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


Friday, 15 February 2019

ST. JOHN 7: 1-10


                                                             



In verses 1, 11, 13, 35 St. John uses the term ‘the Jews’, as he does frequently throughout this Gospel.

It has been a great sin of Christians to have seen this as referring holus bolus to every Jewish person, rather than narrowly to the Jewish religious authorities of the day, as is confirmed by their rejection and persecution of Jesus.

Hatred, violence, persecution, genocide, wars, all are rooted in the darkness of human hearts which choose to blame an entire race, religion, nation for the sins of individuals.

When such darkness spreads within a population, often through the actions of governments, the evil surfaces in brutal violence such as the holocaust.

Pope Francis teaches us the truth that: We cannot honour the Creator without cherishing the sacredness of every person and of every human life: each person is equally precious in the eyes of God, who does not look upon the human family with a preferential gaze that excludes, but with a benevolent gaze that includes. Thus, to recognize the same rights for every human being is to glorify the name of God on earth. In the name of God the Creator, therefore, every form of violence must be condemned without hesitation, because we gravely profane God’s name when we use it to justify hatred and violence against a brother or sister. No violence can be justified in the name of religion. [1]

v.1 = After this, Jesus moved about within Galilee; but He did not wish to travel in Judea, because the Jews were trying to kill Him.

Of all the Evangelists St. John is the one who speaks of Jesus’ hour and, as here, repeatedly shows us how careful Jesus is to assure none of His choices, nor the actions of others, pre-empts the time willed by the Father.

But the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near. [v.2]

Occurring in the autumn, and still celebrated by our Jewish Brothers and Sisters in our own day, primarily this was a celebration of the time when the Israelites lived in tents during the Exodus and sometimes included celebration of the blessing of harvests. To this day walk near a synagogue on those holy days and a ‘booth’ can be seen, as in ancient days, hence sometimes the feast is referred to as that of Booths.

Along with Passover and Pentecost, Tabernacles was one of the most important feasts and often there would be huge crowds of pilgrims in Jerusalem.

So His brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, so that Your disciples also may see the works You are doing. No one works in secret if he wants to be known publicly. If you do these things, manifest yourself to the world.” For His brothers did not believe in Him. [vs. 3-5]

‘Brothers’ here does not mean blood brothers, Jesus had no siblings, but is a generic term, common in our day when people say of a non-sibling ‘my brother or my sister.’, these men may have been cousins, clearly they were not disciples for indeed Jesus’ extended family thought Him mad as St. Mark tells us: He came home. Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When His relatives heard of this they set out to seize Him, for they said, “He is out of His mind.” [Mk.3:20,21]

So Jesus said to them, “My time is not yet here, but the time is always right for you. The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me, because I testify to it that its works are evil. You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, because My time has not yet been fulfilled.” After He had said this, He stayed on in Galilee. [vs.6-9]

With Jesus never a word He speaks is superfluous. Each word is gift, a treasure to be taken deep within ourselves. Here, when Jesus notes “My time is not yet here….”, it is yet another way of saying: “……I came down from heaven not to do My own will but the will of the One Who sent Me. [6:38]

Fr. Leon-Dufour notes: So much does Jesus make this will of God His own that He Himself calls it on one occasion, according to St. John, “My hour”…….It is in terms of this hour that He organizes all His wonderworking and prophetic activity….But when “the hour to pass from this world to the Father”….the hour of love carried to its term, the Lord goes freely to His death, with power over the events, just as a priest fulfills the rites of the liturgy….Thus, though the events appear to follow one another without coordination, everything is directed toward a purpose which will be attained in its own time, day, and hour. [2]

When Jesus then assures those challenging Him, that “….the time is always right for you. The world cannot hate you….You go up to the feast….”, at that precise moment this is so because the waves of hatred and persecution have not yet hit Jesus, nor His followers, but that day will come, as Jesus tells the Apostles during the Last Supper:  “If the world hates you, realize that it hated  me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will also keep yours. [15:18-20]

Then, once again repeating the teaching about redemption and time:  “I am not going up to this feast, because My time has not yet been fulfilled.”: Jesus is not going to the feast, that is to Jerusalem, because it is the place where, when it is the time/hour, He will be executed, and Jesus is extremely careful to preserve the sacredness of the time/hour, chosen by the Father.

St. John adds that Jesus stays in Galilee.

Yet without telling us how soon after this Jesus heads out, St. John immediately notes: But when His brothers had gone up to the feast, He Himself also went up, not openly but, as it were, in secret. [v.10]

All four accounts of the Evangelists in the Gospel frequently mention moments such as the above where Jesus sends others on ahead and then Himself later goes to where He has sent them. Indeed, all the Gospel accounts are filled with movement. This was strikingly portrayed in the 1964 Italian film Il vangelo secondo Matteo, [The Gospel According to Matthew], directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini. In almost all the scenes in the film Jesus is in motion: walking, gesticulating, indeed all at a rather quick pace, conveying the urgency in His Heart to complete the mission of our redemption.

Movement, things in motion, is constitutive of all creation for the cosmos itself, the very earth on which we live, sunlight, moonlight, starlight, clouds, wind, rain, snow, summer’s heat and winter’s cold, oceans, rivers, trees, plants, indeed every part of our bodies, mind, soul, all are always in motion, even when we sleep there is movement, of heart and lungs, brain through dream and: I bless the LORD who counsels me; even at night my heart exhorts me. I keep the LORD always before me; with Him at my right hand, I shall never be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, my soul rejoices; my body also dwells secure. [Ps. 16: vs. 7-9]

The great, most powerful movement/motion of all is God’s LOVE, the prime movement within the Holy Trinity, the movement expressed outwards which has such force creation ensues, we are breathed into existence, resurrection, first of Jesus then gifted to us, baptismal water regenerates and we emerge as true children of the Father, disciples of Christ, temples of the Holy Spirit, in the liturgy by the power of the Holy Spirit through words spoken by the priest, himself transformed by the same originating power from mere man to being in persona Christi, and bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, this most powerful movement, action, is the Triune God, WHO IS LOVE assuring us with every breathe we take, within the confines of chronological time we are Beloved, and offering us, at the end of chronological time,  to be perpetually Beloved, when we are gathered up into the Triune embrace of communion of love for all eternity.

Our primary movement, then, also must be a love that is reciprocal: This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. [15:12], this is what keeps us as pilgrims moving towards, through each moment of our graced lives, to the hour of our own death and entrance into the place, the unending movement, the unending moment of Love’s embrace.

The gift of the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier, that we might not deviate from the path which leads to communion of love with the Most Holy Trinity is, if we accept it, the grace to imitate Christ in all things, thus: We can do nothing which will be more pleasing to the Heart of Jesus than to unite ourselves to Him in His love for His Father and in His carrying out of His holy will. [3]



[1] https://zenit.org/articles/abu-dhabi-pope-francis-address-to-interfaith-meeting-at-founders-memorial-full-text/

[2] Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Revised Edition; p. 244; Xavier Leon-Dufour; The Seabury Press, New York, New York, 1973

[3] Christ The Ideal of the Priest, Bl. Dom Columbo Marmion; p. 326; Sands & Co., 1952

© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph


Thursday, 31 January 2019

St. John 6:60-73


                                                              

Two very human, and not that surprising reactions to this detailed teaching by Jesus revealing Himself as source of true life and resurrection, what we know as Jesus the Holy Eucharist, are given to us by St. John first in verse 60 and further on in verse 66, the latter reaction even after a further word from Jesus Himself.

Then many of His disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” [v.60]

Indeed, it is a difficult truth-teaching to accept merely with the intellect. Acceptance is an act of faith-trust, both gifts of the Holy Spirit for which we should ask for more and more.

Since Jesus knew that His disciples were murmuring about this, He said to them, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray Him. And He said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted him by My Father.” [vs. 61-65]

So much of the Gospel, more so of the attentive and gentle, loving heart of Jesus, is contained in these six sentences.

Jesus reveals by His first question His awareness of the impact of His teaching, and then referencing the still to come moment of His Ascension prepares them, as He does so often, not simply for what is to come before He leaves them, but also gifting them something to trust, namely there is more to life than what we assume, for true life occurs within the depths of the human heart and soul, our physical, bodily experiences do not suffice.

That Jesus reminds us of the life-giving power of His words should remind us that while the ultimate experience of His Presence is within the Holy Eucharist, He is also present to us in every word He speaks to us.

Then are the two sentences which point directly past the general struggle to believe, to, without yet his being named, the one who refuses to believe and will betray Jesus.

Jesus does not belabour that point but immediately reassures that the Father grants the grace to come to Jesus for anyone who will accept that gift, for there is no other way to meet Jesus.

We cannot do it on our own.

This truth should be expressed consistently in our prayer for every human being, that everyone might know the grace offered by the Father, accept that grace and go to meet, to welcome, to listen to, to follow Jesus.

As a result of this, many of His disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied Him. [v.66]

We can draw much from this verse: as a result of this…..The ‘this’ is Jesus has just without any ambiguity stated three essentials of discipleship: 1] faith in the truth Jesus is indeed who He says He is; 2] everlasting life is rooted in acting on this belief through openness to the Eucharistic truth Jesus Himself is the Bread of life; 3] we cannot come to Jesus by our own wits or efforts, being with Jesus is a gift of the Father.

……many of His disciples…….many, but not all!....returned to their former way of life……this is much deeper than say returning to a job. This is returning to the way they used to live in terms of faith, family, and yes sin in all is variables.

……and no longer accompanied Him. We all know the emotional impact of someone leaving us, be it for a time due to travel, be it children as young adults leaving to study, work, pursue their vocation to family life, lay apostolate, religious life, priesthood and the leaving when someone we love dies.

Jesus, being like us in all things but sin, would have like us had emotions, but ours are not pure. We do not, for example, purely grieve with grief focused on the one leaving, because we are sinners and wounded thereby, there is a selfish dimension to our grief for we react that someone/something has been taken/stolen from us.

Not so with Jesus. His emotions are pure and therefore more pain ridden than ours, because His emotions are always other directed, always gift.

All four Gospel accounts are filled with numerous examples of Jesus experiencing hunger, thirst, grief, longing, love from His time in the desert to the death of Lazarus, to the rich young man, and each occasion shows us how Jesus, who because neither His emotions or intellect, that is His perceptive ability, are impeded by the damages ours are through personal sin, the sins of others against us, all are within Jesus at their purest and most intense and all are other directed and we are the beneficiaries: ……….so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. [15:11]

Joy, as we experience it, is a powerful if fleeting emotion because we cannot cling to it; however, because Jesus after His Passion, death, Resurrection, Ascension, gifts, with the Father, the Holy Spirit to us, joy for the baptized becomes a virtue-gift and intensifies to the extent we, in imitation of Jesus, gift our joy to others.

Hence the stark statement: Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” [v.67]

Explicit in this question is Jesus assuring the Twelve of their freedom to choose to stay or leave, what is implicit is the pain Christ will embrace should they choose to leave.

The answer may have been given immediately or after some moments of reflection or discussion amongst the Twelve. St. John does not say. Certainly, from the text it appears the response was spontaneous, immediate, sincere and filled with love and a clear statement of faith and trust: Simon Peter answered Him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that You are the Holy One of God.” [68,69]

Then, with the last two verses of this crucial chapter on the forthcoming sacramental Self-Gift of Jesus to us at the Last Supper and through His Priesthood within each priest across the millennia, the revelation of a persistent pain Jesus lovingly carries in His Heart, for the great tragedy for human beings is not knowing, or knowing and doubting, worse rejecting, the love which Christs gives as gift, but never takes back: Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you twelve? Yet is not one of you a devil?” He was referring to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot; it was he who would betray Him, one of the Twelve. [70,71]

© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph


Tuesday, 15 January 2019

ST. JOHN 6:54-59


                                                           

When You, O Lord, were baptized in the Jordan, worship of the Trinity was made manifest; for the voice of the Father bore witness to You, calling You His beloved Son. And the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the truth of His word. O Christ our God, Who has appeared and enlightened the world, glory to You. [Troparion] This is a hymn from the Byzantine Liturgy of the Theophany, the manifestation of the Holy Trinity.

The Roman Liturgy refers to the Epiphany and, as the antiphon for Second Vespers in the Roman rite notes: Three mysteries mark this holy day: today the star leads the Magi to the infant Christ; today water is changed into wine for the wedding feast; today Christ wills to be baptized by John in the river Jordan to bring us salvation.

As St. Maximus of Turin teaches: …Christ is baptized not to be made holy by the water, but to make the water holy, and by His cleansing to purify the waters which He touched…the consecration of Christ involves a more significant consecration of the water. For when the Saviour is washed all water for our baptism is made clean, purified at its source for the dispensing of baptismal grace to the people of future ages.

The above is another example of how Christ touches matter and transforms matter into sacrament, such as He will do at the last supper with the matter of bread and wine, which by His touch and prayer become Him, and touches the matter of men, the Apostles, and they become Him, that is in persona Christi, as handed on by the Apostles do all bishops and priests.

This gifting of Himself to us in the Holy Eucharist and in the Priesthood continues to be an ever present reality through the work of the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier.

