiles, are representative of all the peoples of the world to whom Jesus will go/be brought by the Apostles and over the millennia by the Church Herself.

V.36= What is the meaning of His saying, ‘You will look for Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come’?”

In all the back and forth between Jesus and the crowd, between those within the crowd amongst themselves we see a fascination with Jesus, for some perhaps mere curiosity about Him, nonetheless this back and forth allows for Jesus, sometimes admittedly in words that are oblique, nonetheless containing deep truth, to teach.

Vs.37=On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out….

That last day is the 8th day, and the 8th day is the day of the Resurrection, the day when all things are made new, during the Christmas and Easter octaves the Church prays ‘this IS the day’, the day of Jesus’ birth, the day of His Holy Resurrection.

The crying out of Jesus reveals His sense of urgency to accomplish the work of redemption, His passionate love for us, His hunger that we would come to Him, to the Father through Him, open ourselves to the sanctifying action of the Holy Spirit.

Vs. 37 cont. & 38= “Let anyone who thirsts come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him.’”

There are three great gifts for us in these words: 1] a reminder that Jesus is our real bread, our real drink, cf. 6:30ff; 19:34. 2] the renewed promise of living water first promised in 4:14; 3] living water is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and the great sacraments of Baptism and Holy Eucharist are seen as flowing from the Heart of Jesus to be bestowed upon us by the Holy Spirit in:.. one soldier thrust his lance into His side, and immediately blood and water flowed out. [19:34]

V.39=He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in Him were to receive. There was, of course, no Spirit yet, because Jesus had not yet been glorified.

The ‘no Spirit yet’ means that as yet the Holy Spirit had not come upon anyone other than Christ Himself in the fullness of the meaning of the descent of the Holy Spirit, indeed further on Jesus says: …..I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you. [16:7]

Vs.40-44=Some in the crowd who heard these words said, “This is truly the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Messiah.” But others said, “The Messiah will not come from Galilee, will he? Does not scripture say that the Messiah will be of David’s family and come from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?” So a division occurred in the crowd because of Him. Some of them even wanted to arrest Him, but no one laid hands on Him.

Sadly, no matter what Jesus teaches, no matter how obvious His love for the people, again and again their response is to argue, some asserting Jesus in indeed the Messiah, others the opposite.

 In what a chaotic situation was Jesus trying to teach!

Yet, within the hearts of those sent to arrest Jesus, a stirring of faith: So the officers went to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why did you not bring Him?” The guards answered, “Never before has anyone spoken like this one.” [vs.45,46]

Obviously, these men would have heard many a false prophet, or a revolutionary, speak over the years, as this was a time in Israel when there were many false prophets and revolutionaries seeking to stir up the people against the Roman occupiers, thus their astonishment at the words, if not the person, of Jesus.

Then the arrogance and hostility, the disdain for the people, of which they were allegedly the shepherds, the hatred for Jesus, seen as a threat to their power, spills forth from the darkened hearts of the Pharisees:  So the Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in Him? But this crowd, which does not know the law, is accursed.” [vs.47-49]

Those are the words of people deeply in bondage to satan, the words of people who know, but seek to deny, what the truth is, but to accept the truth would mean being humble, and anyone connected to satan, who is total, stupid pride, are proud and stupid themselves.

Nicodemus, whom St. John reminds us came to Jesus under the cover of darkness, shows a modicum of faith, a modicum only because Nicodemus argues for Jesus in terms of the law, not by argument from what the prophets clearly stated: Nicodemus, one of their members who came to Jesus at night, said to them, “Does our law condemn a person before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?” They answered and said to him, “You are not from Galilee also, are you? Look and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.” [v.50-52]

A foreshadowing of Jesus’ treatment when those same self-righteous leaders will falsely accuse, interrogate, and hand Jesus over to Pilate to be put to death.

On this very day in countries around the world with oppressive regimes thousands of our brothers and sisters are likewise dragged before tribunals where truth is ignored, justice and the rule of law a farce, by imprisonment, torture, execution, these our brothers and sisters, are, bluntly put, disposed of.

Because He took such suffering upon Himself no one is alone in such darkness, Jesus is right there with them.

© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph














Thursday, 21 March 2019

St. John 7:21-31


                                                            

Considering the hateful murder of our brothers and sisters while at prayer in mosques in New Zealand, and the equally hateful murder of innocent people on a tram in Utrecht this verse bears repeating: The crowd answered, “You are possessed! Who is trying to kill you?” [v.20]

The answer is truthfully that anyone who tries to, or does, kill another human being, because they are ‘possessed’ of a different religion, ethnicity, whatever, is trying to kill Jesus anew.

Baptized or not every human being is connected to Jesus who tells us clearly: "Whatever you do to the least of My brothers or sisters you do to Me" Mt. 25:40.

To restrict this to simply the acts listed by Jesus in Mt. 25:31ff, is a narrowly restrictive understanding of the critical word: whatever, which is a term meaning fundamentally no restrictions ‘whatsoever’!

Jesus answered and said to them, “I performed one work and all of you are amazed because of it. Moses gave you circumcision—not that it came from Moses but rather from the patriarchs—and you circumcise a man on the sabbath. If a man can receive circumcision on a sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a whole person well on a sabbath? Stop judging by appearances but judge justly.” [vs 21-24]

One of the things that, like a cancerous invasion of heart and soul, which erodes the dignity of the person possessed by it and leads to that person eroding the dignity of others, is particularly unworthy of the baptized disciples of Christ: the hypocrisy of Sunday piety and weekday harsh judgement and rejection of others.

Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. [Mt.5:23,24]

Conversely if we leave our gift at the altar and then go out and do something against another human being it makes our offering a putrid thing.

We are not authentic Christians if our faith and actions are limited to Sunday.

As in our day, when Christ is sought with argument rather than with listening hearts, so the people of Jesus’ day argued and tried to figure things out intellectually, rather than with listening hearts immerse themselves in the truth of revelation: So some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said, “Is He not the one they are trying to kill? And look, He is speaking openly and they say nothing to Him. Could the authorities have realized that He is the Messiah? But we know where He is from. When the Messiah comes, no one will know where He is from.” [vs 25-27].

The sad thing is those speaking did not know where Jesus was from, for if they did then, knowing Jesus was from, that is born in Bethlehem, they would have recalled the prophecies about the Messiah, instead they repeat to each other the myth that when the Messiah comes, no one will know where He is from.

It may appear odd that also they assume, because the authorities are letting Jesus speak that those same authorities accept Jesus as the Messiah, and then instantly reject that because they know where Jesus is from.

Even in our own day people get lost in convoluted arguments around the Divine Person, the Incarnate One, the Redeemer.

"Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses." [St. Paul vi, from an address Oct. 2, 1974]

We can apply this wisdom to Christ Himself: it is across the millennia the powerful witness of His Self-Gift through His Passion, Death and Resurrection, that affirms the authority of, and the grace of His teaching.

V.28=So Jesus cried out in the temple area as He was teaching…..Just how did Jesus, why did Jesus suddenly do this? St. John does not elaborate.

Perhaps the surrounding crowd had become too noisy as they argued back and forth, so Jesus had to ‘cry out’, that is scream, speak loudly, to be heard. People cry out when terrified, or in pain or grief, His love is so intense He was terrified the people would not listen – is terrified we will not listen – perhaps too His Heart was filled with the pain of those lost and seeking yet not recognizing Him, when we are lost and do not go to Him, finally His grief is real, exemplified in His weeping over Lazarus, over Jerusalem, in the Garden and on the Cross, for us because His love is REAL.

V.28-cont.= and said, “You know Me and also know where I am from. Yet I did not come on My own, but the One who sent Me, Whom you do not know, is true.”

Repeatedly in teaching situations Jesus must cover the same territory, emphasize anew the same truth that He is indeed the Redeemer sent by the Father and that He, Jesus, does nothing of His own, but only what the Father has sent Him to do.

“I know Him, because I am from Him, and He sent Me.” [v.29] This is a love statement as well as a teaching moment. With His words Jesus is first being a witness, a witness to the love between Himself and the Father.

V.30=So they tried to arrest Him, but no one laid a hand upon Him, because His hour had not yet come.

