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


Friday, 26 October 2018

St. John 6:30-34


                                                               ST. JOHN 6:30-34

Once Jesus has challenged the people about just coming to Him for bread, and revealed to them He is the one upon whom the Father has set His seal, the people respond by asking Jesus what they must do to answer His to call to have faith in Him: v.29.

The people reply:  So they said to Him, “What sign can You do, that we may see and believe in You? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”  Vs. 30-31

Very typically human.

Haven’t we all likewise challenged God at some time or other?

Faith originates as a gift of the Holy Spirit, offered to every human being.

We are free to accept this gift or not.

The Holy Spirit does give us, for want of a better expression ‘clues’ to help us open our beings to His gift of faith: we have the gift of intellect, that is our capacity for inquisitive thought, such as St. Paul points out, rather bluntly to the Romans, applicable to this generation so stuck in relativism: For what can be known about God is evident to them, because God made it evident to them. Ever since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what He has made. As a result, they have no excuse; for although they knew God they did not accord Him glory as God or give Him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened. While claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes. [Rms. 1:19-23]

By appealing to the Exodus event, thus the intercessory power of Moses, and not just to the manna from God, the crowd is saying: “Okay You claim the Father has set His seal on You so prove it, do something like that!”

There is within the crowd and, at least on occasion something of the proverbial ‘doubting Thomas’, within us too.

Elsewhere Jesus assures us: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” [Jn.20.29]

Jesus responds by teaching again on faith and trust: So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Vs.32-33

The crowd is back to their bellies again, missing the point entirely: So they said to Him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”  Vs.34.                                     

The verses, 30-34, are critical to trust the truth of the Holy Eucharist. Jesus, in the remaining verses of this chapter will make explicit, at no small cost to Himself in the immediate, and as we shall see, Jesus will pay the ultimate cost of this gift of Himself in the Eucharist through His Passion and Death.

Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. [Heb.11:1]

Realization is a critical word here for it points to experience.

The parallel to faith in our lives is love.

People assert they are in love, a multifaceted combination of physical attraction, emotional response, but above all a free will choice to make a commitment of gift of self to other.

Much the same dynamic occurs when accepting the gift of our vocation in life such as Holy Marriage and parenthood. In his vocation a priest also says yes to love of God, love of souls. It is the mutual self-gift of love between God and the Priest which enables his vocation to be fulfilled. Here too faith is constitutive, as in marriage.

Love, like faith, is fundamentally something hoped for and the realization unfolds not in the vagaries of emotions but it the persistence of commitment.

May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to His call, what are the riches of glory in His inheritance among the holy ones….[Ep.1:18]

When we struggle with faith/love, doubt and pain are an inseparable part of being true disciples of Christ because we may think we have reached the fullness of faith, that we know everything about God and the things of God, and what believing is all about and about the one we love and what loving is all about, when in truth, until the end of our lives, we are always mere beginners, should always ask the Holy Spirit for more, more, more faith and love, remembering as St. Paul teaches: At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love. [1 Cor. 13:12,13]

A very simple, yet powerful way to pray, not just to prepare our hearts for the next verses and Jesus’ teaching on the Eucharist, but whenever we struggle to believe, to love, or have doubts, perhaps a tinge of despair, hence needing to trust: Jesus, I believe in You. Jesus, I hope in You. Jesus, I love You.

© 2018 ~ Fr. Arthur Joseph






























Thursday, 18 October 2018

ST. JOHN 6:22-29


                                                                  

The following verses contain both teaching, about the real bread we should work for, and a prelude to the great teaching about Jesus Himself as the real bread of life.

Vs.23,24= The next day, the crowd that remained across the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not gone along with His disciples in the boat, but only His disciples had left. Other boats came from Tiberias near the place where they had eaten the bread when the Lord gave thanks. When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor His disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.

Sometimes a sign is just that, something that points to something, such as a stop sign, but it is inert, that is the sign indicates stop but stopping can only be accomplished by something or someone in motion.

None of Jesus’ signs is inert, they are indicators of His authority over everything that is, over every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth: In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death- even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the Name that is above every name, that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is LORD, to the glory of God the Father. [Phil. 2:5-11]

The multiplication of the loaves and fish is the fifth of what St. John refers to as signs, beginning with Cana: Jesus did this as the beginning of His signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed His glory, and His disciples began to believe in Him. [2.11]

The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that: Jesus accompanies His words with many "mighty works and wonders and signs", which manifest that the kingdom is present in Him and attest that He was the promised Messiah. [#547]

Common parlance uses the word ‘miracle’ whereas St. John’s use of the word ‘signs’ is actually more efficacious than alternates such as miracle, mighty works, wonders, because often, such as at Cana and the feeding of the multitude, they point as well to aspects of sacramental life for the sacraments are: "efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us" (CCC 1131).

V.25=And when they found Him across the sea they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You get here?”

Important to keep this verse before the eyes of our heart when we considered Jesus’s answer: Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for Me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.” V.26

In some respects, this is a non-direct answer because Jesus does not say how He got there, yet fundamentally it is a most direct answer because Jesus goes to the heart of the matter.


