Wednesday, 12 September 2018

St. John 6: 12-14


                                                               

V.12= When they had had their fill, He said to His disciples, “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.”

Various NGO’s, who monitor such things, state that each year 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted!

Here Jesus is teaching us a critical lesson when it comes to leftover food.

Ever morsel wasted, every fragment not gathered up and either given to the hungry or used, for example in composting to produce fresh food, is a serious moral wrong.

This verse should, indeed, be kept before our eyes and heart every time we sit down to a meal so that once we have had ‘our fill’, we too gather up the fragments.

St. John obviously took the gathering of the fragments seriously for he makes the point: So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat. ~v.13

Some of the most painful footage from WWII of people in bombed out cities is of the young, old, mere children, scrapping what they can from garbage cans, cutting up dead horses, eating tulip bulbs, anything to avoid starving to death.

There are other ‘fragments’ we, the baptized, should be always vigilant to see and gather up.

Here, as always, we look to Jesus to learn from Him, to imitate Him: The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Him, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So to them He addressed this parable. “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance. [Lk.15:1-7]

Fragments come about because something – or in the above parable someone – has, by various means, actions, become broken apart, shattered, has fallen to pieces.

The Body of Christ through the actions and sins, the angers, of Christians towards one other, with theological disputes often Trojan horses for the interference of persons with political agendas, is fragmented; wars, genocides, racism, economic disparities fragment the human family within nations, between nations; multiple are the causes of fragmentation within individual families; and when we sin we ourselves become broken apart, our relationship with Christ fragments.

Until we repent, and with mortal sin humbly confess and receive absolution, we remain stuck in a shattered spiritual state, perhaps emotional was well.

Jesus gives us another example where we can imitate Him: Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling! [Mt.23:37]

Here is a critical element if we are to seek the lost, gather those whose lives are fragmented, be they within any nation, race, religion on earth, be they within the Church, East and West or elsewhere in Christianity, or within our own families: compassion.

No matter how fragmented we may feel, and if searching for a word to comfort someone we meet who is heart broken, discouraged, shattered by some trauma, we can repeat to them, to our own heart’s words from one of St. John Paul’s poems, words from Jesus who gives them to the Samaritan woman to speak to everyone: You don’t walk alone, ever. Not for a moment….

IF we are judgemental or fall into the trap of gathering with some onerous expectation upon the person reached out to, that does NOT imitate the compassionate and humble heart of Jesus.  Rather than gathering we will simply further fragment, we will scatter: Whoever is not with Me is against Me, and whoever does not gather with Me scatters. [Mt.12:30; Lk. 11:23]

Astute people are aware of all the broken and scattered, fragmented and divided situations within the Church, within nations, families, individual lives.

If we listen attentively to the Holy Spirit He will enlighten our minds, love’s creative-charity of our hearts, and we can indeed become – must become - gatherers with Jesus of all the fragments.

Lest we be deceived by satan, hissing his lie the fragmentation we see is simply too many broken pieces to ever be gathered up, better we listen to the assurances of Jesus:“……nothing will be impossible for God.” [Lk. 1:37] Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” [Mt. 19:26] And He said, “What is impossible for human beings is possible for God.” [Lk.18:27].

Vs. 14: When the people saw the sign He had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.”

Baptism makes us sharers in Christ’s prophetic mission.

The power of our prophetic baptismal charism is to shine a light into the depths of the fragmented lives of those around us, a light which illumines the path to becoming de-fragmented, becoming whole, and yes, holy again.    

©2018 Fr. Arthur Joseph

Monday, 27 August 2018

ST. JOHN 6:5-11


                                                            



V.6:5= When Jesus raised His eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to Him….

As we recall from the opening of this chapter Jesus was up on the mountain and seated with His disciples, so the expression “raised’ – or as some translations have it “lifted up” His eyes is worth momentary reflection.

Had Jesus been sitting there, with His head bowed in prayer and thus, after some time, had to lift His head, raise His eyes as the Evangelist describes it?

Is St. John pointing to something deeper here?

Everything that exists is endowed with movement for the source of everything, and everyone, is the Holy Trinity, infinitely in ceaseless movement of dynamic, active love between the Persons of the Trinity, the outward movement towards all creation, sustaining everything and everyone in existence, the movement of breathing life into each person as we are created, the ceaseless movement of lavishing love, mercy, grace upon us.

Angels have movement, the cosmos itself moves, planets, birds, sea creatures, forest and farm animals move, human beings move: by gestures such as smiling, embracing, dancing. We move when we run, walk, play, rejoice or grieve, we move in health and sickness, in acts of love for another, charity towards those in need, and twice in our lives we move in the arms or by the strength of others when we are born to the baptismal font, carried to the grave.

Every human act of moving has a purpose, even the smallest and simplest of them.