This stark assertion by St. John that the failure to succeed in arresting Jesus was because Jesus’ hour was not yet is also a declaration of Christ’s divinity, for God, and Jesus as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, has power over time.

No human being started time, because no human being has created anything that exists, and if nothing exists neither does time. True we can, simply by parsing in various ways the experience of day into night into day, set the ‘time’ by clocks, for instance, when we will do something, but we have no control, no power, over the passage of even a single moment, simply the ability to choose what we do, or do not do, with a given moment: In Christianity time has a fundamental importance. Within the dimension of time the world was created; within it the history of salvation unfolds, finding its culmination in the "fullness of time" of the Incarnation, and its goal in the glorious return of the Son of God at the end of time. In Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, time becomes a dimension of God, who is himself eternal. With the coming of Christ there begin "the last days" (cf. Heb 1:2), the "last hour" (cf. 1 Jn 2:18), and the time of the Church, which will last until the Parousia……..In the liturgy of the Easter Vigil the celebrant, as he blesses the candle which symbolizes the Risen Christ, proclaims: "Christ yesterday and today, the beginning and the end, Alpha and Omega, all time belongs to him, and all the ages, to him be glory and power through every age for ever". He says these words as he inscribes on the candle the numerals of the current year. The meaning of this rite is clear: it emphasizes the fact that Christ is the Lord of time; he is its beginning and its end; every year, every day and every moment are embraced by his Incarnation and Resurrection, and thus become part of the "fullness of time".  ~APOSTOLIC LETTER TERTIO MILLENNIO ADVENIENTE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE JOHN PAUL II -From the Vatican, on 10 November in the year 1994.

But many of the crowd began to believe in Him, and said, “When the Messiah comes, will he perform more signs than this Man has done?” [v.31]

It is germane to remember the people having this somewhat torturous questioning around the ‘messiah’ issue lived under the harsh occupation by Rome, have seen false ‘messiahs’ and revolutionaries, and risk excommunication from the Temple and their local synagogue if they run afoul of their religious leaders.

There is courage in their open debate and struggle to ascertain the truth.

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #’s 2087-2089 is an excellent discussion of faith and doubt, of hesitations and questions. Faith is a gift to which we are invited to respond with the continuous grace of Baptism. we, no less than than our Elder Brothers and Sisters in the faith are often struggling, as St. John notes. Do we expect faith as once baptized instant believer and its done? Faith is a journey, a process of ever deepening wisdom and understanding, through the process of cooperation with the Holy Spirit when doubt, obscurity, difficulties assail us.

O my God, I firmly believe that You are one God in three divine persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I believe that Your divine Son became man and died for our sins, and that He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the holy catholic Church teaches, because in revealing them You can neither deceive nor be deceived. Amen.

© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph




Monday, 4 March 2019

ST. JOHN 7:11-20


                                                            

The Jews were looking for Him at the feast and saying, “Where is He?” And there was considerable murmuring about Him in the crowds. Some said, “He is a good man,” while others said, “No; on the contrary, He misleads the crowd.” Still, no one spoke openly about Him because they were afraid of the Jews. [vs.11-13]

This combination among the people of seeking Jesus and disputing His goodness or not, as well as the people’s fear of the authorities, occurs even in our own day.

Even more deeply in our day, within the spiritual restlessness of souls, the surrounding culture facilitates, aided and abetted by satan, the spread of ego-centric searching, which means countless people seek Christ not to encounter Him but to disdain Him, seek truth not to be enlightened but to claim truth as their own, thus their minds and souls become darkened with subjectivism, relativism and all sorts of ‘isms’, and they wander through life lost and forever restless.

When the devil says in the third chapter of Genesis: “your eyes would be opened and you would become like God”, these words express the full range of the temptation of mankind, from the intention to set man against God to the extreme form it takes today. We could even say that in the first stage of human history this temptation not only was not accepted but had not been fully formulated. But the time has now come: this aspect of the devil’s temptation has found the historical context that suits it. Perhaps we are experiencing the highest level of tension between the Word and the anti-Word in the whole of human history. [1]

When the feast was already half over, Jesus went up into the temple area and began to teach. The Jews were amazed and said, “How does He know scripture without having studied?” [vs.14-15]

Since the feast lasted eights days from this verse it would appear it was into the fourth day of the feast when Jesus went to Jerusalem and entered the temple, St. John noting the amazement of the people because Jesus was presumed to be unlearned, that is He had not studied at one of the Rabbinical schools.

