Saturday, 20 July 2019

St. John 8: 37-59


                                                            



It is possible that contemplating the seemingly esoteric dialogue between Jesus and His interlocutors has little import for our living the Gospel, living lives of faith today. A patient opening to the text reveals much of today’s struggle of so many Christians and non-Christians alike.

Vs. 37,38= “I know that you are descendants of Abraham. But you are trying to kill Me, because My word has no room among you. I tell you what I have seen in the Father’s presence; then do what you have heard from the Father.”


Jesus is showing them respect by acknowledging that they are the Chosen People as descendants of Abraham, but also admonishes them because being close to Him, to what He brings them from the Father, they are in fact trapped in the pride of their own self-assurance.

v.39= They answered and said to Him, “Our father is Abraham.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works of Abraham.”


Again, this stubborn self assertion and again Jesus tries to break through to their hearts placing a simple challenge before them, namely, to do Abraham’s works.


Abraham’s works were his life of faith and obedience to all God asked of him, thus Abraham did not presume he was saved by the fact of being chosen, rather that his salvation depended upon his free-will choice to believe and to obey, in a word to live as a man of faith: By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; he went out, not knowing where he was to go. By faith he sojourned in the promised land as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs of the same promise; for he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and maker is God. By faith he received power to generate, even though he was past the normal age—and Sarah herself was sterile—for he thought that the one who had made the promise was trustworthy. [Heb. 8: 8-11]


What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day,  and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. [Js. 2:14-17]


Vs. 40,41= “But now you are trying to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God; Abraham did not do this. You are doing the works of your father!” So they said to Him, “We are not illegitimate. We have one Father, God.”


It is important to see again and again Jesus’ tirelessness, because His Sacred Heart burns with love for them, for us, Jesus is seeking to break through their/our stubborn arrogance that they/we might hear, and hearing see and seeing believe. Yet their response reveals constant resistance. Sometimes so is ours, which is why St. Paul gives us this word of the Lord: We all fell to the ground and I heard a voice saying to me in Hebrew, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goad.’ [Acts. 26:14]


Traditionally a goad is something, usually a long stick, used to prod oxen drawing ploughs, or other work animals. The goad St. Paul was kicking against was what the early Church he was persecuting was preaching, the truth about Jesus Christ.


When we feel goaded, we the Baptized, it is the merciful nudging of the Holy Spirit deep within our souls, our hearts, our consciences offering the grace of deeper metanoia, the grace to live more fully our baptismal vocation.


Here, in a sense, Jesus is goading His challengers with His words to wake up, to listen up, to open up.


Now Jesus responds with bluntness, a bluntness that conveys heartbreaking frustration at their stubbornness: vs. 42-47=Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I came from God and am here; I did not come on My own, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand what I am saying? Because you cannot bear to hear My word. You belong to your father the devil and you willingly carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me. Can any of you charge Me with sin? If I am telling the truth, why do you not believe Me? Whoever belongs to God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not listen, because you do not belong to God.”


Jesus reveals once more He is the Father’s gift to them, to us. Warning them of their bondage to satan He shows them once more the path of freedom, the path to the Heart of the Father is Himself, the Son, and welcoming Jesus means belonging to God and hearing His word, and Jesus is the ultimate Word of God.


How frequently, perhaps even in conversation with people we know, certainly in public discourse on disputed questions, and not just in politics, do those with closed minds and hearts, to objective truth, respond as the Jewish leaders do here: The Jews answered and said to Him, “Are we not right in saying that You are a Samaritan and are possessed?” [v.48]


For a Jew to be called a Samaritan was, in its day, what in our day we would call a racist statement and adding that they accuse Jesus of being possessed only amplifies the arrogance of their closed minds and hearts.


Sadly, in our own day those who use personal insult against Christians who proclaim with word and witness, reveal a similar dangerous for their souls’ arrogance.


Jesus answered, “I am not possessed; I honour My Father, but you dishonour Me. I do not seek My own glory; there is one who seeks it and He is the one who judges. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps My word will never see death.” [vs. 49-51]


To dishonour Jesus is to dishonour the Father, for Jesus and the Father are one, and it is the Father who seeks His Son’s glory and indeed Jesus is glorified both by His death on the Cross and His Holy Resurrection. Here too, even though they are argue against Him, against His teaching, insulted Him, Jesus reaches out still assuring them if they keep His word they will have eternal life!