The Divine Liturgy itself is filled with movement, movements that are constitutive of worship and prayer, movements of both priest and people.

For example in the Roman Canon, also known as the first Eucharistic Prayer, during the consecration, the priest himself raises his eyes when he prayer-reflects Jesus’ own movement: ….with eyes raised to heaven.

Holy Mass then is where our movements achieve a type of sacred re-anointing by our active participation, so that when we move forth from receiving Jesus in Holy Communion, have had Sacred Scripture implanted in us anew, our movements, between the two Masses where we live – this one and the next one – are movements in imitation of, with and through Christ of radiating the Gospel of Life, Love, Mercy, Charity towards others with our lives without compromise.

St. Luke tells us for example of Christ’s movement when teaching the Beatitudes and when ascending into heaven: Then He lifted up His eyes towards His disciples…[6:20] – and - ……Then He led them out as far as Bethany, raised His hands, and blessed them. As He blessed them He parted from them and was taken up to heaven. [24:50-51]

V.6:5 cont.: and saw that a large crowd was coming to Him,….

Again, when contemplating each line of the Holy Gospel it is important to ‘see’ what we contemplate/read.

If we contemplate the Holy Gospel, opening our beings to the Holy Spirit who will fill us with the light of Christ, we will become living icons of Christ, of the Gospel of life.

As the late Archbishop Joseph Raya of holy memory frequently taught: “We become what we contemplate.”

We might assume the people were coming forward in a peaceful and orderly fashion.

Perhaps.

However, when people are hungry and without food and volunteers come forward with food – in a refugee camp for example; when the Holy Father moves among the people during a General Audience, or when it is time for Holy Communion when he visits a country outside of Rome – well we all know anxious human beings tend not to approach calmly, orderly!

Perhaps is was the way in which the ‘great multitude’ was coming towards not just Jesus but the disciples as well, that moved Jesus, always filled with clear understanding of humans and our motives, actions, to act.

St. John points out something else was happening here as well, namely a test of Philip’s faith in, and trust of, Jesus: He said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”

v.6: He said this to test him, because He Himself knew what He was going to do.

Love is both the impetus for a test, the matter being tested and the correct response to the test between lover and beloved.

Adam and Eve experienced Love’s first test in all human history. Much of the Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament is replete with examples testing by Love Himself of His Beloved Chosen People. While God’s testing of His Chosen People is marked by His love, their testing of Him, like ours, is marked by sin, making His Loving Mercy all the more splendid, generous, always lavish.

Spouses do it, parents do it, children certainly do it to their parents and siblings. In a word we human beings, and not always with love as the impetus, experience being tested and do test.

Here, with Philip, Jesus is administering a love test, for Philip is beloved of Jesus and Philip needs to overcome his doubts and hesitations if ever he is to truly love Jesus, trust Jesus, be able to proclaim the Gospel in his turn.

v.7: Philip answered Him, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little bit.”

Obviously from Philip’s response the crowd was huge indeed, and Philp replies with very human practicality as in the moment Philip thinks only in terms most of us would think of if anyone asked us that question.

Vs. 8-9-10:  One of His disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to Him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people recline.” Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number. [Only St Matthew in his accounts references women and children were also present, cf. Mt.14:21]

These verses are prelude to something extraordinary which reveals Christ’s love, His power over created matter, itself His movement within creation, beyond, as we shall see further on, the immediate miracle.

v.11=Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted.

Some scholars suggested what really happened was that people seeing the boy sharing the bread and fish they in their turn shared what they brought with them and so the miracle was that of sharing rather than a miraculous act by Jesus resulting in the multiplication of the loaves and fish.

To be blunt that is bunk and reveals weakness of faith. The crowd had clearly rushed to follow Jesus and would not have returned first to their homes to, in modern parlance, ‘pack a lunch’!

We see here too, the words and action of Jesus, as prelude to the mystery of the Holy Eucharist, as is prayed in the Divine Liturgy: Broken and distributed is the Lamb of God, broken yet not divided, ever eaten yet never consumed, but sanctifying the communicants.



©2018 Fr. Arthur Joseph






Friday, 17 August 2018

St. John 6: 1-4


                                                           

Have you ever been hungry?

Not the hunger from skipping breakfast, not even the hunger of fasting, nor ever the hunger of simply not having enough to eat, rather that hunger which is laced with the fear you might never again have enough to eat?

We, in the so-called developed world over eat. Obesity is a major health issue.

Human beings normally eat what is appropriate and enough to sustain life, yet we also seem to consider the capacity to overeat as a sign of wealth.

Many elderly eat little, sometimes very little, so they can pay the rent or for needed medicines, while the homeless only eat if they can get into a soup kitchen or find tossed out food – of which we in the west waste tons everyday – in the garbage – let’s not refer to ‘dumpsters’ as that is cold and clinical. In the garbage is more accurate.

Millions of our brothers and sisters around the world, in the so-called under developed world, because of price, government corruption, crop failures, literally are starving, daily, frequently starving to death.

Ever wasted morsel of food is the sin of theft of food from the mouths of the hungry.

God also said: See, I give you every seed-bearing plant on all the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food…[Gn.1:29]

From the very beginning of creation having created us in His image and likeness, part of the reality of being living persons is food and drink are needed to sustain life.

We acknowledge and give thanks that He is the source of all food in every Holy Mass when the priest proclaims: Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life……..Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the wine we offer you: fruit of the vine and work of human hands, it will become our spiritual drink.

After the long discourse/teaching of Jesus in chapter 5, here in chapter 6 Jesus will first address and teach about the care our Heavenly Father takes to assure we have the means of feeding ourselves and each other.

There is another hunger we all have, though perhaps as ‘church-goers’ we might assume, erroneously, that participation, for example, in Sunday liturgy is all we need to eat to satisfy that hunger.

When satan tempted Jesus, so hungry after His forty days of fasting in the desert, to turn stone into bread Jesus replied: “It is written: ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.’” [Mt.4:4]

Is it possible to ever have too much communion of love with the Holy Trinity?

“You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in You.” ~St. Augustine.

Man is a being who seeks. His whole history confirms it. Even the life of each of us bears witness to it. Many are the fields in which man seeks and seeks again and then finds and, sometimes, after having found, he begins to seek again. Among all these fields in which man is revealed as a being who seeks, there is one, the deepest. It is the one which penetrates most intimately into the very humanity of the human being. And it is the one most closely united with the meaning of the whole of human life. Man is the being who seeks God.……Man is the being who seeks God. And even after having found him, he continues to seek him. And if he seeks him sincerely, he has already found him;…..This is the truth about man. It cannot be falsified. Nor can it be destroyed. It must be left to man because it defines him. ……I will say even more. Jesus came into the world to reveal the whole dignity and nobility of the search for God, which is the deepest need of the human soul, and to meet the search halfway. [St. John Paul II, General Audience address, para. 3: December 17, 1978]

This second hunger, this profound hunger which exists in every human heart, remains unfulfilled and intensifies unless we open wide the doors of our being to Christ: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with Me…..” [Rev. 3:20].

When praying for those who do not yet know how to have their hunger for communion of love with the Holy Trinity fed, it is good to remember the mercy of Christ patiently knocking at the door of every human heart, walking with every human being, that we might pour out our hearts, our burdens and fears, everything to Him and it will come to pass that we shall indeed know Him and through Him the Father and the Holy Spirit [cf.Lk.24:13-35].

This hunger Jesus will respond to in the latter part of St. John’s account in chapter 6.

So, after the discourse in chapter 5. St. John begins: 6:1-4=After this, Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee [of Tiberias]. A large crowd followed Him, because they saw the signs He was performing on the sick.  Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat down with His disciples. The Jewish feast of Passover was near.

There is a treasure of words in these four verses that were we to check the index of a good concordance we could spend many years meditating on all the verses from Genesis to Revelation connected to them.

It would take pages to indicate all the connected verses, so instead just a notation of the words, with a few comments: Sea: and all the variations such as ocean, the deep, rivers, water; Of Galilee: occurring so frequent in the Holy Gospels in particular; Signs, i.e. miracles: scripture is filled with such, and Jesus manifests His authority over all creation when He heals, exorcizes, and forgives sin; Mountain: throughout Scripture mountains are particular places of encounter with God and Jesus’ great teachings, and His transfiguration are ‘mountain’ events; Passover: the archetype event in the Old Testament pointing to the redemptive fullness of Passover when Jesus institutes the priesthood, Holy Eucharist and steps definitively into the depths of His passion, death and resurrection for us.

We can see clearly, though at the time the disciples could not, the full implication of St. John noting that the “Passover was near.”



© 2018 Fr. Arthur Joseph

Monday, 30 July 2018

St. John 5:41-47


                                                              

Let us listen once more to Jesus, with all the love and respect that the Master deserves. Let us allow His words to unsettle us, to challenge us and to demand a real change in the way we live. Otherwise, holiness will remain no more than an empty word…..The Gospel invites us to peer into the depths of our heart, to see where we find our security in life. [from Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation On The Call To Holiness In Today’s World: ch.3; paras. 66/67]

Certainly, as we continue Jesus’ teaching in the 5th chapter of the Holy Gospel according to St. John, the words should unsettle and challenge us and move us to peer deeper into our hearts to discern honestly where we find our security in life: in Jesus and living the Gospel with our lives in union with Him, or somewhere else.

Vs. 41/42: I do not accept human praise; moreover, I know that you do not have the love of God in you. I came in the name of My Father, but you do not accept Me; yet if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God?

Sometimes, as Pope Francis teaches, Christ’s words can, do, unsettle and challenge us.

It is important to remember the words of another successor of Peter, St. John Paul II: The whole Gospel is a dialogue with man, with the different generations, with nations, with different traditions…..but it is always and continually a dialogue with man, with every man: one, unique, absolutely individual. [from para. 3 of an address by St. John Paul II during a prayer vigil with the youth of Paris, June 1, 1980]

V. 43: I came in the name of My Father, but you do not accept Me; yet if another comes in his own name, you will accept him.

Perhaps never since the time of Jesus on earth have so many human beings been willing to listen to other voices, rather than that of Christ, to accept teachings which are contrary to truth, to life, to the reality of the human person.

St. John Paul, profoundly aware of this, tells us further in the above noted address, para. 18: Learn to know Christ. Constantly. To learn Christ. The unfathomable treasures of wisdom and science are really found in Him. In Him, man….really becomes “the new man”: he becomes the man “for others,” he also becomes the glory of God, because the glory of God…..is “the living man.”

Taken from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke, St. John Paul applied the words of Christ: “put out into the deep” [cf. Lk.5:4] in many contexts to stress a fundamental point, namely not to remain on the surface of things, certainly not to be superficial.

The Holy Gospels are like a vast ocean whose depths we human beings constantly explore, always discovering things, creatures, plants, minerals, etc., which in themselves are ancient but when discovered for us are new.

What Jesus says of those who become disciples: "Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old." [cf. Mt.13:52], applies here.

Only if, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, we constantly go into the deeps, the vast ocean of the Holy Gospel, will we constantly, “learn Christ”, as St. John Paul teaches, and in the process not only enter ever more deeply and fully into communion of love with the Most Holy Trinity, but enter into the depths and treasury of the humble and authentic “I”, no longer living worldly, superficial lives, but living in the fullness of personhood, thus glorifying God.

V. 44: How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God?

Perhaps here our initial reaction might be to reject the accusation we seek the praise/approval of others.

Perhaps.

However a simple litmus test would be: when others, the media, governments or the courts, or when at work or say at a hockey game, and anti-Christ, anti-Christian, anti-life words or actions are put forth, do we stand up for Christ, for truth, for life, for all our Christian Brothers and Sisters, or do we remain silent and through our silence become complicit because we are, in effect, accepting ‘praise’ from another?

Vs. 45-47: Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father: the one who will accuse you is Moses, in whom you have placed your hope. For if you had believed Moses, you would have believed Me, because he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

This applies to all the baptized, for through our baptism, in Christ Jesus, we are united with the Jewish people our Elder Brothers and Sisters in the faith, receiving from them the treasury of the Hebrews Scriptures: …..the Church of Christ acknowledges that, according to God's saving design, the beginnings of her faith and her election are found already among the Patriarchs, Moses and the prophets. She professes that all who believe in Christ-Abraham's sons according to faith ….are included in the same Patriarch's call, and likewise that the salvation of the Church is mysteriously foreshadowed by the chosen people's exodus from the land of bondage. The Church, therefore, cannot forget that she received the revelation of the Old Testament through the people with whom God in His inexpressible mercy concluded the Ancient Covenant. [cf. Vatican II, Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, par.4]



© 2018-Fr. Arthur Joseph


Friday, 13 July 2018

ST. John 5:36-40


                                                            

       

There is a kaleidoscope of beauty in winter, in summer to behold and contemplate!

In the mountains powered snow covers them, causing them to appear grander, higher, than in summer when the high slopes, devoid of snow and skiers, returns to the lushness of greens of innumerable hues on trees, meadows bedecked with flowers. The forest creatures: mountain goats, elk, grizzlies, black bears come forth; while in the cities winter’s blanket melts away. At first the cities of the north appear filled with trees like skeletons, lawns and park meadows are brown, and in this city, people crossing the various bridges from one side to the other keep looking way down to the frozen river waiting for the ice to crack so the water will flow, the immense distance from mountain glaciers, through the city, flowing east and north, across the prairies, until it reaches Hudson Bay!

Rivers sparkle in the sunlight, snow sparkles in the moonlight, rainbows are stunning, creation is bejeweled with colour and variety for our enjoyment and nourishment – this is the Holy Trinity’s gift to us.

Human beings are a kaleidoscopic ever to be discovered variety of hues, sizes, each carrying a treasury of culture, language, customs. Created as we are in His Image and Likeness, every human face is beauty to behold because every human person is beautiful.

As the moon reflects the light of the sun, every human face reflects the light-beauty of Light-Beauty Himself.

All Christians, following the example of St. John the Baptist, are called to be voices crying out in the wilderness, proclaiming the coming of Christ, who seeks to enter every human heart.

In our day the wilderness is the culture of death which permeates the entire world.

Even the wilderness has is own God-created-gifted-beauty, be it northern wilderness of forests, lakes, tundra or desert wilderness of undulating seas of sand and occasional oases where water and rest, perhaps date or other fruit trees, may be found for nourishment.

It is always to our hearts Christ addresses Himself, for the heart is better at hearing objective truth than the intellect – because our intellects, so damaged by pride’s arrogance, waste inordinate amounts of time ‘knowing it all’!

It is pride, the constitutive element of a hardened and deaf heart, satan uses as a gateway to enter and poison our minds with lies, lies which solidify hard-hearted resistance to Christ.

In his commentary on the birth and mission of St. John the Baptist, St. Augustine notes: “These are divine beginnings going beyond the limits of our human frailty…..these events reflect reality.”

Ever since the first human beings began to think, in terms of asking the questions: who am I, why am I, what is this, what is that, what is real, what is unreal: many peoples, over the millennia, have developed various gods or philosophies yearning to find the answer, searching, searching, searching, as millions still do today. 

Only Jesus has the answer, for He Himself is the answer, as He reveals: "I am the way and the truth and the life.” [Jn.14:6]

St. Augustine hits the nail on the head when he uses the terms “reflect reality”.

Actual reality is indeed beyond our human frailty to penetrate intellectually, simply because as created beings within the scope of our intellects, no matter how Einsteinish we might be, we do not possess pure intellect, for we are created beings – whom original sin has totally hampered with frailties, compounded by the impact of our personal sins and the sins of others committed against us.

The REAL-real, actual pure reality is invisible to the naked eye and incomprehensible to the human intellect left to its own fragile devices.

Actual, original, pure reality is the active aspect of objective truth, and is a challenge for we wounded and sinful human beings, until we forego out tendency to know-it-all-pride and have humble hearts.

Once more the beginning point is a priori not a set point as in a place, rather it is a person, Jesus, the Logos, the Word.

Meditating upon the Prologue of the Holy Gospel according to St. John becomes the place to comprehend the wonder of the human heart, the beauty of the human intellect, it is, and must be over and over always a beginning anew on our pilgrimage through the mystery and gift of time allotted to us to arrive where we have been created to be: in the everlasting embrace of Communion of Love with the Most Holy Trinity.

This points to aspects of the wilderness, where Jesus went and in so doing entered the wilderness in every human heart, to battle there, to pray there, and it is where we must go, for it is also the enclosed garden, the right place always to be, to sit at the feet of Jesus and be attentive, be listening, emerging to proclaim the Gospel with our lives without compromise.

Within the wilderness of the heart, we find the oasis where Christ is and there with Him we discover the heart-centre of charity, compassion, openness, virtue – His Heart – and thus find our true heart.

This wilderness of the heart is where repentance and conversion first take place, and the more we seek to imitate Jesus and have a heart like His any distortion of the beauty of who we are, the beauty shining from our face, is cleansed away and we become true witnesses to Christ, living the Gospel with our lives without compromise as living sign of contradiction icons, that is true disciples of Christ radiating truth and hope upon all whom we meet: a total contradiction within this self-centered, nihilist, culture of darkness and death.

The wilderness of the heart is that secret place where Jesus tells us to go and pray – prayer being primarily NOT a listing of what we need/want, rather first and foremost it is communion of love between Abba and Child, between the Beloved Divine Bridegroom and we the Beloved Bride, at one and the same time between Christ who calls us His friends and we who burn with love for Him returning His friendship, all this illuminated by, made communion of love by, the sanctifying fire-love of the Most Holy Spirit, whose living temple we are.

What is contemplative prayer? St. Teresa answers: "Contemplative prayer….. in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us. [# 2709 Catechism of the Catholic Church]

How beautiful you are, my friend, how beautiful you are!............ A garden enclosed, my sister, my bride, a garden enclosed….. I was sleeping, but my heart was awake. The sound of my lover knocking! [Sg of Sgs. 4: 1& 12; 5:2]

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with Me. [Rv.3:20]

As the Coptic priest-monk, Fr. Matthew the Poor, wrote in his book THE COMMUNION OF LOVE: Although it may appear outwardly that we make our way toward God, the joyful and wonderful truth is that it is God who comes to us, as a lover and deeply loving Father……… [The Communion of Love, Matthew the Poor, pp. 16; St. Valdimir’s Seminary Press, 1984]

Jesus continues His great teaching we have been meditating upon in St. John chapter 5:

Vs. 36=But I have testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father gave Me to accomplish, these works that I perform testify on My behalf that the Father has sent Me.

Satan would like us see this as an event, Jesus here teaching, that happened over two millennia ago, to just those present, but not addressed to us, as satan wants us deaf and hard of heart with closed minds, however:…. the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. [Hb.4:12] we should want to, beg the grace to be attentive, as is prayed in the Byzantine Divine Liturgy by the priest and people before the proclamation of the Holy Gospel: PRIEST: Wisdom, let us stand upright and listen to the Holy Gospel. Peace be with you.  PEOPLE: And with your spirit. PRIEST: The reading of the Holy Gospel according to N. . . PEOPLE: Glory be to You, O Lord, glory be to You. PRIEST: Let us be attentive.

Vs.37-38=Moreover, the Father who sent Me has testified on My behalf. But you have never heard His voice nor seen His form, and you do not have His word remaining in you, because you do not believe in the one whom He has sent.

This would be a good point to pause, re-immerse ourselves in, and reexperience, the Baptism of Jesus, see anew the Holy Spirit descend upon Him, hear once more the Father testifying about Jesus: “You are My Beloved Son: in You I am well pleased.” [cf. Lk. 3:21-22; Mk. 1:9-11; Mt. 3:14-17] and further the Father tell us to listen to His Son Jesus: “This is My Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” [cf. Mt. 17:5; Mk. 9:7; Lk. 9:35]

Now what we hear from Jesus is both cautionary and heart wrenching:

Vs. 39-40=You search the scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on My behalf. But you do not want to come to Me to have life.

These words are cautionary because we all know individuals, perhaps even ourselves, even certain Christian groups, who tend to rely only on the Scriptures, unfortunately focused more on the Old Testament than the Holy Gospels, indeed rejecting the fullness of Sacramental life, the Holy Eucharist especially, and Sacred Tradition.

Indeed many, many Catholics and Orthodox Christians have turned their backs on the Church, East and West, and gone to these other groups.

These words of Jesus are heartbreaking.

Jesus wants us to be one as Christians, not divided between East and West, Rome and Constantinople, neither Anglican nor Baptist nor…….

There should be a deep pain in the wilderness of our hearts, the pain of the absence of so many of our brothers and sisters, a deep fire in our hearts, the fire of Christ’s prayer:….. that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. [Jn.17:1]








Friday, 15 June 2018

ST. JOHN 5: 31-35


                                                               

After Vespers on the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday the Church crosses the threshold into the liturgical season – known in Latin as Tempus Per Annum: the time during the year or: Ordinarius Tempore.

There are two liturgical seasons known as Ordinary Time – the first between the end of the Advent and Christmas seasons, which begins after the Epiphany, and this far north it is winter, a time with barely 8 hours of daylight [given the frequency of snowstorms hardly right to say ‘of sunshine’] and is a period of prelude to Holy Lent and then the great Holy Week and the greatest feast of all: Easter – His Holy Resurrection.

This second Ordinary Time is a period of active attentiveness, through living the Gospel awaiting Christ’s return – and should it not happen in our lifetime, no worries, for after these summer days of on average 16 ½ hours of sunlight – yep sunlight – already having re-entered winter the Sunday following the Sunday of Christ, King of the Universe, is the first Sunday of Advent and we renew the pilgrimage deep in the mysteries of Christ.

Perhaps Ordinary Time should be re-named as Extraordinary Time – for it is an extraordinary grace to have time to live and move and have our being each moment of our lives in Christ, through Christ, with the Holy Spirit in communion of love with Them for the Father – in a word to live in communion of love with the Most Holy Trinity.

The template for such living is Jesus Himself as revealed to us in the Holy Gospels:

Vs.31/32= “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true.

The Father has borne witness to Jesus [Mt.3:17], St. John the Baptist likewise [Jn.1:29-34], Jesus’ own works such as at Cana [Jn.2:1-11] and indeed St. John himself ends his Gospel account with a witness statement: 21:24ff.

This is important because those Jewish leaders who opposed and challenged Jesus were harking back to the Mosaic Law which determined for testimony to be valid two witnesses were required, a number surpassed by those given by Jesus, even more so by His Resurrection.

Vs.33-35=You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved. He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light.

Jesus does not focus on the Baptist witnessing to Himself, rather to the Baptist’s witnessing to the truth, which ultimately, if we listen to the truth brings us to the one who IS the Truth, Jesus Himself.

Neither does Jesus argue that He is referencing any witness to focus on Himself as the important issue, He teaches for our salvation, that is always His primary focus when He speaks.

Finally, how human the stark reality His listeners were rather fickle, basking for a time in the phenomena of the Baptist, but moving on to the next flash, the next ‘star’ – and for many that was Jesus and many of them would also reveal their fickleness when Jesus proved too brilliant a light, too sharply the truth and, as we see in Holy Week, many who cried out Hosanna on Palm Sunday would be a frothing mob screaming “Crucify Him!” by Friday.

