Saturday, 12 September 2015

ST. JOHN 2: 6-12

                                                                  v.6 – Now there were set there six water pots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece.

While Jesus does not specifically say of Himself: I am the living water, we would not be remiss to view Himself as such since when speaking with the Woman at the Well [4:14] He does say:…the water that I shall give…will become a fountain of water springing up to eternal life.

The stone jars containing water which will become the matter of Jesus’ first public miracle and manifestation of His glory are a reminder – remembering too all stone is simply a form of rock – the source of living water was Himself ‘contained’ in the ‘pot, the jar’ of the tomb made of rock: cf. Mt. 27:60; Mk. 15:46; Lk. 23:53, before the ultimate miracle and manifestation of His glory, His Holy Resurrection.

About 70% of the world’s surface is covered by water, however these are the oceans which within contain about 96% of all water on and under the earth, while at the poles and in the mountain glaciers much is frozen.

That means only about 2.5% of earth’s water supply is so-called fresh water, which however does not mean it is necessarily clean enough to drink!

By weight the average adult body is approximately 65% water and while a healthy human being may survive about three weeks without food we cannot last more than a week without water.

Genesis 1:2, speaks of the Holy Spirit ‘hovering over’, that is breathing over the waters of the earth, at the very dawn of creation; water was used by God in the great flood as a means of purification of humanity from its bondage to sin; to save His Chosen People God parted the waters of the sea and when Christ’s Heart was pierced on the Cross: Blood and Water gushed forth and in this the Church has always seen the outflow of sacramental life: Baptism, and the ultimate sanctifying food, the Holy Eucharist.

Thus the Roman Catholic Church in the blessing of water for baptism during the Easter Vigil prays:  At the very dawn of creation Your Spirit breathed on the waters, making them the wellspring of all holiness. The waters of the great flood You made a sign of the waters of baptism, that make an end of sin and a new beginning of goodness. Through the waters of the Red Sea You led Israel out of slavery, to be an image of God’s holy people, set free from sin by baptism. In the waters of the Jordan Your Son was baptized by John and anointed with the Spirit. Your Son willed that water and blood should flow from his side as he hung upon the cross.

The Orthodox Church, on the feast of the Theophany, called Epiphany in the Roman Church, blesses water praying:  Today the nature of the waters is sanctified, the Jordan bursts forth and turns back the flood of its streams, seeing the Master wash Himself. To the voice of one crying in the wilderness,  prepare ye the way of the Lord,  You came, O Lord, taking the form of a servant,  asking for baptism though You have no sin.  The waters saw You and were afraid.  The Forerunner began to tremble and cried out, saying:  How shall the lampstand illumine the Light?  How shall the servant lay hands upon the Master?  Sanctify both me and the waters, O Saviour, Who takes away the sins of the world.

There are sentences in the Holy Gospel, indeed in all of Sacred Scripture, which may at first glance appear rather simple: a statement of some fact or not that important a descriptive.

If however we take the time to sit still with the precise words, and listen to the Holy Spirit, we will discover how much is contained therein, how much is offered for contemplation and learning.

When we contemplate the night sky, stand upon a mountain top and gaze at the valley, forests, lakes, rivers below or towards the far distant horizon, or perhaps simply wander through a field of wildflowers what should astound, in the sense of both thrill and comfort us, is the lavishness of God’s creative love of all that is both for our needs or pure enjoyment.

So too with the huge amount of water St. John has pointed to – created matter about to be transformed in a gesture, lavish in itself, that will fulfill an urgent need.

v. 7- Jesus said to them, “Fill the water pots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim.

In Jesus’ teachings about mercy, in St. Luke we find: Give, and it shall be given to you: good measure and pressed down and shaken together and running over shall they give into your bosom. For with the same measure that you shall use, it shall be measured to you again. [6:38]

God is never outdone in generosity.

With modern technology we can see/observe many things which for previous generations were almost unknowable: we can peer into the soil and watch a seed sprout; use other technology to find deposits of gas, oil, water not only deep beneath the surface of the earth but of the sea as well; we can gaze into the far reaches of space and detect light that has travelled for eons from point of origin, or see stars being born or die; indeed we can now even look into the womb at the earliest stages of a human life beginning and observe those stages right to the moment of birth.

However the price we pay for such ‘peering into’ ability is a decrease both in our capacity for wonder and our willingness to be peaceful about mysteries beyond our ken.

Such is the nature of authentic miracles.

We can see the external acts of sacramental baptism, but not the miracle which occurs in the soul; we can see the external acts of Holy Mass, but not the miracle of transubstantiation. Two examples of sacred mysteries which must and will always be: mystery.

Vs.8-9 - And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it. When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine…

True miracles are always experiential and always have a forward moving impact on the recipient.

We cannot see the mystery of what unfolds in the soul of a penitent when the miracle of Divine Mercy is lavished through the priest announcing the words of absolution, but the transformation of a burdened heart is visible on the face of the penitent and mostly unfolds forward in a renew commitment to a truly Christian life.

Vs. 9-10- …and he did not know where it came from [but the servants who had drawn the water knew], the master called the bridegroom. And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!”

Ordinary bread is good. Ordinary wine is good.

The consecrated bread and wine of Holy Eucharist, become the Body, Blood, Soul, Divinity of Christ is the best!

No wonder St. John boldly announces in verse 11: This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.

Then as happens frequently in each of the four Holy Gospel accounts of Jesus’ public life, miracle is followed by forward movement as in verse 12: After this He went down to Capernaum…..and they did not stay there many days.






Wednesday, 22 July 2015

St. John 2: 2-5

In the section on the Sacrament of Marriage, the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that: God Himself is the author of marriage….[par.1603] and it is the spouses themselves who are the ministers of this sacrament [para. 1623].

The priest does not ‘marry’ the couple; however he does bless them and witness, along with those assembled.

The third preface for Masses for the celebration of Marriage sums up the core witness of marriage: …the Sacrament of holy Matrimony, as the abiding sign of Your own love, consecrates the love of a man and woman, through Christ our Lord.

We live in time when the whole truth and reality of personhood, of being male and female, of Holy Marriage, of family life, indeed of faith life, when children often are at risk of being murdered while still in the womb, of stealing childhood from children and pushing them towards growing up and becoming enmeshed in the culture of hedonism, nihilism, greed, death is an outrage that cries to heaven for justice.

So tainted by the surrounding culture have the baptized themselves become that priests, and indeed our Protectant counterparts as Ministers of the Gospel, often have serious battles to curtail attempts to desacralize what is most sacred by introduction of modes of dress, music and other things which diminish the reality of Christ as the centre of martial love and life.

As surely and as really present at the wedding in Cana, Christ is present to, within, the marriage of baptized persons, the man and the woman entering the covenant of communion of love and cooperation with God in the creation of new life and through Baptism new members of the Body of Christ.

Whoever the young couple were, relatives of one of the disciples, or of Jesus and Mary, St. John does not tell us. They are representative of all couples on their wedding day.

He does however point out in v. 1 – and the mother of Jesus was there. -  Adding in v. 2 – Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding.

Except in very extreme circumstances the Church does not permit marriages in secret – it is essential witnesses be present, as was the custom in Jesus’ day.

Why?:  respect for family and friends by inviting them to share in this joyous occasion – the great reality about the presence of witnesses is that this Sacrament of Marriage is precursor to enhancing the development and expansion of the Domestic Church and it is also a foundation stone of society.

The very woof and warp of a healthy, sane, caring society is rooted in family life. All attempts to disrupt family life through distortions of marriage and child-rearing weaken the very fabric of society and mount an assault on the Domestic and Universal Church.

At Cana, as we shall see, there was a material crisis of lack of wine.

In our day there is a greater lack that cries out to heaven for relief: the lack of common sense wisdom when it comes to the God intended reality of male and female/husband and wife/father and mother.

As Our Blessed Mother was so urgently needed at Cana, we need Her even more in this culture of darkness, death and confusion.

v.3 – And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”

One of the amusing things about inviting people, family and friends, to any function is never knowing how hungry or thirsty they may be, or perhaps what their capacity for food and drink are! No one should be surprised that ‘they ran out of wine’, it is a very human thing.

More than once in the soup kitchen where I volunteered before entering even more deeply the hermitical life I was blessed to be witness to how Our Blessed Mother still hears the cry ‘They have no – or – we have no…’ and tends to our needs.

Unexpected numbers of hungry men, women and children would show up for the meal and we would suddenly be running out of food when the back door buzzer would go and there would be someone with boxes of leftovers from some wedding or funeral, for example, and suddenly there were lots of sandwiches and cakes and cookies – often so much and that we would scramble to find bags and containers so the homeless to take the leftovers gathered up for them!

This intervention, this mother care and concern of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary remains active in the life of the human family, the Church, each of our lives if we reach out to Her with confident trust as in the ancient prayer: REMEMBER, O Most Gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to Your protection, implored Your help, or sought Your intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly unto You, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to You do I come; before You I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in Your mercy hear and answer me. Amen.

v. 4 – Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”

Jesus uses this term ‘woman’ also when He speaks with the ‘Woman at the Well’ [4:41]; when speaking with the “Woman caught in adultery” [8:10]; when confiding His Mother to St. John, and thus to all of us, [19:26]. This is also the term used by the Angels speaking to Mary Magdalene at the tomb and is the descriptive of Our Blessed Mother in Revelations chapter 12, the ‘woman clothed with the sun’.

The term ‘woman’ is used as an honourific. It is an expression of respect.

In our day we so overload words with unintended, so-called politically correct meanings not found in the original use of the word some might misread its use by Jesus.

Comes then the question from Jesus as to what His Mother’s concern has to do with Him!

Jesus is, as is obvious by His later action, not refusing His Mother, rather He is illuminating the extent of what is being asked and what will unfold from Her request.

In his book LIFE OF CHRIST, the Ven. Fulton Sheen gives as his title to the chapter reflecting on the wedding at Cana as: The Beginning of “The Hour”, stressing how use of “hour”, especially by St. John [cf. 7:30, 8:20, 12:23, 12:27, 16:32, 17:2] invariably refers to the Cross, to the passion, death and ultimately the resurrection and ascension of Jesus.

Thus as Ven. Sheen also notes Our Lady would have perfectly understood Jesus was telling His Mother that should He agree to her request, should He perform a miracle, then His hour would immediately begin to unfold: When she took Him away from the temple as a boy of twelve, it was because she sensed that His Hour had not yet come; He obeyed her then and returned to Nazareth with her. Now, He told her that His Hour had not yet come, but she bade Him begin it, and He obeyed. At Cana she gave Him as a Saviour to sinners; on the Cross He gave her as a refuge to sinners. When He suggested that His first miracle would lead unerringly to His Cross and death, and that she would become henceforth a Mother of Sorrows, she turned at once to the winesteward and said: Do whatever He tells you. [v.-5]……She never speaks again in Scripture. [cf. op. cit. pp.77-79]

Not while at the foot of the Cross, where Mary ascents to becoming the Mother of every human being, and Mother of the Church, not in the Upper Room at Pentecost, does Our Lady Speak.

She becomes in many ways Our Lady of Silence, a silence so powerful and eloquent it terrorizes satan and his minions.

Yes She has been sent to us every since Her Assumption from the earliest days of the Church to our own era and in some of these visits from Her, such as at Fatima, She speaks and teaches, in others, such a Knock in Ireland, it is Her silence which speaks to us.

The core and essence whether She speaks or is silent, of what She has to say to the whole human family, to the whole Church, to each individual is forever Her essential word spoken at Cana: DO WHATEVER HE TELLS YOU.

This is truly Her mission, to point Jesus out to us, to direct us to Him, to urge with all a Mother’s urgency of love, each human being to follow Jesus and do whatever He tells us, asks of us.

In his 2002 Apostolic Letter on the Most Holy Rosary [ROSARIUM VIRGINIS MARIAE], St. John Paul II teaches:  21. Moving on from the infancy and the hidden life in Nazareth to the public life of Jesus, our contemplation brings us to those mysteries which may be called in a special way “mysteries of light”. Certainly the whole mystery of Christ is a mystery of light. He is the “light of the world” (Jn 8:12). Yet this truth emerges in a special way during the years of his public life, when he proclaims the Gospel of the Kingdom……………Each of these mysteries is a revelation of the Kingdom now present in the very person of Jesus. The Baptism in the Jordan is first of all a mystery of light…….. Another mystery of light is the first of the signs, given at Cana (cf. Jn 2:1- 12), when Christ changes water into wine and opens the hearts of the disciples to faith, thanks to the intervention of Mary, the first among believers………apart from the miracle at Cana, the presence of Mary remains in the background. The Gospels make only the briefest reference to her occasional presence at one moment or other during the preaching of Jesus (cf. Mk 3:31-5; Jn 2:12), and they give no indication that she was present at the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist. Yet the role she assumed at Cana in some way accompanies Christ throughout his ministry. The revelation made directly by the Father at the Baptism in the Jordan and echoed by John the Baptist is placed upon Mary's lips at Cana, and it becomes the great maternal counsel which Mary addresses to the Church of every age: “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). This counsel is a fitting introduction to the words and signs of Christ's public ministry and it forms the Marian foundation of all the “mysteries of light”.




Monday, 2 March 2015

JOHN 2:1

Within the first chapter of his account of the Holy Gospel St. John, after the great Prologue on the mystery and reality of the Incarnation of Jesus, and Jesus becoming flesh, that is a human being, moves us through two totally packed days of the appearance and witness to Jesus of St. John the Baptist, the appearance of Jesus and the encounters with Andrew, Simon-Peter, Philip and Nathaniel.

Now the Evangelist tells us in the very first words of chapter 2 v.1 – On the third day…..

As mentioned before days, time, hour, place, Jesus’ relationship with the Father, His Father-Our Father, most especially and more so than in the Synoptic accounts, are critically emphasized by St. John, who also more than the Synoptics, gives us lengthy accounts of Jesus’ spoken words, as in this chapter.

The “third day”!

Rather than go through the entire Old Testament instances which show the importance of ‘three’ in the unfolding of salvation history and prophecies about the Christ and His redemptive mission, keeping in mind in the ancient world numbers were of great symbolic importance, I will here confine myself to examples from the New Testament, the Gospels in particular and one affirming quote from St. Paul.

In John 19, after being challenged by His disciples about His action in the cleansing of temple, Jesus declares: Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. [2:19]

A couple of verses further on the Evangelist notes: …He was in Jerusalem at the time of the Passover…[v. 23]

This is the first of three Passovers St. John notes Jesus’ presence at during His public life: Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near…..[6:4]…..Then, six days before the Passover….[12:1].

The last, the third, was indeed the ultimate Passover when Jesus, the true Lamb of God would be sacrificed and rise on the third day.

It is the Risen Christ who specifically teaches the reality of the Holy Trinity, Three Persons, One God: Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. [Mt. 28:19]

As referred to earlier when Jesus spoke about restoring the Temple in three days, that is on the third day, St. John adds: …He was speaking of the temple of His body. [v.21]

More explicitly in the Synoptics Jesus teaches on several occasions about the three days and the third day:

St. Matthew: For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. [12.40]; From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised on the third day. [16;21]; ….and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up. [17:23]; And the third day He will rise again. [20:19]

St. Mark:  …and after three days rise again. [8:31]; And after He is killed, He will rise the third day. [9:31]; And the third day He will rise again. [10:34]

St. Luke:  …and be raised the third day. [9:22]; And the third day He will rise again. [18:33]

Before returning to the beginning of St. John chapter 2 and his reference to the third day, this from St. Paul 1 Corinthians 15:3-8: For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures……

V. 1 - …there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee….

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, [paras. 1601 ff] can be found a precise teaching on holy marriage from the origins of marital union in Genesis to the wedding feast of the Lamb described in Revelation 19: 7, 9.

While the Church Herself is the Bride of Christ, the Divine Bridegroom, the soul of every human being, male of female, is always spoken of as the ‘she’ beloved of the ‘Him”, that is of Christ the Divine Bridegroom.

Thus the mystics of the Church have always found in that most human of love sonnets, the Song of Songs of the Hebrew Scriptures an image of the passionate relationship between the soul and God, the love affair, the communion of love, for which we have been created.

On this side of the grave the highest and most intimate union possible with the Divine, Holy, Triune God is when He weds Himself to us in such perfect communion-of-love-fusion we loose none of our individuality, remain person, but, just as in human sacramental marriage where the two become one yet remain two, so the soul with the soul and the Trinity.

V. 1 - …..and the Mother of Jesus was there.

Here St. John reveals the apostolate of intercession of Our Blessed Mother, visibly from this moment in Cana until the end of time but noting at the very beginning of this event Her presence.

From the Evangelist’s notation of ‘third day’ to in v.11 referring to the first manifestation of His glory, this Cana event highlights the original martial vocation, affirms its sacredness and honour, its communal dimension,  points both to the Resurrection and the reality of heavenly life, the eternal wedding feast!






Thursday, 12 February 2015

JOHN 1: 43-51

Travel, at least for more people in the industrialized world, on a daily basis usually is by car or public transport. Both means have enabled the expansion of cities into vast places of population connected to so-called bedroom communities enabling people to work in the city and live sometimes hours away, even in the countryside.

The vast network of highways allows food to be grown at great distances from the cities, while air travel allows people to do commerce and vacation virtually anywhere across the globe.

Naturally enough access to modern local and international transport, and frequency of use, is connected to the ability to pay.

Millions of people throughout the world however live either in countries without infrastructures that facilitate travel other than by walking: to work the fields, get water, go to school.

I have seen homeless people from the city center where the shelters and soup kitchens are, and the recycling plant that pays for empty bottles and cans, some seventy-six blocks away from the center, dumpster diving for said recyclables.

Daily thousands of our brothers and sisters, again mostly on foot, either flee advancing terrorists or leave their homelands of extreme poverty and unemployment in search of a better life.

In the days when Jesus lived His public life on earth camels, horses, donkeys were accessible for those who either owned such outright or could afford to pay to travel by such means. There was also travel by boat across lakes and even the seas between nations.

Most ordinary people, like Jesus Himself, walked wherever they had to go and both the Synoptics and the Gospel according to St. John have many references to Jesus walking from place to place and mention the crowds who either followed Him or walked to find Him.

What an experience it must have been for God Incarnate, Jesus, to walk the very earth He, with the Father and the Holy Spirit had created!

Jesus was not simply walking the earth, He was walking among us, loving us, seeking us out as He does still, our Risen Beloved Redeemer, moving amongst us in the various disguises in particular of the poor, the hungry, the naked, the thirsty, the lonely, the imprisoned [cf. Mt. 25: 31-46].

He also is constantly at the door of our hearts, seeking our invitation that He may enter. More He is more intimate to us than we are to our very selves.

V.43- The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee….

 Once again there are words before us we should not rush past to get to the ‘why.’

Each of us has desire, reflection, decision, choice, action unfolding in every moment of our lives and as desire is fulfilled, reflection acted upon, decisions made so unfold our lives for good or ill.

This beginning of verse 43 is a reminder the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Incarnate Son of God, God Himself in His humanity is gifted, like ourselves, with free will and Himself desires, reflects, decides, chooses, acts.

V.43 - …..and He found Philip…..

One of the reasons children enjoy playing hide-n-seek is precisely the thrill of being found.

Being found affirms they are known and beloved.

Even adults are thrilled by the surprise of being ‘found’ by a loved one or a friend unexpectedly, for example, at the mall or in a restaurant or simply out for a walk.

Such joy flows upward from the very pages of the Holy Gospel at those simple words and He found, a joy which each of us is offered if we but stand still and await in the depths of each moment for Jesus, again and again and again to find us!

V.43-…and said to him, “Follow Me.”

The Holy Gospel should never be meditated upon, much less read as some story, as an account of the life/lives of others, Jesus in first place always, nor as some historical record of events in time, chronological time, that are over and done with!

We should not simply ‘read’ any of Sacred Scripture, the Holy Gospel in particular.

Rather we should approach these sacred words with faith, reverence, an open and listening heart: For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. [Heb.4.12]

Thus if we strive to enter into each word, event within the Holy Gospel, to be as present and participant as possible when Jesus says “Follow Me”, we will hear Him speaking directly to us and can choose, in that moment, to follow Him into the graced depths of the present moment, the duty of the moment.

Or not.

Always we are free.

Likewise always He will keep inviting us.

Indeed the invitation to follow Him is never a one of.

So long as our hearts beat, so constantly does He invite.

V.44- Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.

In 12:21 Philip is again identified as being from Bethsaida and Andrew is mentioned also. Bethsaida is also mentioned in Mark 8: 22-26 as the place where Jesus heals a blind man.

Place is important both in salvation history, in the whole story from Genesis to Revelation, in the life of Christ, and in our own lives.

The place of our ancestors, the place of our birth and growing up, the places we choose as adults to study, work, travel, settle down:  in our day in developed countries ‘place’ changes frequently either with job change or growing family; for some people place-change is forced upon them by war or famine or the seeking of a better life; some, such as refugees, especially after WWII, are called ‘dis-placed’ persons, thereby noting the importance of place in life.

Every event of salvation history, every event in the life of Jesus, every event in our own lives takes place ‘some-place’!

In his book LIVING BETWEEN WORLDS, Philip Sheldrake, writing about the Celtic Christians and monastics search for the ideal place to live writes extensively about their search for, and once found living in, a particular location deemed to be the ‘thin place’, that is a particular location where the ‘…membrane between this world and the other world, between the material and the spiritual was very permeable..” [p.7]…..”Human beings live permanently in a world that is a boundary place.” [p.46]

Through baptism our actual, real, primary ‘place’ is within the Body of Christ, as members of His Mystical Body, within the communal place which is the Church, the Church being simultaneously present in heaven as Communion of Saints, in Purgatory and across the globe.

The membrane between any ‘place’ geographically where we are on earth and the ‘other world’ that is the Kingdom of Heaven, is particularly thin, translucent really and permeable within Holy Mass in particular and in Holy Communion when the glorified risen Jesus, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity comes and dwells anew within us.

The real import of all places mentioned in the Gospel, of all places in our lives, the particular place we are in in this moment can be, should be, usually is the place of encounter with Christ, the real place to be with Him and when we live and move and have our being and doing all things with Him, in Him, through Him the place has no boundaries whatsoever.

V.45 – Philip found Nathaniel and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses said in the law, and also the prophets wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

 We have here another example of the real template of evangelization, namely one who has encountered Jesus goes to one who has not and proclaims Jesus.

v.46 – And Nathaniel said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

Who among us has not experienced, or perhaps even said ourselves, some such remark as Nathaniel’s about another country, city, neighbourhood, or worse about people coming from a particular ethnic or religious background?

Prejudice is precisely what it is: pre-judging without objective, factual information.

The verse continues with Philip not being deterred in the least, so great is his love for his friend, so anxious is he to share with his friend encounter with Jesus:  Philip said to him, “Come and see.”, the very words Jesus gave to the others when they asked Jesus where He lived.

If we wish to know the place, the ‘thin place’ of encounter with Jesus then we must go and seek, in a word go to the place where Jesus is and invites us, there to be with Him.

V. 47 – Jesus saw Nathaniel coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!”

Jesus is declaring that Nathaniel is pure of heart and it is the pure of heart who shall see God. Here too we sense the depth of Jesus’ love for Nathaniel.

V. 48 – Nathaniel said to Him, “How do You know me?”

One of the ways we experience our sense of place in time, space, location, relationships, indeed with self, is the affirmation and recognition of existence which flows from knowing: being known by other, knowing self.

We simply know our parents know us without question, likewise with siblings, but outside of the family we have to come to know others and allow others to know us in order to be known.

Most of us have had the experience of seeing someone who seems familiar, but for some reason we are not certain, and posing the question: “Do I know you?”, or having the question posed to us.

We might even ask, or be asked: “Where do I know you from?”

Nathaniel however asks the ‘how’ question because Nathaniel is seeking the Messiah and suddenly finds himself in the presence of the one whom Philip asserts is indeed He, so there is a depth, an expectant anxiousness, in the sense of hungering for the One, in Nathaniel’s question.

How well known are we?

Every breath we take, every heartbeat affirms that we are indeed known, and not just known: belovedly known by Love Himself.

“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you…” [Jer. 1:5]

How intimately are we thus known?

He numbers the multitude of the stars and calls them by name…..[Ps. 147:4]

“Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore: you are of more value than many sparrows.” [Lk. 12:6,7]

None of the stars, no sparrow is created in the image and likeness of God Himself. Yet our Heavenly Father, Jesus our Saviour, the Holy Spirit who name each star, forget no sparrow, number the hairs of our head, know us intimately, lovingly.

Perhaps we have no sense of being truly known by someone else, perhaps the place where we are is one of apparent aloneness and definite loneliness, still we are indeed known and beloved.

While sinless Himself Jesus is like us in all things, even to experience the need to be known: “But who do you say that I am?” [Mk.8:29]

This ask of Jesus is for each of us to answer.

Jesus’ answer to Nathaniel echoes the word spoken to Jeremiah in the sense of the knowing before:  Jesus answered him and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”

V. 49 – Nathaniel answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

Nathaniel’s joy is expressed in a statement of faith, belief that the One with whom he is speaking is the long awaited Messiah, the Desired One.