Jesus answered them and said, “My teaching is not My own but is from the One who sent Me. [v.16]

This verse reveals again Jesus’ attentiveness to His mandate from the Father, both in actions and in words. The Church Herself must only teach what Christ has taught us, and what since Pentecost the Holy Spirit has informed the Church about in all areas of life, flowing from foundationally the words of Christ and through Him in whom all Scripture is fulfilled, what is in the treasury of Sacred Scripture and through the Apostles and Fathers of the Church become part of Sacred Tradition: "Christ the Lord, in whom the entire Revelation of the most high God is summed up, commanded the apostles to preach the Gospel, which had been promised beforehand by the prophets, and which he fulfilled in his own person and promulgated with his own lips. In preaching the Gospel, they were to communicate the gifts of God to all men. This Gospel was to be the source of all saving truth and moral discipline."…… "In order that the full and living Gospel might always be preserved in the Church the apostles left bishops as their successors. They gave them their own position of teaching authority.”……. Through Tradition, "the Church, in her doctrine, life and worship, perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes." "The sayings of the holy Fathers are a witness to the life-giving presence of this Tradition, showing how its riches are poured out in the practice and life of the Church, in her belief and her prayer."…….. "God, who spoke in the past, continues to converse with the Spouse of his beloved Son. and the Holy Spirit, through whom the living voice of the Gospel rings out in the Church - and through her in the world - leads believers to the full truth, and makes the Word of Christ dwell in them in all its richness.”…… the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, "does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honoured with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence." [2]

Whoever chooses to do His will shall know whether My teaching is from God or whether I speak on My own. Whoever speaks on his own seeks his own glory, but Whoever seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is truthful, and there is no wrong in Him. [vs.17,18]

With these words Jesus is pointing towards the Father, towards Himself and towards us.

The Father tells us whom Jesus is, His Beloved Son, and what our relationship is to be with Jesus, we are to listen to Him [cf. Mt. 3:7; 17:5; Mk. 1:11; 9:7; Lk. 3:22; 9:25] and listening to Jesus we hear the fullness of the Gospel as mandate, a mandate to be lived with our lives without compromise.

To accomplish the will of the Father we begin with the constant cry for the grace, as Jesus teaches us, that the Father’s will be accomplished in us, within the human family, [cf. Mt. 6:9-13; Lk. 11:2-4], for in the Our Father we find the entirety of the Holy Gospel, thus we imitate Christ, always asking the Holy Spirit for discernment in the choices we make as we accomplish the will of the Father and speak the truth of the Gospel.

Did not Moses give you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill Me?” The crowd answered, “You are possessed! Who is trying to kill you?” [vs. 19.20]

By now, though St. John does not say so specifically, Pharisees and Sadducees and others who hated Jesus, may well have mingled into the crowd. The stark judgement of Jesus may well be directed towards them. Saying Jesus is possessed is the modern equivalent of dismissing the Holy Father for whatever reason when he challenges the relativistic ‘morality’ of the current age, or whenever Christianity is challenged, for those who fear challenge and truth the last redoubt is ad hominum argument, that is to attack the person, rather than discuss the idea.

It is critical we recall always, whether we are meditating St. John’s Gospel account or that of any of the other Evangelists, we keep before our hearts:  In the beginning was the Word, and

the Word was with God,…..[cf. John 1: 1-14]

The danger is we, like Bultmann and other scholars have done, Gandhi and other influential people throughout history, will be so focused on Jesus in His humanity in His actions and teachings we forget the fullness of Jesus Christ, Word of God, Son of the Father, Redeemer.

In the presence of Jesus, we are in the presence of the Holy Trinity, for where Jesus is, the Father and the Holy Spirit are.

We are in the Presence of Love, and Love is present to we the beloved.



[1] Sign Of Contradiction, by Karol Wojtyla, St. John Paul II; p.34; The Seabury Press, 1979

[2] Catechism of the Catholic Church #s 75-82





© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph