Tuesday, 13 February 2018

ST. JOHN=9:15-18


                                                              ST. JOHN = 9:15-18

v. 15= The man departed and told the Jews it was Jesus who made him well.

That apparently succinct statement is actually a door opening towards a remarkable, in the main, monologue by Jesus, which does start out as a responsive dialogue to the same Jews, that is the religious authorities, who so cling to their inflexible notions of God, of the Mosaic Law, to their own status of privilege, they cannot conceal their utter hatred of Jesus and, likely, the immense fear of Him as well.

v. 16= For this reason the Jews persecuted Jesus and sought to kill Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath.

When I was a boy, such a stranglehold on society had the Christian leadership of the various denominations, that at five in the evening, every Saturday until Monday morning before opening time, huge curtains, the blackout curtains so common during the war, were drawn across all store windows – not because of fear of bombing, by then the war was over, but so no one could violate Sunday by window shopping.

No store of any kind, no taverns, no movie theaters, nothing that would violate Sunday, could be open.

Did it make for a holier, more peaceful society wherein people truly lived out their faith?

Unlikely.

What is clear is that when society in the sixties began to rebel against such restrictions the hue and cry from some Christians was raised – not necessarily purely for reasons of faith, but rather as a reaction to Christianity gradually losing its power, at least its power of influence.

Not unlike those with religious power in His day reacting against Jesus.

If Christianity cannot exist and flourish amid the current secular culture of death and darkness, cannot be a shining light when, in a worldly sense it is powerless, cannot live the Gospel without compromise amid a dominate mindset of relativism, then, frankly, Christianity has become like Peter fleeing persecution in Rome, encountering Christ headed to Rome.

Will we turn and return with Christ into the city, into the culture, with courage, or not?

Do we trust we are, as Christ says of us, the salt of the earth and the light of the world. [Mt. 5:13-16]

If we do trust that, and live accordingly, then there is no need for us to have dominance in worldly power of any kind.

When, for example, the Popes wielded both religious and secular power, history became filled with abuse of both forms of power by Popes, bishops, priests, culminating in the religious evil of Jansenism, and in society, of secularism leading to relativism and the coopting, frequently, of clergy by the secular state.

While some decried the overtaking of the Papal states by Italy, history shows that, having only the Vatican City State to protect their independence, Popes since then have had a much purer, clearer, moral voice.

The Evangelist appears to assume we know, or can guess, at exactly what was said to Jesus and so immediately states: v. 17= But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.”

This is one of the most ancient icons of Christ, known as the Pantocrator King of the Universe, sometimes also referred to as: Sustainer of the World, God is with us, Teacher.

In one of his discourses St. Bonaventure tells us: If we are to attain the ultimate goal of eternal happiness by the path of virtue described in the Scriptures, we have to begin at the very beginning. We must come with a pure faith to the Father of Light and acknowledge Him in our hearts. We must ask Him to give us, through His Son and in the Holy Spirit, a true knowledge of Jesus Christ, and along with that knowledge a love of Him. Knowing and loving Him in this way, confirmed in our faith and grounded in our love, we can know the length and breadth and height and depth of His Sacred Scripture. Through that knowledge we can come at last to know perfectly and love completely the Most Blessed Trinity, whom the saints desire to know and love and in whom all that is good and true finds its meaning and fulfillment.

This is the Jesus, Pantocrator-Teacher, whom St. John presents to us, in person and in every teachable event and word Jesus accomplishes and speaks – most eloquently Jesus does so at the Last Supper with the institution of the Holy Eucharist and Priesthood and with His Passion, Death and Resurrection.

What then is this the Father had been doing until now?

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He tells the number of the stars; He calls each by name. [Ps.47:3,4]

Scripture is replete with references to the ongoing work of the Father within creation, within the human family, with the greatest work since creation-sustaining of the cosmos, creation-sustaining of each human being, is the work of sending forth His Son and working cooperatively with the Holy Spirit, guiding and sustaining Jesus in all Jesus does and teaches, fulfilling His mission of redeeming us, His mission which includes revealing to us God is indeed our Father, our Abba.