V. 50/51 – Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”  And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

In ancient times, in the early history of the Chosen People, bearers through the centuries of the promise of the Messiah who would come and redeem us, Jacob had a dream and in that dream …behold a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. [Gn. 28:12]

Jesus Himself is the fulfillment of Jacob’s dream for Jesus is the ‘ladder’ who has come down to us from the Father and returning to the Father sends down the Holy Spirit to sanctify us; Jesus is the real connection between heaven and earth.











Monday, 12 January 2015

JOHN 1: 40-42

Since I last published meditations on the Holy Gospel according to St. John last October the war against ISIS continues, as does the disorder in Ukraine enabled by Russia, there have been terrorist attacks in Canada, Australia and this week in France while Boko Harm continues to slaughter the innocent in Nigeria.

 We have entered into, journeyed through the Holy Season of Advent, marvelled at, loved and adored the newborn Holy Child, the Prince of Peace come to redeem the world and hear the cries of the poor and suffering, namely, of every human being.

How we truly need to hear and heed His knocking at the doors of our hearts [Rv.3:20], open to Him, bid Him enter, and listen to Him, following the example of our ancestors from those first tentative steps taken by the future Apostles [v.40] and the millennia of Martyrs, Saints, of every Christian to this very day who has preceded us.

v. 40 – One of those who heard John speak and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.

Here the Evangelist reveals once more how the Gospel is filled with movement, listening, spoken word, choice, and action.

Such is what will happen if we respond when Jesus knocks at the door of our heart.

Jesus is patient for love is patient.

He will always remain there, always waiting, always ready.

He will never barge in uninvited.

Love is too tender and selfless ever to impose.

A crucial aspect of our response is baptism, gateway of the sacraments, and baptism confers discipleship which is intimate communion of love with, actively living out in and through Him our prime vocation which is to be beloved.

We are, for so we have been created, endowed with free will and so are free to ignore His pleading knock, to ignore the invitation to be one with.

Satan, first renouncer of freedom, choosing pointless hell-bondage forever, is the great and prime enemy of love and love’s freedom.

His modern agents who have given themselves over to the eternal cold darkness of hateful bondage are the terrorists of today.

Yet such is the immensity of Divine Mercy Jesus continues to knock at their hearts too with the same inviting love until their souls leave their bodies.

In verse 40 the Evangelist names the two brothers Andrew and Simon Peter [the latter as such even though as yet St. John has not shown us Jesus giving Simon his new name] and while the Evangelist will mention Philip [1:43] and Thomas [11:16] and later still Judas [14:22] unlike the Synoptic Gospel accounts nowhere in St. John’s account does he give us a complete list of the Apostles.

I have never found an explanation in any referenced commentaries on why this is, it just is, even though St. John records more of the words of Jesus than the Synoptics do.

To be noted here through the example of Andrew come to Jesus through the Baptist and now Simon Peter through his brother Andrew pointing to Jesus this is a crucial aspect of discipleship lived for all Christians, namely not to fall into the trap of thinking evangelization is about talking, rather it is primarily about witnessing, that is simply pointing to Jesus and telling everyone: There He is!

v.42 – and he brought him to Jesus.

Indeed the understandable struggle in evangelization, sometimes a real tension, is between teaching, which sometimes lends itself to a torrent of dogmatic words that can overwhelm and confuse the recipient or an implied, if not declarative, demeaning of the other’s particular current faith or choice to be a non-believer – and – of simple witnessing the Gospel, of the reality of Jesus, with our lives without compromise.

To paraphrase from Ven. Paul VI: if people do indeed listen to teachers teaching about Jesus and the Gospel it is precisely because first and foremost said teachers are witnesses.

In our day a powerful example of witnessing, which is never opposed to teaching but  should always precede teaching, and then the teaching flowing from the witnessing becomes powerful, is that of Pope Francis, embracing the sick, the elderly, the young, children, leading a simplified style of pontifical life, washing the feet of prisoners, Catholic and non.

Parents and grandparents, for example, are delighted when small children bring a gift of a dandelion or a little pebble for the gesture is the child witnessing love even though the child if challenged could not verbally teach the concept, their living action speaks volumes.

If we adults would be humble and ask Jesus for a childlike heart and the courage to live it out there would be less dissonance within human communication.

There is such an unspoken childlikeness and love for his brother, and indeed a burgeoning love for and trust in Jesus, which moves Andrew to bring his brother to Jesus.

v. 42 – Now when Jesus looked at him….

The essential first step in contemplation is to be still enough to gaze upon!

We use various expressions descriptive of what humans can do with our eyes: look, gaze, stare, glance, glare.

We speak of eyes wide open or shut.

Eyes can express delight, fear, yes even negatives such as disdain.

Our eyes can water as a result of some irritation and we can shed tears both of joy and sorrows.

Eyes are known as windows of the soul.

We can choose with these windows to take in images of beauty, which enlighten the soul, or prurient and ugly images which darken the soul and smudge the eyes with the soot of sin.

Sometimes we say someone, or we ourselves, penetrate another with our eyes.

We can choose to look away as gesture of rejection or because we have chanced upon some horror or ugliness we choose not to have seared into our memories through looking.

Love and acceptance, affirmation of the ‘thou’ of other flows from the loving look of parents upon the newborn child, fruit of the original look of love exchanged between the parents.

Undoubtedly it was the eyes of Mary and Joseph who first gave that look of love to God incarnate when Jesus was born.