Then the Jews said to Him, “Now we are sure that You are possessed. Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet You say, ‘Whoever keeps My word will never taste death.’ Are You greater than our father Abraham, who died? Or the prophets, who died? Who do You make Yourself out to be?” [vs. 52, 53]


It is part of the twisted logic of those who pursue relentless argument simply to try and prove their own point that their very words of challenge actually are words which, inadvertently to be sure as that is not the speaker’s intent, open the door to more truth in the answer which will be given them.


Jesus answered, “If I glorify Myself, My glory is worth nothing; but it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’  You do not know Him, but I know Him. And if I should say that I do not know Him, I would be like you a liar. But I do know Him and I keep His word.  Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad. [vs.54-56]


It is almost as if the response comes from people on auto-pilot in their determination to best Jesus: So the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old and You have seen Abraham?” [v.57]


Jesus’ reply solemnly reaffirms His Divinity, therefore that He is indeed the long awaited Messiah: Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.” [v.58]


Enraged, as they tried to do with the Woman Jesus rescued and forgave at the start of chapter 8, so now they try to do to Jesus: So they picked up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them and so passed by. [v.59]


The tragedy is, so locked in their arrogance, Jesus walks away from them, undoubtedly with love’s-pain for them burning in His Heart, for had they been humble, perhaps He would have stayed with them and given praise and thanks to the Father for and about them as He did in another context:  At that time Jesus said in reply, “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. [Mt. 11:25]


© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph




Friday, 28 June 2019

ST. JOHN 8:33-36


                                                             

Lectio divina, that is, divine meaning, is to approach Sacred Scripture not as a text, like the words of some technical journal, work of history, or a novel, but as living words not to be read, studied, but to see them, hear them, take them in, allow them to penetrate, transform our mind, heart, soul.

This is the work of the Holy Spirit and requires our cooperation, hence before opening to any book, page, line of Sacred Scripture we should ask the Holy Spirit for His assistance, without which we can fall into various errors, such as literalism which reduces Sacred Scripture to some sort of human record and distorts the living word.


So-called creationists fall into this error and do enormous harm thereby for their literalist interpretation reduces the marvel of all that is, of all that we are, to a type of magic trick, whereas the reality of all that is and all that we are is because the Most Holy Trinity in a creative explosion of love and divine delicacy, ex nihilo, more than just ‘out of nothing’, but from the stupendous reality of there being no-thing created some-thing, and all that was not became!


It matters not a wit how long the process of creation did or did not take.


What matters is the truth that creation is, we are, no mere ‘one of’, rather all that has been created is being creatively sustained by the same love which created and creates – for each newborn human being is a new creation, for God Himself breathes Himself into the matter originally created as Adam and Eve and sustains this marvel of the human person so that each time the original matter becomes conjoined anew between a man and woman LIFE is breathed into the matter anew and a PERSON becomes in the Trinity’s own image and likeness.


Had those challenging Jesus not been scriptural literalists they would have understood, allowed with joy to penetrate their hearts His word assuring them they would come to know the truth, that is come to know Him and that this knowing would set them free.


Instead they rejected not only His words but Jesus Himself with their challenge: They answered Him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will become free’?” [v. 33]


Part of the willful arrogance here is not simply these are the people of the Exodus and Babylonian captivity, but they were currently living under Roman occupation!


Ever patient with such challenges Jesus seeks to help them understand, to help us all understand, our notion of what is meant by freedom is too narrow, in a sense too materialist. We assume it primarily is a matter of freedom from external oppression/slavery, when the reality is freedom was lost with original sin and each time we choose sin we choose real enslavement/imprisonment.


V.34=Jesus answered them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.”


Often in modern translations of passages where Jesus uses the double amen, we find the words ‘verily’ or ‘truly’, some use ‘most assuredly’ - accurate translations, however Jewish custom at the time was only to use amen after a blessing-prayer. Jesus’ use is not only to underscore the importance of His teaching, but also to remind us He is Himself ultimate prayer to the Father and that being in constant intimate dialogue with the Father every teaching is itself a blessing.


V.35= “A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains.”


There are two ways in which a human being becomes a slave. One is external and imposed by another, the other way we become slaves is through what we do to ourselves, enslave ourselves to sins, some mortal, some venial and as varied as addiction to pleasure, poisoned thinking about ourselves or others. Tragically the variety of sin of which we humans are capable is as varied as we are. 


Regarding the first form of enslavement, to assume that sin of the massive form of slavery prevalent in the 18th and 19th centuries, in particular with the kidnapping and selling of our brothers and sisters from Africa to various owners throughout the western hemisphere, ended when first Canada, then the rest of the British Empire, then the US outlawed slavery, is to be ignorant of ongoing human trafficking, where men, women and children become slaves to factory owners, wealthy families, prostitution rings, groups which use children as soldiers.