This revelation of Jesus: I have been working, implicitly informs us that He, Jesus, is not only one with the Father and the Holy Spirit, in a word Jesus Himself is God, but we hear too the tireless love of the Holy Trinity for, ultimately, the ‘work’ of the Trinity is loving us.

In the teaching which continues from verse 19 to 47, Jesus expands upon this initial teaching.

First, however, St. John reminds us again of what this working, this teaching, this dwelling among us will cost Jesus and why, a cost He yearns willingly to pay for love of us, to redeem us.

One insight into this work Jesus does, culminating in His Passion, Death, Resurrection and all which continues to flow from His work of Redemption as Sacramental-life-sanctifying grace, is given us by Jesus Himself: “I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished.” [Lk. 12:49,50]

The baptism is Jesus’ Passion and Death, the fire likewise, but more, it is in the Light of His Holy Resurrection the gift of the Holy Spirit, who animates and guides Jesus in His work, accomplishing the will, the work of the Father, for all Divine work is Trinitarian.

This too is the fire which burned in the hearts of the Emmaus disciples [Lk.24:32] and first poured out upon the disciples, gathered with Our Blessed Mother, in the upper room at Pentecost [Acts 2:3], the very same fire which is poured into us, permeates us, by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Himself Divine Fire, at our Baptism, as Jesus tells us: “Everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt.” [Mk. 9:49]

It is the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit within us, this seasoning, so that in truth we become true disciples of Christ living out Jesus' teaching about who we are, as what we live and do without compromise: the truth by Baptism and the work of the Holy Spirit, our vocation is to be ‘salt of the earth, light of the world’, that seeing the light shinning forth from us, Christ shining forth for He is the Light, our Light, glory is given to the Father. [Mt.5:13-16]

Returning to the text, St. John notes: v.18=For this reason the Jews tried all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath but He also called God His own father, making Himself equal to God.

From the next verse, the further and deeper we enter the depths of the Holy Gospel according to St. John, walking with, observing, listening to Jesus, the more, with the help of the Most Holy Spirit, will we penetrate and be permeated by the fullness of the Trinity’s word to satan, assuring his ultimate destruction, and our redemption: Thus the Lord God said to the serpent….I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He shall bruise your head, and you shall be on guard for his heal. [Gn. 3:14 & 15]

Pope Emeritus Benedict reminds us that: There has never been a moment in history without a gospel. [MARY The Church at the Source, Cardinal Ratzinger]






Sunday, 21 January 2018

ST. JOHN 5:9(cont.)-14


                                                     

Today, during Holy Mass at the end of his pastoral visit to Chile, Pope Francis, commenting on St. John 15:11, noted: The Gospel message is a wellspring of joy………..

This is a critical teaching of Pope Francis and is applicable to all four Gospels, which in essence are only ONE Gospel, expressed in four ways, for the Gospel IS the Good News, always alive and active – It is common knowledge that among all the inspired writings, even among those of the New Testament, the Gospels have a special place, and rightly so, because they are our principal source for the life and teaching of the Incarnate Word, our Saviour…..such is the force and power of the Word of God that it can serve the Church as her support and vigour, and the children of the Church as strength for their faith, food for the soul, and a pure and lasting fount of spiritual life. Scripture verifies in the most perfect way the words: “The Word of God is living and active” [Hb.4:12], and “is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” {Acts 20:32; cf. 1Th. 2:13}. (from the document of Vatican II on Divine Revelation: Ch. V, para. 18 & Ch. VI, para. 21)

In these days when, as Pope Francis mentions elsewhere, he fears nuclear war, indeed in these days of such deep, fearful anxiety among the whole human family, and all the other disturbances within and between nations, within the Church, etc., etc., how critical it is we daily go to and drink deeply from the “wellspring of joy.”

St. John notes, something all the Evangelists note about various healings, that Jesus had healed the man by the pool on the Sabbath. [cf. v.9]

Immediately the religious rigorist-legalists attacked Jesus verbally, however in their cowardice rather than attacking Jesus directly they go after Jesus through the man who has been healed: v.10=The Jews therefore said to him who was cured: “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.”