We live in a time when it is all so very common for people to be elevated to some dizzying height because they appear to have all the answers or some importance in which we can bask and just as suddenly they are turned upon and brought down with no little satisfaction by the very people who elevated them.

Our modern media and the so-called social media are very adept at this elevating and destroying.

As Christians we should ask the Holy Spirit, when it comes to such things, to renew within us His gift of prudence that we, as St. Paul urges: Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. [Col.2:8], and in the Letter to the Hebrews: Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace….[13:9], and St. Peter urges: Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. [1Pt.5:8].

Before continuing with the meditation on this critical teaching of Jesus it should be noted again that St. John, of all the Evangelists, gives us the greatest, in length to be sure, perhaps we might argue also in scope, treasury of the spoken teachings of Jesus.

How might it be that of the four Evangelists, St. John is the one who chose – more accurately was chosen by the Holy Spirit – to do this?

What then do we know about each of them?

Unlike other historical figures and the lives of many saints, outside of what may be gleaned from the Gospels themselves, little is known about St. Matthew.

The Gospels texts speak of a Matthew/Levi who as a publican in Capernaum, a Galilean tax collector, likely able to speak, and write, Aramaic and Greek, and in his encounter with Jesus he left everything and became a disciple. [Mt.9:9; 10:3; Mk. 2:14; 3:18; Lk. 5:27]. He was chosen as an Apostle, was present, importantly at the Last Supper, encounters with the Risen Jesus and at Pentecost. Tradition holds after preaching in various countries he suffered a martyr’s death.

An Evangelist, not an Apostle, St. Mark, according to tradition likely travelled with St. Peter through Asia Minor, preaching to and encouraging the communities of Christians along the way and that St. Mark wrote down St. Peter’s teachings – nowadays we would call them homilies – and from those composed what we now know as the Gospel according to St. Mark.

In Acts reference is made to “John called Mark”, hence St. Mark, cousin of St. Barnabas. It is also tradition, drawn from the same passage in Acts [15:36-41] that we see St. Mark eventually arrives in Alexandria, founds the Church there, today the Coptic Church within whose liturgy are elements which can be traced back to St. Mark. It is likely he died there of natural causes.

There is an old expression in French which roughly translated into English means ‘to dream in technicolour’!

The Holy Evangelist St. Luke certainly presents the Holy Gospel to us filled with all the colours and light of marriage, family life, childhood, adulthood, the lives of people, the miracles and words of Jesus, and in the Acts of the Apostles the brilliance of Christian life in all is beauty and yes in all its challenges and suffering.

St. Luke, as best can be discerned was born in Syria and died in Greece an elderly man.

It certainly would appear from the content of the Gospel according to St. Luke that either he was in direct contact with the parents of St. John the Baptist, with the Blessed Virgin Mary, or at least with persons who were, as he details – with imagery and words – are brilliant, in both senses of the word.

St. John, known as the Beloved Disciple – though we must keep in mind Jesus loves everyone and certainly each of us as disciples are beloved – was both Apostle and Evangelist and certainly, as his Gospel account, his letters and his book of Revelation reveal, was also a mystic.

Likely the youngest of the Twelve, described as a son of Zebedee, brother of James, tradition holds he was the only one of the Apostles to die of old age, the others all suffering martyrdom.

Banished, rather than executed, by the Roman authorities to the island of Patmos he trained St. Polycarp who became bishop of Smyrna. St. Ignatius was also trained by St. John, the same St. Ignatius whom St. Peter would appoint as bishop of Antioch.

A Melkite bishop once told me of a tradition he heard growing up about how St. John in his old age, living a somewhat hermitical life on the island of Patmos,  would be visited by crowds of Christian youth from the places where the Gospel had already penetrated, in hopes both of seeing St. John and receiving a word from him – guess these were the original World Youth Days!

The bishop said: “Deacons would help the elderly saint from his cave to stand in front of the assembled youth and all St. John would say, simply yet powerfully was: “My little children, love one another.”

Scholars continue to debate the historical accuracy of the biographies of the Four Evangelists, some even debate who wrote which Gospel and when, etc., - more powerful than such arguments are the texts themselves: …. in order to keep the Gospel forever whole and alive within the Church, the Apostles left bishops as their successors, "handing over" to them "the authority to teach in their own place." This sacred tradition, therefore, and Sacred Scripture of both the Old and New Testaments are like a mirror in which the pilgrim Church on earth looks at God, from whom she has received everything, until she is brought finally to see Him as He is, face to face (see 1 John 3:2). [see the Documents of Vatican II, Dei Verbum, Ch. II, paras. 7,8ff.]