The Church reminds us in the Catechism: The seventh commandment forbids acts or enterprises that for any reason - selfish or ideological, commercial, or totalitarian - lead to the enslavement of human beings, to their being bought, sold and exchanged like merchandise, in disregard for their personal dignity. It is a sin against the dignity of persons and their fundamental rights to reduce them by violence to their productive value or to a source of profit. St. Paul directed a Christian master to treat his Christian slave "no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother, . . . both in the flesh and in the Lord."  [ cf. # 2414 ]


As Christians we have an explicit obligation under charity and justice, if we are aware, for example, of someone indentured in domestic service, to report this to the authorities. Charity and justice also demand we help as best we can those charitable organizations that work to end slavery and human trafficking.


When it comes to being enslaved ourselves in sin, freedom comes from asking for metanoia, true conversion of heart, for which we have access in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, prayer, fasting, and where the sin is some form of addiction groups like Alcoholic Anonymous, and similar groups for drug, sex, anger addicts, are excellent ways of working towards being freed some such slavery, especially if such effort is combined with the help of a priest-spiritual director.


When Jesus teaches us: a son always remains, He Himself is the living example of the freedom of being a child of God, dwelling forever in the house of our Father. Granted here on earth it is to dwell in the house of trust in Jesus’s promise: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in Me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to Myself, so that where I am you also may be.” [14: 1-3]


V: 36= “So if a son frees you, then you will truly be free.”


This is no mere amnesty such as that which Lincoln granted the slaves in the United States during the Civil War. Indeed, whatever a human authority grants such authority can rescind just as easily.

Again, when Jesus uses the word ‘son’ He speaks of Himself and we can hear in this, and many other passages, the intensity of His love, the very ‘sitio’ He has, to set us free. Freedom is a gift of the Holy Trinity through Jesus laying down His life for us to redeem us.


© 2018 Fr. Arthur Joseph






Tuesday, 11 June 2019

ST. JOHN 8:31-32


                                                            

This amazingly detailed teaching of Jesus, recorded by St. John, is striking in vs. 31,32 with both Jesus’ words of affirmation and promise: the affirmation - Jesus then said to those Jews who believed in Him, “If you remain in My word, you will truly be My disciples……

When we hear the word ‘remain’ most often it is heard meaning ‘to stay with’, when in fact the first meaning of the word is: continue to exist.

As St. Paul taught the Greeks about Jesus, referencing their own poets, the actual truth is it is in Jesus: we live and move and have our being. [cf. Acts 17:28]

The parameters of this indwelling, this remaining, as Jesus has just taught us, are His words.

When we seek to live primarily by the words of anyone else, or some national constitution, some philosophy etc., is when we diminish the fullness of our existence, when we step out of remaining indwelling in the Light of Christ and begin to become lost in the darkness of the culture of death.

31.cont.: ……and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

One of the deepest wounds within humanity, sourced in the lies from satan since the first lie told by the evil one to Adam and Eve, is that truth has been diminished from what is essentially true about truth: it is not information about something – such as it is the earth which circles the sun, not as was believed for millennia that the sun circled the earth. Nor is it subjective, that is dependant on personal interpretation.

When Pilate asked: “What is truth?” [18:38] he, perhaps unwittingly, betrayed the common error of reducing truth to information, which in our day is expressed in relativism, the deliberate refusal to embrace that which is objective truth, indeed, more accurately to be faithful to He Who is Truth.

When Jesus tells us we will come to know the truth and thus be set free, He is telling us when we come to know Him through communion of love with Him, which is to live the Gospel, then indeed we shall be imbued with truth, live in truth and thus be the free persons we have been created to be.

Jesus is the glory of the Father ‘full of grace and truth’ [1:14] and it is through Jesus that truth comes into all of creation, into each human being, [1:17], if we accept Jesus into our lives, not just when baptized: in every moment of our lives.

“I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.” [14:6], Jesus says of Himself.

Truth is a person: the Incarnate One, Jesus Christ.

Unless we embrace this, are guided by this, then we are easily seduced by the world’s notions about truth, are vulnerable to lies of all kinds.

Abiding in the words of Jesus, is to abide in Him, to live and move and have our being in Truth.

What the world does when making use of the word truth, declaring something to be true, is fundamentally an assessment of facts, information, persons.