God as a human being returns the look of love upon each of us and here, as elsewhere in the Gospels, Jesus is spoken of as looking upon, in this case upon Simon.

We should strive when reading and meditating upon the Holy Gospel not to rush past such words as these at the beginning of verse 42 to find out what happens next!

I remember in this moment a story told me by a beloved bishop friend that happened to him when he was a seminarian.

The seminary was part of a monastery and one day walking the cloister he noticed an elderly monk sitting with the open Gospels in his lap, the monk’s finger stopped at a particular line.

About an hour later my friend came by again and the monk was still sitting there, finger not moved, eyes fixated on the same passage and so my friend, then a seminarian, asked of the old monk:” What it is Father, you have not moved in an hour.” “Ah,” came the reply, “ it is such a beautiful word!”

The story is told in the life of St. John Vianney that the villagers were rushing to bring in the harvest and passing the village church looked in to see if there was anyone there who might be added to their number to get the work done and they spied a man sitting before the tabernacle, asked him to join them and he assured he would momentarily.

At dusk as the others were returning from the fields they noticed the man was still there and they asked what he was doing, that kept him from coming to the fields: “Ah, I am gazing upon Him and He is gazing upon me.”

v. 42 - ….He said: “You are Simon, Son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas.” [which is translated, a stone].

Cephas is most frequently rendered in Latin and English as: rock, hence the interchange of “Petrus/Peter” so commonly known.

Jesus sees clearly the depths of every human heart, soul, and all therein.

Thus when Jesus looks at Simon Peter He sees, reads, and understands, the entire reality of Peter as a person: Peter’s past, present and future.

So it is with us.

God is more intimate to and with us than we are to and with ourselves.

From the moment of our birth to the present moment we take accumulated experiences, ideas, and mostly rather than become increasingly and objectively self-aware, in the light of objective truth, bit by bit construct a subjective self image, one that is frequently encumbered by self-doubt and anxiety about both self and the way we are perceived by others, including those who love us and God Himself.

This process is aided and abetted by the evil one, father of lies.

Jesus alone, God Himself, looks upon us with unconditional love, speaks only truth to us, most of all the truth that we are beloved, just as we are.

In the light of His truth-speaking to our hearts we hear His voice: most clearly and are enlightened and warmed by His look of love, when we open the door of our being to Him.

Then in truth when asking of ourselves, or asked by others, whom we are, we can, as Pope Francis does, give the accurate response: “I am a sinner.”

Which is a good thing: Jesus came to embrace, to love, to save, to sanctify sinners.

To reject self in anyway is to reject God and His primary gift to us, namely breath of life in His image and likeness.

The critical depth of all the encounters Jesus has in the Gospels with Andrew, Peter, the woman at the well, Zaccaheus in the tree, with everyone, is this offer from Jesus for us to step into the light and truth He radiates, and thus to accept ourselves, to be who we are truly.





Saturday, 18 October 2014

JOHN: 1:35-39

St. John Paul in his Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente teaches this about the grace-gift and mystery of time: The fullness of time coincides with the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, of the Son who is of one being with the Father, and with the mystery of the Redemption of the world. [para.1]….Christ, true God and true man, Lord of the cosmos, is also the Lord of history, of which He is “the Alpha and the Omega” [Rv.1:8], “the beginning and the end” [Rv.21:6]. In Him the Father has spoken the definitive word about mankind and its history. [para.5]….Time is indeed fulfilled by the very fact that God in the Incarnation, came down into human history. [para.9]

St. John the Evangelist himself revels again and again the above grace and mystery of time from the very first words in the Prologue through his careful notation of days and hours within particular days and through his frequent emphasis of Jesus’ own awareness of  “My time..” [7:6] and “….this hour…” [12:27], for example.

Each of us, as Jesus Himself, is born within the ocean, carried on the river, of time. Born at a particular hour on a specific day within a defined decade contained inside such and such a century of, as with each moment of time, a unique and never to be repeated moment.

Contained also in the above is the specific season of the year and, since Christ’s establishment of the Church, rooted in the ancient Jewish tradition, that aspect of what is called the Liturgical Year: for us Christians it maybe be Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Ordinary Time, the latter covering first the time between the end of Christmas time and Ash Wednesday or post Pentecost to the first Sunday of Advent.

Liturgical Time, also known as the Church Year, enhances chronological time by drawing us deeply into Christ’s own journey in time and deep into the events, in particular, of His public life, passion, death, resurrection, ascension and then the descent of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost.

Within the seasons of the Church year are celebrated also the feasts of Our Lady and the Saints, as we are invited into communion with our predecessors in the faith, learn from their example of the Gospel lived without compromise.

Just as the Incarnation of Christ occurred at a specific moment in the time of salvation history, the history of the world, so our own moment of birth is no accident of some cosmic unfolding of time but is itself a gift of grace for we are born at and in the time most conducive to our salvation and sanctification.

Thus we can also be confident that we are grace-gifted the precise amount of time for this salvation and sanctification to be accomplished, always within the context of the gift of free will.

In a word time is the gift, the use I make of this gift – or how I waste it – is entirely of my own free-will choosing.

Clearly St. John the Baptist used his gift of time to fulfill his mission as the precursor of Christ and so we come to v.35: Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples.