Sunday, 22 April 2018

ST. JOHN 5:24-30


                                                               

We have just entered the fourth week of the Holy Season of Easter: in the West it is Good Shepherd Sunday, in the East Sunday of the Myrrhbearing Women.

The Church, breathing with both lungs, of the Orthodox in the East, the Roman in the west, celebrates the central grace of faith: CHRIST IS RISEN.

In the Roman liturgy we pray for eight days this IS the day, while in the Eastern liturgy reference is made to the days as ‘bright’, for example: Bright Tuesday.

This illumination of all creation, this divine brightness, is because the very one teaching us here in St. John chapter 5, is the same Jesus who beforehand suffered, died and was buried for us and is now Risen from the dead.

It is critical we keep in mind that we are not simply reading the recorded words of some historical figure, even though Jesus was, born, lived, taught, suffered, died, rose at a particular time, in history – we are factually ‘hearing’ in this moment the spoken to us words of Jesus Risen.

Vs.24/25=Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears My word and believes in the One who sent Me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation but has passed from death to life. Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.

We, in the 21st century, who have been baptized, experience the reality of what Jesus says, teaches, here, for we have been plunged in the waters of baptism into oneness with Him, by Divine Mercy, in His death, and lifted from the waters into, by the Holy Spirit, oneness with Him in His Glorious and Holy Resurrection.

But, what of those who know of Jesus, but have not accepted Him, are not baptized? What of those who do not know of Him?

Not everyone is given the vocation to be a missionary in the classic sense of one who goes where evangelization is urgently needed by the presence of missionary-priests, religious, lay people in a country not our own, or even within regions of our own country which desperately need re-evangelization.

For many their prime vocation may well be priesthood, religious life, the consecrated lay apostolate, with a specific pastoral mission such as being a parish priest, serving the poor, etc.; while others have as prime vocation sacramental marriage and parenthood, which often entails careers demanding much of their time, in order to be able to properly feed, cloth, house, see to the education of the family, preparing their children to become courageous witnesses to Christ in an anti-Christ world.

Nonetheless, everyone of we the baptized has the overarching vocation to evangelize by the witness of our lives, living with courage amid a virulently anti-Christian society, the Gospel with our lives without compromise, because Baptism makes us participants in Christ’s own priestly, kingly, prophetic mission.

[The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in paragraphs 871 & 897-913, elaborates this truth in detail.]

We live amid a human family filled with anxiety, millions suffering the ravages of hatred, war, unemployment, lack of clean water, famine, lack of adequate housing, proper medical care, the list is much longer that what is mentioned here.

We need only look up, look around, with the eyes of Christ, sees the faces of our own spouse, children, neighbours, co-workers, strangers, not pass by the homeless, or an elderly person who seems lost or confused – yes just check the world news from time to time, to find where love, in this moment, where prayer in this moment, where charity/love in action in imitation of Jesus, is needed for us to be true proclaimers of the Gospel of Life.

Vs. 26/27=For just as the Father has life in Himself, so also He gave to His Son the possession of life in Himself. And He gave Him power to exercise judgment, because He is the Son of Man.

There are verses, such as these in St. John’s account of the life and teachings of Jesus, where, to have the words of Jesus fully penetrate our hearts, we should go back and hear the Prologue once more.

This great mystery-truth, that Jesus is true God and true man, is beyond the ability of the intellect to comprehend, but the heart gets it because the heart loves, and the Incarnation is the Father’s love for us.

Jesus loves us, thus we can be sure and trust, when He exercises the mandate given by the Father to judge, He will do so with judgement illuminated by Divine Mercy.

Judgement is necessary because we are endowed with free will and The Trinity does not, Jesus Himself does not interfere with our free will, our freedom to choose.

The choice is always between love and hate, light and darkness, good and evil, life and death.

…..I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live…..[Deut.30:19].

Hell exists.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that God does NOT predestine anyone to go to hell [para.1037].

Jesus often speaks of "Gehenna" of "the unquenchable fire" reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost. Jesus solemnly proclaims that he "will send his angels, and they will gather . . . all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire," and that he will pronounce the condemnation: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!" [para.1034].

Hell, being eternal separation from the Most Holy Trinity, hell the abode of satan and his minions, surely is not where we would choose to spend eternity – but if we refuse to choose Christ, to live aware we need to be converted to Him anew each day, then we may well choose step by step those free-willed choices which, ultimately, means it is highly probable we will die unrepentant in the state of mortal sin.

It will be we who then have tipped the scales, have in a sense forced the hand of Jesus who will point to us among those on His left and utter the terrible words: Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’  And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” {Mt.25:45/46}

Here in this chapter of the Holy Gospel, Jesus is absolutely clear about death, judgement, resurrection.

V.28-30=Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation. “I cannot do anything on My own; I judge as I hear, and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the One who sent Me.