The ‘truth’ about something: movement of the sun, a statement made to us by another about what is or is not, is never pure, always tainted by the interpretation made by the speaker, or the ‘recorder’ of facts or scientific conclusions.

The current debate about climate is a prime example of how ‘truth-facts’ are easily manipulated.

Christ who is Truth simply IS truth, speaks only what is true and amazingly invites us into this reality and once we are in communion with truth Himself, we become free.

This being free is to experience the grace of redemption, thus, to be free from the fears, the darkness, the lies of satan, from death.

Many will argue because of physical or emotional problems, painful life experiences, sins committed against us or by us, the burden of doubts, rejection by others, etc., etc., we cannot ever claim to be free.

This is reductionist thinking.

The freedom Christ promises us, in our lives in this moment, is not freedom from life’s struggles, it is the promise of all grace needed to live life, to have hope, to know we are beloved of the Holy Trinity, children of the Father, disciples of Christ, temples of the Holy Spirit.

Freedom is to be one with Christ, taking up our cross each day and following Him.

Freedom is that there is a redemptive dimension to our suffering, that Divine Mercy, for example in sacramental confession, is always available to us, and freedom is that in the Holy Trinity every moment is the moment of beginning again.

Freedom is not the illusions of ephemeral ‘happiness’, it is to have the Holy Spirit’s gift of joy, joy which no suffering, no lie, no disappointment can overcome.

Contingent on Christ’s assuring us truth will set us free is to embrace the connection between the Beatitudes and the Our Father.

The most pernicious, deep, dark, prison keeping us unfree, thus vulnerable to being easily hurt by the words/actions of others, prone to distrust that we are beloved of God, bound by the inner pain from the lie that prayer is anything but pointless, indeed so easily wounded by the trails and tribulations, disappointments of life, by the minor pricks or grievous harm done to us by others we become exhaustingly tangled in the dark web of hatred, is to slam shut by our own actions the prison door and ourselves to turn the key and imprison ourselves because we refuse to forgive.

 Jesus assures us that the poor in spirit are blessed [cf.Mt.5:3] and to experience our sinfulness and need of forgiveness is the poverty of being human and to experience the seemingly unfairness of being the forgiver of others is the poverty of relinquishing the very human need to be in control, the ugly stepchild of pride.

When we forgive, which is to show mercy [cf. Mt.5:7] we are blessed with Divine Mercy being lavished upon us, for the Beatitudes are not promises of something in the distance but in the immediate.

These Beatitudes, as with the promise of freedom flowing from dwelling in Truth, that is to dwell in Christ, are not simply linked to but become operative every time we pray the Our Father, as Jesus teaches us: ……forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. [cf. Lk. 11:4].

Older translations have it as: forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.

All sin committed against me, by myself, by someone against me or me against another, is to trespass into and upon the sacred ground of personhood.

In either translation the operative ask of the Father for forgiveness is our declaration that we are forgiving of others. Frankly self must be included in that, otherwise we go through life hobbled by guilt, which is the egotistical way to avoid true contrition.

Mercy/forgiveness given becomes mercy received and breaks the shackles, breaks the lock, smashes open the prison which has kept us from the freedom for which we have been created and redeemed.

“If you remain in My word, you will truly be My disciples and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”



© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph










Tuesday, 21 May 2019

ST. JOHN 8: 21-30


                                                              ST. JOHN 8: 21 – 30

This Icon is of Jesus The Teacher. Traditionally in the East Icons are windows into heaven, in the West stained-glass windows, statues are also portals-reminders of the reality of the true place of our dwelling, the place of which Jesus assures: In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. [Jn.14.2]

The most important windows/portals are, of course the Divine Liturgy, Sacred Scripture, all Sacraments, deep prayer, every act of love-charity we perform in service of others including our willingness to forgive.

St. John, in each chapter, including the eighth, places Jesus the Teacher before us.

When we meditate upon Sacred Scripture, importantly the Holy Gospels, if we be still the Holy Spirit will gift us with illumination more profound than contemplating an icon, a stained glass window, a statue, for: Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. [Heb. 4: 12]

He said to them again, “I am going away and you will look for Me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come.” [v.21]

He said to them again……..that word ‘again’ is used by St. John as emphasis when Jesus, with His loving patience, must teach and re-teach the same truth. He must do this in 8:12, 10:7, 13:12, 18:7; 20:21; 21:16 and St. John uses the word in 11:38, when he notes Jesus’ inner groaning ‘again’ as He approaches the tomb of Lazarus.