There is a lot in this answer from Jesus: Do not work for food that perishes: It is not only the food which perishes, we who consume food will ultimately perish, die and find ourselves before the awesome judgment seat of God, to render account of our choices in life, of how we have lived.

As Jesus also teaches, in St. Luke 12: 13-34, we are to reject the ‘food’ of greed and anxiety, and trust we have a Father who in His love for us knows all that we need, not merely to sustain earthly life, more importantly what we need to enter eternal life, embracing therefore all the expectations and costs of discipleship, verses 35-59.

Let us not be too harsh in any reflections on the crowd seeking Jesus and more bread.

They were living under the jacket boot of the Roman Empire, under a puppet king, and the immense burden of taxation by the Romans, by Herod, by their own religious leaders. All four Gospel accounts reveal to what extent the people suffered from not just taxation, but the burden of innumerable religious laws, besides the draconian laws of the state and from hunger, poverty, disease.

 Truly as Christ Himself saw them and sees us today: When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. [Mt.9:36]

Thus against this background it is from His compassionate Heart that flows, for those who had just questioned Him, and for us that we should work: for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.

In the above versus Jesus tells us why He will give us this food for eternal life: For on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.

Though no longer is the familiar red-wax circle imprinted with a signet ring, commonly used to seal letters, ‘to seal’, as Jesus uses the word, needs a point of reference:  Canada and other countries have, and use, what is commonly called “the great seal of….”;  in Canada it is rather large, heavy, and is held in trust by the Governor General of Canada and is used, by being stamped upon state documents. Minus the imprint of the Great Seal state documents are just pieces of paper. It is the imprint of the seal which authenticates the purpose of the document.

In a sense we can say that minus ‘the seal of the Father’, Jesus is just another human being.

An example of the power conferred on Jesus by the Father setting His seal upon Jesus is found in Revelation 5:1-5= I saw a scroll in the right hand of the one who sat on the throne. It had writing on both sides and was sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a mighty angel who proclaimed in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to examine it. I shed many tears because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to examine it. One of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. The lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has triumphed, enabling him to open the scroll with its seven seals.”

The ‘sealing’ of Jesus by the Father is a consecration, affirming Jesus as His Son, giving Him as the Incarnate One all the power He needs to fulfill His redemptive mission.

V.28=So they said to Him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”

These people, who had just been told, by Jesus, the only reason they came to Him was for free food, then were told to only seek food for eternal life, are the same people who had tried to seize Jesus to make Him their earthly king, now, suddenly, appear to have experienced some spiritual metamorphosis!

Perhaps as with the Emmaus disciples [Lk.24:13-35] just being in the presence of Jesus, just the power of His anointed words enabled an obvious conversion and: Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one He sent.” [v.29]



© 2018 Fr. Arthur Joseph


Monday, 8 October 2018

St. John 6: 15-21


                                                                      

When we meditate upon: Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry Him off to make Him king, He withdrew again to the mountain alone. [v.15], it helps to be aware of the nature of crowds and how, much like avalanches which begin gently at the top of a mountain with a slight movement of snow, and then cascade down with uncontrollable speed, to understand one reason why Jesus would get away from the crowd.

There are several aspects of this verse which merit closer meditation: a] the crowd moving towards Jesus to carry Him off; b] the attempt to make Him a king; c] Jesus withdrawing and d] alone to the mountain.

A] When Her Majesty the Queen, other members of the royal family, or the Governor General, or the Holy Father on his pastoral visits, come into view of the waiting crowd it is not unusual for people to press forward, gently, peacefully, so no one gets trampled.

Yet there are other circumstances when crowds of people can stampede, either from fear or unbridled enthusiasm, such as we all saw in New York when the towers came down, that was a flight of fear, whereas when the home team wins a major sporting event crowds can stampede onto the field to lift their heroes on their shoulders.

Sadly, be it stampeding from fear or enthusiasm people can get trampled, and seriously injured.

In the Gospel accounts presented each year in the Liturgies of Holy Week, the very crowds pressing forward crying “Hosanna” on Palm Sunday, will become the Good Friday mob rushing forward crying “Crucify Him!”

B] Unwittingly, no doubt, the crowd in its enthusiasm is seeking to accomplish what satan failed to tempt Jesus to do, namely abandon His divine mission and become a mere human potentate.

When Jesus urges us to learn from Him for “I am meek and humble of heart.” [Mt. 11:29], part of that learning is to embrace, with joy and fidelity, the Holy Will of the Father.

For Jesus the will of the Father encompasses fulfilling His divine mission as Redeemer which means, as King of the Universe embracing the humility and meekness of no gilded throne; the Cross becomes His throne; no bejeweled crown but one of thorns; no ornate palaces but rather a cave at birth and a tomb hewn from rock in death. No mere ersatz human majesty, but the glorious majesty of Resurrection.

C] St. John’s use of the word ‘withdrew’ is reminiscent of: They rose up, drove Him out of the town, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl Him down headlong. But He passed through the midst of them and went away. [Lk. 4:29,30].

In both St. John and St. Luke, we observe the uncontrolled nature of crowds. In both cases, in one to avoid being made a secular king, in the other to avoid death before ‘His hour’, Jesus leaves. These examples of Jesus withdrawing, avoiding if you will, anything that is not of the Holy Will of the Father is consistent with: …. I came down from heaven not to do My own will but the will of the One who sent Me. V.38.

This too is the example of the humble heart we are called to imitate.

D] But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you…..[Mt.6:6] We see Jesus throughout His earthly life practicing this aloneness with the Father He teaches us to imitate.

Solitary places for prayer, for encounters with God are found throughout Sacred Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.

Moses experienced this: Meanwhile Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law…..beyond the wilderness, he came to the mountain of God, Horeb. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him as fire flaming out of a bush. When he looked, although the bush was on fire, it was not being consumed. …………….God called out to him from the bush: Moses! Moses! He answered, “Here I am.” God said: Do not come near! Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. [Ex. 3:1-5]

Satan attempts to misuse solitude when tempting Jesus: Then the devil took Him up to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to Him, “All these I shall give to You, if You will prostrate Yourself and worship me.” [4:8,9], Jesus will have none of it: At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and Him alone shall you serve.’” [v.10]

Greater than the paltry magnificence satan offered Jesus is the reality of true magnificence which Jesus reveals to us on a mountain: After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; His face shone like the sun and His clothes became white as light. [Mt. 17:1,2]

Let us not forget the template of Christian life given us by Jesus on the Mount of the Beatitudes: St. Matthew chapters 5, 6, 7.

From the earliest days of the Church men and women have sought out places, spaces, to be alone with God, to, like Jesus, do battle with satan, thus keeping him, as one tradition says, away from the places where people dwell, the cities, to labour in prayer and manual labour as needed, as intercessors for the human family.

Those of the early centuries are known as Fathers/Mothers of the desert, from whose wisdom we get these teachings from two of them: Abba Agathon stresses that “prayer is warfare to the last breath” and Abba Lucius stressed that before seeking the solitary life, we must first have lived rightly among our brothers and sisters, otherwise we “will not be able to live rightly in solitude.”

In Medieval times Irish monks and hermits sought what they called ‘the thin place’, that is, for want of a better descriptive, the place where they would find the membrane between the cosmos and heaven, at its thinnest, for there, they figured, they would be closest to God.

Factually the true ‘thin place’ is in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

The key is to ask the Holy Spirit to lead us into communion of love with the Father, Jesus and Himself, in silence/solitude/the secret place within us.

Vs.16,17=When it was evening, His disciples went down to the sea, embarked in a boat, and went across the sea to Capernaum. It had already grown dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.

There is a beautiful ordinariness in these two verses.

After a hectic day, and needing to travel to their destination, how very ordinary for fishermen, to go down to the sea and travel by boat.

St. John does not indicate why they left without waiting for Jesus. Perhaps they assumed, since He had gone away, He was traveling by some other route and would meet them in Capernaum.

St. John takes note “It had already grown dark.”, and at the Last Supper once the traitor Judas has left, notes:  And it was night. [13:30]

Twilight is often beautiful but never lingering, pre-dawn likewise. The latter giving way to the brilliance of sunlight, the former to the weight of darkness. Satan is all darkness, and darkness has weight, light has nothing heavy about it, hence the expression that something is light, rather than heavy.

We associate darkness with depression, light with joy, as the psalmist says: At dusk weeping comes for the night; but at dawn there is rejoicing. [Ps.30:6]

All sources of light illuminate, many like the sun, produce warmth. Indeed, we combine both when we speak of the light of a fire.

Christ is “light from light, true light from true light”, the light which darkness cannot overcome.

With Jesus absent, while the disciples were still on the sea St. John notes: The sea was stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. [v.18]

Only St. Luke, of all the Evangelists, makes no mention of an event where Jesus walks on the water. St. Mark: 6:45-53 and St. Matthew: 14:22-24, both recount such an event and in each the disciples are traveling across the water without Jesus, a severe storm comes up and each account does include Jesus coming towards the disciples.

V.19=When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they began to be afraid.

To be afraid when on the water and the wind churns the water, is a normal reaction, for huge waves can swamp even the largest of ships.

History is filled with famous stories of shipwrecks and other hazards for sailors, as for example in this verse from the Canadian singer/song writer Gordon Lightfoot in his song: The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald: Does any one know where the love of God goes ~ When the waves turn the minutes to hours?

In fact, as St. John, St. Mark, St. Matthew show the love of God, Love Himself ‘goes’ towards us when we are in peril on the sea of life: But He said to them, “It is I. Do not be afraid.” [v. 20]

St. John concludes, without comment: They wanted to take Him into the boat, but the boat immediately arrived at the shore to which they were heading. [v.21]

© 2018 Fr. Arthur Joseph