When contemplating these passages from St. John we need to see them as words spoken in the here and now and not read/hear the Holy Gospel as some reportage of things past.

Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. [v.54]

This ‘has’ is the now, the immediate, an assertion of what happens when we receive Holy Communion and there is also in this immediateness a promise that we shall be granted resurrection.

Sacraments, and the sanctifying grace imparted by reception of sacraments, are not something we earn. They are gift. The lavishness of Divine Love!

For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. [v.55]

Even though the external appearances, texture, colour, of the consecrated bread and wine appear unchanged, the actual reality remains invisible to the senses, for the actual reality IS Jesus, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity: The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as "the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend." In the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained….." It is by the conversion of the bread and wine into Christ's body and blood that Christ becomes present in this sacrament….. Thus St. John Chrysostom declares: It is not man that causes the things offered to become the Body and Blood of Christ, but He who was crucified for us, Christ Himself. The priest, in the role of Christ, pronounces these words, but their power and grace are God's. This is my body, he says. This word transforms the things offered. [cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church #’s 1374/1375]

Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent Me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on Me will have life because of Me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”  [v.56-58]

There is a teaching principle: tell the students what you are going to tell them, tell it to them, tell them what you have told them.

From verse 26 to verse 58 this is precisely what Jesus does. It is worth slowly re-reading them and it becomes clear that Jesus is so intent on this proclamation of Himself as the source and summit of faith in the Holy Eucharist He, as in the verses immediately above, repeats the same teaching in various phrases.

These things He said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. [v.59]

Jesus is not a designated rabbi, as yet no one knows He is our High Priest, deliberately He chooses to give this central teaching about His self-gift in a synagogue, a place like a parish church in our day, therefore the Holy One teaches about His self-gift in a sacred place, this teaching is that important.

Soon we will enter the week of Prayer for Christian Unity and perhaps the greatest wound in Christianity is how over the centuries, because of the break in Apostolic Succession, millions of our brothers and sisters have been, are, deprived of the Holy Eucharistic.

This should be a focal point when we pray for Christian Unity, that we pray for such a hunger in our brothers and sisters that they return to the fullness of sacramental life to Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.

Not everyone can participate in daily Mass and receive Jesus in Holy Communion for reasons as varied as are life’s situations and challenges. Not just daily but throughout the day we can all make a spiritual communion: … it is good to cultivate in our hearts a constant desire for the sacrament of the Eucharist. This was the origin of the practice of “spiritual communion”, which has happily been established in the Church for centuries and recommended by saints who were masters of the spiritual life. Saint Teresa of Jesus wrote: “When you do not receive communion and you do not attend Mass, you can make a spiritual communion, which is a most beneficial practice; by it the love of God will be greatly impressed on you”. [St. John Paul II, encyclical on the Holy Eucharist and the Church: ECCLESIA DE EUCHARISTIA, ch.4; para 34]

My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.

© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph




Thursday, 3 January 2019

ST. JOHN 6:52-53


                                                          

St. John, alone of the Evangelists, does not give us a description of the institution of the Holy Eucharist and the Priesthood at the last supper.

St. John does give us Christ’s great Priestly Prayer and shows Jesus, our High Priest, as servant, washing the feet of His disciples, an action every parish priest, every bishop and the Pope himself, repeats on Holy Thursday, a reminder of the servant dimension of Holy Orders.

Here as St. John continues to give us Jesus’ revelation of Himself as our Eucharistic food, which is Jesus Himself in all His glory, Jesus encounters resistance something frequent throughout His teaching life, indeed even during His suffering on the Cross.

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” [v.52]

Be it our ancestors in the faith who begged for bread in the desert, and then complained about having to eat so much of the manna, or those complaining here, or anyone who complains about the food placed before us, it is therein to commit sin: rejection of God’s gift; an implicit arrogance which convicts us every time we pray the Our Father and ask for daily bread, because our attitude is: just give us the food we like to eat. It is a form both of spiritual and physical gluttony!

Satan, the liar, the charlatan, the enemy of God and of us, is the absolute opposite of the one True God in that God is Light, satan is darkness; God is love, satan is hate; God is Divine Fire, satan is cold in the reality of his existence; Jesus, Our Lord God and Saviour, gives Himself to us as Bread and Drink for eternal life. Satan, who is a taker and incapable of giving, is the devourer: Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings. [1Pt.5:89]

It is interesting that while in Vs. 25, 28, 30, 31, 34, 41, 42, 52, the people address questions, or argument, directly to Jesus, yet at this critical moment: The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” [v.52]

Certainly, Jesus would have seen the people’s agitation, heard their quarreling and the question they were asking among themselves.