If we pause for a moment and reflect upon how and when we make use of this same seemingly ‘little’ word, it is not so little after all! Another time; once more; a second time; afresh; anew; extra; in addition; additionally; over and above; on top; also; too; as well; besides; furthermore; moreover: just a few synonyms for ‘again’. Hence, not only is every word uttered by Jesus of supreme importance, depth, meaning, but when contemplating Sacred Scripture, the Holy Gospels, each word has its own depth.

“I am going away and you will look for Me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come.”

The going away is to His passion and death, and unless His hearers, unless we ‘find’ Jesus in the depths of belief in His Holy Resurrection, then indeed death will be in the quagmire of sin, the sin of unbelief, not accidental because we never heard of Jesus, but when we have heard of Him and still refuse to believe, as His hearers not only heard of Him but were speaking with Him, then the sin is deliberate. We cannot go where He is going because the immediacy of Jesus’ Passion, Death, Burial, Resurrection is for Him a solitary journey to redeem us. Such is God’s love for us we do go there with Jesus in Holy Baptism where we are plunged into His death and brought forth, born anew, in His Holy Resurrection. A grace-gift we must beg of the Holy Trinity for all those who do not know Jesus and have not been baptized.

So the Jews said, “He is not going to kill Himself, is He, because He said, ‘Where I am going you cannot come’?” [v.22]

Though of course we do not know if Jesus’ questioners were aware of some spike in suicide around this time, we do know that: You shall not kill. [Ex. 20:13] You shall not kill. [Deut.5:12]        “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’ [Mt. 5:21]

The command is unambiguous. There is no qualifier.

We cannot kill any other person, pre-born or already born, nor can we self-kill, that is murder ourselves by self or other assisted suicide, also known as assisted dying/euthanasia. No matter the fanciful language used disingenuously to define abortion or euthanasia, it is murder, always murder, either murdering self, alone or with a co-conspirator, or murdering a pre-born or already born human being.

There are eight instances of suicide recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures [Jdg. 9:54; 16:28-31; 1 Sm. 31:1-4; 31:5; 2 Sm. 17:23; 1 Kg. 16:18] and only one recorded in the New Testament, that of Judas [Mt. 27: 3-5]. Only the Lord can read human hearts in any of the recorded instances, though there is a stark contrast between the repentance-tears of Peter and Judas’ choice.

Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God. [Catechism of the Catholic Church {CCC} 2281; If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law. Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide. We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. the Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives. [CCC 2282/83]

He said to them, “You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above. You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.” [vs.23,24]

Each time Jesus asserts “I AM” He is making it abundantly clear He is, while second Person of the Holy Trinity, Son of the Father, the same God who self-identifies in the Hebrew Scriptures. [cf. Ex. 3:14; Deut. 32:39; Is. 43:10]. It is an assertion Jesus makes constantly and should have enlightened anyone familiar with the Scriptures and thus begs their question: So they said to Him, “Who are you?” [v.25]

Some may have asked from a sincere seeking to be assured Jesus is indeed who He says He is, others as a challenge. Each of us can humbly ask Jesus repeatedly to show us that He is real, or variations of the question, but we must ask not as a challenge or out of mere curiosity, but with the sincerity of the man seeking to have Jesus free his son from a demon, the father crying out: Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” [Mk.9:24]

V.25 cont.: Jesus said to them, “What I told you from the beginning.” If anyone of us had to constantly reply to the same question, as Jesus must yet again being challenged to His identity, likely our frustration would be expressed by facial expression, tone, or words, yet Jesus patiently continues to teach and within His teaching is the answer His questioners, everyone seeks, if we open our hearts as Jesus says: Whoever has ears ought to hear. [Mt. 11:15]

I have much to say about you in condemnation. But the One who sent Me is true, and what I heard from Him I tell the world.” [v.26] Once again with these words Jesus is giving them the answer, namely that He and the Father are one, He is the awaited One, the Messiah, He speaks only truth, truth which the Father has spoken to Him. St. John notes: They did not realize that He was speaking to them of the Father. [v.27], a statement which connects to Jesus’ words from the Cross: Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” [Lk.23:34]

Yet again with a sense from the words of the fire of His love for His questioners, for us, Jesus repeats the constant truth about Himself, the Father, the mission to redeem us: So Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM, and that I do nothing on My own, but I say only what the Father taught Me. The One who sent Me is with Me. He has not left Me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to Him.” [vs.28/29]

These words also convey the intimacy of love between the Father and the Son and finally, after all this time, all His patient and clear teaching, St. John can tell us: Because He spoke this way, many came to believe in Him. [v.30]

© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph





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