To stand often is a stance of expectant waiting, such as at a bus stop, or by the door for a loved one to return.

To stand also is often a stance in prayer, such as before a crucifix or icon, during certain times in Holy Mass such as when the Gospel is proclaimed.

To stand also is frequently a gesture of respect for a personage of honour.

Perhaps in this case, within the heart of the Baptist, each aspect was present.

v.36: And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God.”

So central to our faith are those words of the Baptist that the Church in every Holy Mass, in the moments preparing for Holy Communion, invites us all to proclaim: Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. And then the cry and yearning of every human heart, a cry we should along with the preceding for mercy, cry out for all our brothers and sisters on earth: Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world, grant us peace.

The proclamation, exultation, declaration of the Baptist rings across the millennia, back to the Genesis promise of a redeemer, to the Exodus reality of the Passover lamb, to this moment of Jesus’ approach, towards the Last Supper and institution of the Holy Eucharist and Priesthood, to the Garden, the Cross, the Tomb, the Resurrection and is re-proclaimed in every Holy Mass when the priest, elevating the Sacred Host for all to see Jesus in all His glory, truly present in the Sacred Mysteries, announces anew: Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.

Holy Communion is the moment when Jesus walks towards not the Baptist and those with Him, but towards each of us, inviting us to allow Him to enter our beings, He who loves us so.

v. 37: The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.

I am struck once again by the Evangelist’s economy of words: heard – speak – followed!  

It is to be not simply wondered, marvelled at, but to be yearned for in our own lives whatever it was, deep in the core of their beings, the garden enclosed of their souls, what hunger was so powerfully illuminated the very infusion of such light moved them to follow!

Who has not at some point in our lives suddenly seen another whose true beauty, irrespective of externals, enlightens our hearts, which quicken, beat fast, virtually impelling us to go towards, to follow, in hopes of encounter.

It is the impelling of love.

No doubt this is what happened, a real trust, an almost ineffable quickening of  hearts and souls, that movement each soul can experience, if we accept the offer of He who loves us first, who is first quickened and seeks to encounter us.

We use the expression: falling in love.

True love does not fall.

True love follows, catches up, journeys with.

v.38 - Much like in the event of the woman crawling towards Jesus to touch the hem of His garment in the trust of being healed [Lk.8:40-49]; as with the encounter with the rich young man [Mt. 19:16-22] and explicitly after healing the paralytic [Lk. 5: 22], and other places in the Holy Gospels, Jesus is profoundly aware interiorly – sometimes this is called the ability to read hearts in the lives of some saints but with Jesus it is a much deeper awareness of other, of all that transpires, visible and invisible around Him, hence: Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following Him, said to them, “What do you seek?”

‘What’ is a commonly used word, often without much reflection!

Sometimes we indeed say what as in: what is that, what’s it all about, what is this for.

Sometimes, as in when we do not want to be disturbed by someone hovering and obviously seeking attention the word can be uttered sharply, as a challenge: WHAT!

Here Jesus’ use is directed not as question seeking information about something or its end purpose, rather Jesus asks, with the word ‘seek’, a profound soul question – indeed He does not ask whom they are seeking but what for He knows they are seeking the kingdom, the redemption He has come to bring.

The answer of the two disciples of the Baptist itself reveals their yearning for much more than information, even though at first blush it does appear as a response seeking mere location information: They said to Him, “Rabbi…..where are You staying?”

Perhaps their hearts were burning within them like the disciples on the road to Emmaus who also encountered Jesus and invited Him to stay with them and share a meal – certainly there is an echo here of the resurrection narrative in Luke 24:13-35.

Whatever was happening within them those first tentative steps of following Jesus, when Jesus turned and spoke with them a profound awareness, not necessarily complete clarity of understanding as they had much to learn, surely took hold for Jesus’ reply gives no direction/location information, rather He offers them love’s invitation, v. 39: He said to them, “Come and see.”

Invitation replete with acceptance.

St. John the Evangelist does not specify the location where Jesus is staying.

He simply states: They came and saw where He was staying…..

I find it interesting St. John says not ‘they went’, but ‘they came’, almost as if St. John himself was already in Jesus’ company and staying wherever the place was.

….and remained with Him that day [now it was about the tenth hour].

The tenth hour would be equivalent to our four in the afternoon – so of late afternoon, early evening, not unlike the time Luke references when the Emmaus disciples ask Jesus to stay with them. [Lk. 24.29]

Unlike the other Evangelists St. John most often references the hour, even using the term ‘His hour’, or having Jesus refer to ‘My hour’.

That hour, His hour is “….the ‘Hour’ in which evil has mastery…” and the Ven. Sheen adds:  it “…passes quickly into the ‘Day’ where God is victor.”

Even more sharply, commenting on Lk. 22:53, where Jesus speaks to Judas and the others who have come to take Him from the Garden and into the long process of trial, torture, execution and death on the cross: “This is your moment – the hour when darkness reigns.” Ven. Sheen notes: Many times He had told His enemies and Herod that they could do nothing to Him until His “Hour” had come. Now He announced it, it was the hour when evil could turn out the Light of the World. Evil has its hour; God has His day.

{see Fulton Sheens THE LIFE OF CHRIST, pp. 268 &328}