Most of us, if challenged by someone about how we can, or plan, to do something, will give an explanatory answer. Jesus here, does not.

The immensity of the gift He is revealing to them, to us:  Himself as Holy Eucharist, a mystery tangible in its reception, in the reality of His Presence in the tabernacle, yet the ‘how’ it happens that bread and wine become Him, remains invisible.

True we can observe the gestures, hear the words of the priest bringing, by the invocation of and power of the Holy Spirit transubstantion, but that is accessible to faith alone, not to scientific observation.

Receiving Jesus in Holy Communion is also an act of trust that what Jesus offers is Jesus Himself.

Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you.” v.53.

This is the immensity of the gift, as it were, within the gift of Jesus giving us Himself: The Eucharist is the centre and summit of the whole of sacramental life, through which each Christian receives the saving power of the Redemption, beginning with the mystery of Baptism, in which we are buried into the death of Christ, in order to become sharers in His Resurrection, as the Apostle teaches. In the light of this teaching, we see still more clearly the reason why the entire sacramental life of the Church and of each Christian reaches its summit and fullness in the Eucharist. For by Christ's will there is in this Sacrament a continual renewing of the mystery of the Sacrifice of Himself that Christ offered to the Father on the altar of the Cross, a Sacrifice that the Father accepted, giving, in return for this total self-giving by his Son, who "became obedient unto death", His own paternal gift, that is to say the grant of new immortal life in the resurrection, since the Father is the first source and the giver of life from the beginning. [St. John Paul II, encyclical Redemptor Hominis, Part IV, para. 20.1]

Word made Flesh, by word He makes

Very bread His Flesh to be;

Man in wine Christ's Blood partakes:

And if senses fail to see,

Faith alone the true heart wakes

To behold the mystery. [Pange Lingua, St. Thomas Aquinas]

© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph




Monday, 17 December 2018

ST. JOHN 6:43-51


                                                              

We are in the season of Holy Advent for the 18th time in this second millennia of grace, and yet billions of our brothers and sisters still do not know Christ; millions of the baptized, because their ‘churches’ sundered Apostolic succession centuries ago, lack fullness of sacramental life;  the choice of many Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians to forego praxis of faith, they also live in a state of sacramental malnutrition because they cannot, will not, welcome Jesus into their lives through reception of Holy Communion.

Because of the urgency for the spread of the Gospel, to those who do not know Jesus and for the return of the separated, or the fallen away, to fullness of sacramental life, each time we approach the altar to receive Jesus, in Holy Communion, we should plead with Him as He dwells anew within us, for grace of discovering, or returning to Jesus, for all of our brothers and sisters missing from receiving Him who so yearns, so knocks at the door of every human heart, to be welcomed.

That grace of return for the missing, of first encounter for the not yet baptized, is implicit, if we plead for our brothers and sisters, in these verses as Jesus continues His first great teaching on His Self-gift in the Holy Eucharist: Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. “[vs.43.44]

This connection between coming to Jesus and being resurrected on the last day, because the Father Himself draws us to Jesus, connects to the reality of Holy Communion: it is not the deceased Jesus whom we receive, it is Jesus resurrected, glorified, sitting at the right hand of the Father who permeates our being in Holy Communion.

“It is written in the prophets: ‘They shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to My Father and learns from Him comes to Me.” [v.45]

Most human beings have the experience of being taught, learning from their dads, or someone who acts as a father for them. This teaching is a gift of love.

Fathers tend to be very proud of their sons and announce to others that this is my son, as our Heavenly Abba has already done before this teaching of Jesus. [cf. Mt. 3:17; Mk. 1:11; Lk. 3:22]

It is precisely because the Father loves the Son, that the Father seeks to draw us to Jesus, to teach us about Jesus, the ‘us’ being every person. Through this learning we are graced to go to Jesus.

 “Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; He has seen the Father.” [v.46]

Once more a clear statement by Jesus that He is indeed Son of God, therefore God Himself.

“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.” [v.47]

True faith is not static, but active.

The gift of faith itself is an active grace, motivating us, moving us to preach the faith by living the Gospel, the Gospel of life and loving service of others, with our lives without compromise.

“I am the Bread of Life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” [vs. 48-51]

We live in an age when, in the richer nations, obesity is a major problem, and where many people are obsessed with eating organic food.

The question: how many people who over eat or have money to spend on organic food, are hungry for Christ in the Eucharist, are aware of Christ hungry Himself in the underfed?