A few points: some scholars and others jump on St. John for his frequent use of the term “the Jews”, and variations thereof, as if his Gospel account is anti-Semitic.

Given the complex demographics of occupied Israel at the time, Rome being the occupying power, and peoples of various cultures and religions in the crowded cities and around Jesus, using the term “the Jews”, if we look at each event clearly is code for the Jewish religious authorities, the obvious enemies of Jesus.

Another point, not just in ancient times within the Jewish faith, but in pagan religions of the time, and in our day too within Judaism, Christianity, Islam, most horrifically the latter, rigorism and legalism, like a cancer, eat away at authentic faith, at imitating Christ’s own compassion for others.

V.11=He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’”

There it is again: made me well, not cured me, made well.

V.12=Then they asked him, Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk?’”

Typical of judgemental rigorists, like dogs on a bone, they just can’t let this infraction of their anti-person, legalist, nit picky interpretation of the sacredness of the Sabbath go.

V.13=But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place.

This is the Evangelist’s first reference to the event as a healing, which it clearly was, but the ‘being made well’, to this point has been the focus. Also in this one sentence St. John shows us an aspect of the humility of Jesus. Jesus did not hang around for adulation and applause.

The man needing to be well was the entire focus, the loving and compassionate focus of Jesus and once Jesus had taken care of him Jesus withdrew because had He not, the ‘multitude’ would have reacted.

V.14=Afterward Jesus found him in the temple…..

How wonderful to see the man going to the sacred place of prayer, no doubt with his heart pounding with gratitude.

v. 14 cont.=…and said to him, “See, you have been made well……again this emphasis on the man’s being made well…..Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.”

While most sickness is not a result of personal sin, rather disease is part of the disorder in creation from the immensity of original sin, the original rejection of God’s love and right order in creation, some sickness IS the result of personal sin – a simple example: if we consume alcohol to excess we may well end up with liver disease or if we drink and drive we may well crash and injure ourselves and others, or worse.

St. John does not tells us, but Jesus, who as God sees everything in the human heart, clearly knew what had led, what sinful act, had led to the man’s paralysis and therefore Jesus’s warning is appropriate because it is an extension of His healing, merciful, compassion.




Thursday, 4 January 2018

ST. JOHN=5:1-9


                                                      

Yesterday was the feast of St. John, known as the Beloved.

The only Apostle not to be martyred, though at least one attempt we know of was made to kill him.

There is a story, likely apocryphal but beautiful nonetheless, handed down through the ages that youth from around the known world would come to visit St. John when he was exiled and living in a cave on the Island of Patmos, much the way youth in our day go to meet the Pope during World Youth Days.

It is further said that the Deacons would help the old man come out to meet the young people and that he would proclaim one word to them repeatedly: “My little children, love one another.”

This reminds me of a line in his first letter:  We are writing this so that your joy may be complete. [1Jn.1:4]

Surely this can be applied to his writing of his Gospel accounts of the life and words, the actions of Jesus, who Himself, once more showing His love for us in all He reveals tells us that: “I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” [Jn. 15:11]

When I was preparing this yesterday, it was just after four in the afternoon and dusk was falling and today dawn started just before nine with a windchill in the minus 40’s, while now it has warmed up to a balmy minus 32!

Today in Bethlehem, this day of the Martyrdom of the Holy Innocents, victims of Herod’s death squads, it is a cloudy plus 11. I mention this because it is vital we be aware of everyone on the face of the earth.

Jesus, whom as St. John reminds us in his Prologue came to dwell among us, first as a newborn homeless child of poverty, this Jesus who later would say of Himself He had nowhere to lay His head and would Himself be executed, knows the suffering of every human being, intimately, and is present to everyone in their suffering be it, in this northern city the homeless suffering in this extreme, death-dealing cold, or the untold number of children throughout the world suffering because of famine, war, slavery, abuse, forced to be child soldiers.

Unless we plumb the depths of, are constantly nourished by, allow to permeate our minds, hearts, wills, choices, actions, the very Person of Christ Incarnate, as encountered in the Holy Gospels, and in the Sacraments, especially Holy Mass and Holy Communion, we will remain incomprehensible to ourselves, unable to love one another, blind to what is really and objectively unfolding around us and therefore will be unable to shine the Light of Christ to shatter the darkness of the culture of death.

Once again, as we enter chapter 5 of the Holy Gospel according to St. John, the Evangelist shows us Jesus on the move again, healing again, revealing more of His authority to act and teach.

5:1-4= After this, there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes. In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool, and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.

Jesus on the move.

Jesus, in search of those who need Him: each one of us!

Jesus’ passionate search for us is no mere symbol from millennia past when the event the Evangelist reveals to us here was happening.

With every breath we take we are IN the very moment when Jesus approaches, coming as He says knocking at the door of our being, seeking leave to enter and be in communion of love with us. [cf. Rev. 3:20, ff.]

What is striking, in every miracle Jesus performs, always as simultaneous acts of love and compassion, of Divine Mercy when He includes forgiveness of sin, there is always a restoration of wholeness to the person/people touched by Him.

Given it is the soul which gives form to our bodies, interior wounds/pain require healing as well, thus external healing flows from the Divine touch in the depths of our soul, our heart, our emotions and what has been wounded, by sin, sickness, trauma, whatever the cause, is healed.

The challenge then is for us to choose to ever more fully follow Jesus in every remaining moment of our lives, or – like 9 of the 10 healed lepers [Lk.17:11-19] or like the rich young man who was invited to communion of love and life with Jesus [Mk. 10:17-31] – remain stuck in a less than fullness of life and wholeness of being, forgetting we have been healed, more tragically, WHO has healed us.

v. 5=Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity for thirty-eight years.

Ultimately what we call ‘time’ is a great mystery.

Our experience of time tends to be impacted by what/how we feel, by the experience of change: sunrise, sunset, what our watches or calendars tell us, by our activities throughout a given hour or day, the changes in our bodies as we age, perhaps even our attitudes, for certainly while liberalism may be somewhat understandable in our youth, one indication of the time of life well spent is that in our old age we are wisely conservative!

v.6=When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had always been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”

The Evangelist does not tell us how Jesus knew the man had been suffering a long time, yet it is indicative of Jesus’ awareness of everyone and everything around Him, that this should come to us as no surprise.

Are we that aware, or are we in such a rush – perhaps even a panic – to get from one thing to the next we miss what is, more importantly who is, in our presence?

How often these days do we see people sitting beside each other on the train or bus, indeed even parents walking with their children, so preoccupied with their cell phones it is as if the technology is a drawn up and secured drawbridge and they are safely behind the castle walls of texts or internet or………….

Jesus in this instance does not ask if the man wants to be cured, but rather does he want to be ‘made well.’

This is a profound offer.

Physical healing alone is just that, physical-alone.

A dear friend, long dead, was a brilliant cancer surgeon who always prayed, with his surgical team, before starting an operation, for he knew every disease was more than mere infection of cells or tissue or organs.

Every disease impacts our entire being and that while he could ‘cure’ surgically, he could not heal.

One alone can heal.

One alone can make us well.

v.7=The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me in the pool when the water is stirred up: but while I am coming another steps down before me.”

Fascinating reply to Christ’s question of the man, asking him if he wanted to be made well!

The man does not immediately answer directly, rather gives an obvious explanation of his predicament when the water is stirred up.

Perhaps the man was gripped by fears: fear of the unknown as certainly after thirty-eight years, miserable as his life likely was, it was a known, perhaps, at least emotionally, an, if not comfortable, at least an ‘it is what it is’ familiarity; perhaps fear of what would he do, in a word, with what would he replace the space, the people, the begging for money for food, the shelter by the pool – everything that over those years had become ordinary life for him.

In a word his response to Jesus was like saying “It is not my fault I’m not well, and here’s why.”

People trapped in various types of infirmities, addictions, negative emotions, even those who have if not a curable but bearable sickness, can become so used to their condition even when obvious and potentially effective help is offered will, like this man, either because of loss of hope, fear of the future, find ways of excusing themselves from risking change.