The poor often are obese because they cannot afford non over sugared, over fat content food, certainly not costly organic food, while daily millions of our brothers and sisters: the homeless, refugees in camps, prisoners in labour and concentration camps, people living in countries experiencing famine because of war or drought, go hungry, often starving to death.

In the liturgy we pray the Our Father before Holy Communion: Give us this day our daily bread.

As we approach the Bread of Eternal Life, Christ Himself, we should be crying out: Give our hungry brothers and sisters daily bread.

The “Our Father” prayer sinks its roots in man’s concrete reality. For instance, it makes us ask for bread, our daily bread, a simple but essential request, which says that faith isn’t something “decorative,” detached from life, which happens when all other needs have been satisfied. Rather, prayer begins with life itself. Prayer — Jesus teaches us — doesn’t begin in human existence after the stomach is full, rather, it nests wherever there is a man, any man who is hungry, who weeps, who struggles, who suffers and wonders “why.” In a certain sense, our first prayer was the cry that accompanied our first breath. Announced, in that newborn’s cry, was the destiny of our whole life: our constant hunger, our constant thirst and our constant quest for happiness. Jesus doesn’t want to extinguish what is human in prayer; He doesn’t want to anesthetize it. He doesn’t want us to dampen our questions and requests, learning to endure all. Instead, He wants every suffering, every anxiety to leap towards Heaven and become a dialogue. A person once said that to have faith is the habit to cry. [Pope Francis, General Audience, Dec. 12.18]



 © 2018 Fr. Arthur Joseph


Tuesday, 13 November 2018

St. John 6: 35-42


                                                             

During the Fatima apparitions the children saw an Angel prostrate before a chalice and host suspended in the air and the Angel taught the children this prayer: Most Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit- I adore You profoundly. I offer You the Most Precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges, and indifferences whereby He is offended. And through the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of You the conversion of poor sinners.

It is this extraordinary gift and sacrament Jesus begins to reveal in detail: Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to Me will never hunger, and whoever believes in Me will never thirst.” V.35

The primary hunger in ever human heart and soul is for communion of love with the Most Holy Trinity, for Love Himself has created us to be Beloved.

We all know any degree of separation from our beloved, on the human, level creates an immense ache, a real pain in our hearts until we are together again.

The more we seek, in and through Jesus, communion of love with the Holy Trinity, the greater will be the intensity of the hunger, the thirst, yes, the pain, of this seeking this communion of love while on our earthly pilgrimage for, until death and embrace for ever by the Holy Trinity in heaven, we live in an aspect of separation.

It is the grace and gift of every Holy Communion, every moment spent participating in Holy Mass, in adoration with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, that we are filled more and more with the loving presence, through Jesus, of the Holy Trinity within us. This gift, for our pilgrimage towards the Absolute here on earth, prevents us from being overwhelmed by the hunger and thirst, the pain, of the not yet fulfilled eternally communion of love.

Vs. 36-38: “But I told you that although you have seen Me, you do not believe. Everything that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to Me, because I came down from heaven not to do My own will but the will of the one who sent Me.”

Before arguing we have never seen Jesus it is important to remember every time we gaze upon the Sacred Host during exposition or Benediction, or when we contemplate Him at the elevation during Holy Mass, or when holding Him in our hand at Holy Communion, and equally when we care for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the prisoner, encounter any human being {cf. Mt. 25: 31ff.} we do indeed see Jesus, are in His presence.

Such moments are moments to choose to believe, or not.

What a consoling promise that IF we come to Jesus we will never be rejected!

The impetus for this accepting love of Jesus is His obedience, and He is obedient because He loves the Father and is filled with the Father’s love, and the love of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus, as a living chalice filled with this love and overflowing, pours this love within us, IF we come to Him and ask for it.

Jesus then assures us of just how far this love extends, to the very union in communion of love with the Holy Trinity we have been created for, the point to which our pilgrimage to the Absolute leads, in, with, through Jesus: “And this is the will of the One who sent Me, that I should not lose anything of what He gave Me, but that I should raise it on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.” Vs.39,40

Once again, the crowd’s reaction shows how quickly we human beings can switch from acceptance of Jesus to challenging Him, rejecting Him: The Jews murmured about Him because He said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,” and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know His father and mother? Then how can He say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” vs. 41,42

There can be no acceptance of the truth of Jesus’ Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist, if, as the crowd is doing, we reject His Holy Incarnation.



© 2018 Fr. Arthur Joseph