The familiar, as painful, as less than wholeness of being it certainly is, nonetheless is clung to like the proverbial Linus blanket: therein is a certain security. We feel safe, protected, even though it is, ultimately, an illusion.

St. John Paul tells us that ‘unless we know Christ we remain incomprehensible to ourselves’, for Christ alone is the way, the truth, the life, Christ alone knows us as we are in each moment, whatever our situation.

Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. [Heb. 4:12]

How does this unfold? “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]

It is the Risen Jesus, the Eucharistic Jesus, seeking communion of love with us who, as with the man in question here, ALWAYS takes the initiative, always approaches, always is ready to enter, enlighten, heal, restore: “He asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?” [Lk.24:17ff]

In this moment, with and through the Church, the Sacraments, He is always approaching, respecting our freedom, asking if He might accompany us, might enter within, thus the Second Vatican Council reminds us: The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts. For theirs is a community composed of men. United in Christ, they are led by the Holy Spirit in their journey to the Kingdom of their Father and they have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every man. That is why this community realizes that it is truly linked with mankind and its history by the deepest of bonds. [The Church in the Modern World, Preface.1]

Immediately after the man’s no answer statement, for the man says neither that he prefers to be made whole or not, Jesus, knowing the deep inner hunger within the man over thirty-eight years to be whole says: “Rise up, take up your bed and walk.” [v.8]

Once again, as always with God, gift offered is offered freely, free to be accepted or rejected.

IF the man does rise –  then therein is a type of resurrection from the darkness of what is within the core of his heart and soul, indeed within his very limbs: utter unwholeness.

IF he does accept the offer, heed the command of Christ, then he will enter into the light of wholeness of being.

Like Lazarus, who was told himself to walk out of the tomb, this man too must act, must walk, must carry away the very thing upon which he had lain, was entombed really.

v.9=And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.

Not just cured. MADE WELL!


Friday, 10 November 2017

St. John 4: 43-54


                                                  


Once again, in the following verses, St. John shows his deep, and compassionate understanding of the human condition: Vs. 43-45= After the two days, He left there for Galilee. For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honour in his native place. When He came into Galilee, the Galileans welcomed Him, since they had seen all He had done in Jerusalem at the feast; for they themselves had gone to the feast.


In the United States there is a state known as the “show-me” state.

It is very human, when confronted with something difficult, to expect, even to seek proof, for example to be told 2 + 2 = 4 is one thing, to be handed 2 apples and then 2 more, as an unexpected gift, results in the joy both of receiving the gift and having 4 apples!

Suddenly I recall one of my philosophy professors who was the type of personality he would jump in here and ask: “What proof do we have the apples exist?”

When he challenged a student about proof of existence the student flicked his bick, as was an saying from an advertisement and, flame turned up high, approached the professor and challenged him to hold his hand over the flame if he doubted its existence, because his hand would not burn.

Wisely the professor declined!

St. John notes that Jesus was welcomed by the Galileans because they had seen miracles – yet ‘proof’ alone can itself be tricky.

A magician can say they will make a rabbit appear, and the rabbits appears, but this is NOT proof that previously the rabbit did not exist!  It was simply cleverly hidden.

Miracles per se do not prove the divinity of Jesus, that He is the Messiah.

Indeed, it is His laying down His life for us which points to the truth He IS our Redeemer and His Holy Resurrection which confirms who He is, and all He reveals to us.

However, some people, even if shown proof, will refuse to accept objective truth, indeed many insist there is no such thing as objective truth.

Canada, where I live, is a winter country and we have had snow in this northern city since the beginning of October.

It is a truth, in the sense of a fact, that some Canadians hate winter.

It is a more widespread fact most enjoy winter: the snow, the sports, the laughter of young and old sliding down a hill on sleds, toboggans, inner tubes, flattened cardboard boxes.

It is also a harsh fact for the homeless winter is an unpleasant and dangerous time.

However, there is another fact: many seasonal workers depend on winter for work, logging, tending to the needs of those who come to the ski hills in the mountains, and yes in the cities: the men and women who run the plows and sanders, the day labours hired by businesses to keep their walks cleared.

A fact is a type of truth.

What Jesus offers is no mere fact, no mere type, Jesus offers the template of truth: Himself!

St. John Paul, along with many other saints and theologians, but with papal wisdom and clarity, addresses the whole matter of truth in his encyclical VERITATIS SPLENDOR [ The Splendour of Truth.]

It is within the orbit of the splendour of truth that we are indeed truly free.

No truth, no freedom.

The clearest, most objective truth of all is that we exist because we are beloved of Love Himself who creates us.

Lamentations in chapter 3 notes: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to and end; they are new every morning……and in Wisdom we note, in chapter 3: Those who trust in Him will understand truth, and the faithful will abide with Him in love……

Deeper into his Gospel account – 8:32, St. John notes Jesus telling those who already believe in Him and therefore every human being open to believing in Him: Jesus then said to those Jews who believed in Him, “If you remain in My word, you will truly be My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Even more clearly in 14:6 Jesus leaves no room for doubt, true we can still deny what is revealed but its force remains intact: Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

Continuing meditating upon the current chapter we note St. John inserts another, as it were ‘reminder’ in v.46= Then He returned to Cana in Galilee, where He had made the water wine.

The Evangelist is here restating a salient truth, for he is reminding us of 2:11- Jesus did this as the beginning of His signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed His glory, and His disciples began to believe in Him.

While many contemporary translations of the Gospels use the term “signs”, rather than the term “miracle”, sign in the Gospels always indicate Christ performing a miracle, a sign which points to His divine power and authority over the material universe.

 St. John references fewer miracles than the other Evangelists as his focus is more on the teachings of Jesus, given, as we shall see, in detail.

Also of note the Evangelist makes frequent reference to glory, life, hour, the Father and the “I am” statements, declarations of truth, made by Jesus such as in 14:6, noted above.

v.46-47= Now there was a royal official whose son was ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to Him and asked Him to come down and heal his son, who was near death.

Stark are the words of the Evangelist: ‘was near death.’

Who has not, as a parent, sibling, grandparent, or other family member or close friend, neighbour, not experienced the anguish of parents whose child is terminally ill?

In the face of such enormous stress, panic, powerlessness there is nothing a parent would not do to save their child.

We can imagine the haste with which this official sought out Jesus, the hope, perhaps even hope against hope, he had that what he’d heard about Jesus was true and that Jesus would save his son.

v. 48= Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”

What?

Where is the compassionate Jesus, why this apparently harsh rebuke?

First the use of ‘you’ here is the plural, for in His statement to the official Jesus is challenging everyone, you and me too, to examine if our faith is a trust-choice to believe, and therefore is a response to the gift of faith from the Holy Spirit, or a superficial act based only on what we determine as tangible proof.

v. 49= The royal official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”

The official’s instant reply is reminiscent of the reply of the Canaanite woman advocating for her daughter as St. Matthew records [cf. Mt. 15: 21-28].

It is the power of parental love that they skip over, ignore if you will, any reply that does not fulfill the passionate urgency to see their child healed.

Implicit in the official’s instant reply is a statement of true faith.

v. 50= Jesus said to him, “You may go; your son will live.”

How quickly Jesus responds to acts of faith.

However, it is important to keep in mind, when it seems we pray unceasingly with faith and days, perhaps weeks, months, years pass without the answer we want, never to be discouraged for every heartbeat and breath witnesses we are beloved and cared for, and that His answer, while it may not be as instantaneously as we want, or even precisely what we ask for, His answer is always both what is best for us and when it is best for us.

Trusting this truth is a true act of faith.

The man believed what Jesus said to him and left.

When parents in a hospital watch their child be taken out of sight into surgery there are often hours of waiting, with all the attendant uncertainty and anxiety that they will get to see their child brought into the recovery room and be told by the surgeon that all will be well.

Even if we have not had that exact experience, all of us have had some experience where we had to wait, endure the waiting.

Thus, the official, as simple as it may appear as an action, left after Jesus’ assurance.

Every parent knows, we should all know, this action was far from simple, it was a bold act of trust, trust in Jesus and His word, indeed His promise-assurance.

v.51= While he was on his way back, his slaves met him and told him that his boy would live.

It does appear, even though they were enslaved, those who rushed to bring the good news to the official had more than a sense of mere duty towards him and his family. The goodness of the human heart, even when enslaved, or in labour or death camps or prisons, retains the capacity for genuine charity, indeed under such conditions acts of charity are truly heroic.

v. 52-53= He asked them when he began to recover. They told him, “The fever left him yesterday, about one in the afternoon.”  The father realized that just at that time Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live,” and he and his whole household came to believe.

Given that the father was of noble rank his household would have included the very slaves mentioned above, as well as his son and other family members.

This act of the official and his household becoming believers is the greater miracle.

As impressive as external miracles are, the conversion of hearts is, always has and will be, the greater sign of grace in action, Divine Love in action, when through the gift of faith love-grace is responded to and cooperated with.

v.54= This was the second sign Jesus did when he came to Galilee from Judea.






Thursday, 24 August 2017

ST. JOHN 4:7-42


                                                                 

I have been unable to trace who created this painting, but it does appear when seeking images in the public domain and it is striking for we see Jesus, exhausted as He is, relaxed and totally paying attention to the woman.

She stands as one torn between flight and curiosity. One foot is on the step, rope in hand, leaning towards pulling up the skin of water to fill her jar, the other foot on the ground as if she might suddenly turn and flee.

Though we see only partially the face of Christ His head is slightly tilted upward for she is His focus, while her face betrays a type of skeptical hostility.

Here we have, as it were, the opening scene of one of the powerful examples by St. John the Evangelist of the public-missionary life of Christ.

We humans, sadly and scandalously we Christians, are so quick to judgement, to sneering and accusing without having the whole picture, without meeting, listening to the human being or group we are rejecting because we fail to see each other with the eyes of Christ, fail to listen with the ears of Christ, fail to love with the heart of Christ.


V.7= A woman of Samaria……

In many countries, women, as in the days of the Woman of Samaria, still have the daily heavy chore of walking, often for miles, to the nearest well to get the day’s supply of water for cooking, cleaning, drinking. It is a time for the women to chat about everything, to receive wisdom, comfort, affirmation from each other.

 St. John is telling us, a woman isolated from other women, perceived as a danger to marriage and family life because she was perhaps a prostitute, certainly an adulterous, was clearly not welcome amongst those going to the well in the cool of the morning.

So alone, unwelcome, at high noon in the broiling heat, she comes to the well, every step a burdensome reminder of her isolation.

Approaching the well she would have seen the man sitting there.

Given her history with men likely she was suspicious, perhaps even apprehensive.

V.7-cont.=…..came to draw water.

Water is mentioned over 700 times in Sacred Scripture from: The Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the water. [Gn.1:2] to: …one of the soldiers pierced His side and immediately blood and water came out. [Jn. 19:34] and the last mention is: …Whoever desires, let him come take the water of life freely. [Rv. 22:17].

Water covers the earth in vast oceans, and the Arctic and Antarctic are lands of water frozen as snow or ice. Fresh water, meaning drinkable water, is so essential to life we cannot go more than 3 days without it, yet nowadays millions can only have drinkable water if it is first filtered and chlorinated, or if we can afford to buy bottled watered.

Millions of our brothers and sisters around the world have no access to safe drinkable water and so drink polluted water and are plagued by diseases, some of them fatal.

Insufficient water soaking the earth as rain and crops fail, famine follows.

We all know this intellectually, but I wonder when we let the tap run until the water is as cold as we like before filling a glass, almost without thinking buy yet another bottle of water, or obsessively water lawns, do we ever stop for a moment, give thanks for the gift of water, pray for those who suffer lack of pure water?

Thirst is a terrible thing.

The water the woman had come to draw was no luxury, rather fundamentally necessary.

V. 7 cont.= Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”

Just reading the words of Jesus on the page we might assume a certain curtness in “Give me a drink.” Certainly, we can hear our mothers’ voice telling us about please and thank-you!

However, Jesus speaks at a time and in a culture far removed from ours, plus He was a Jewish man asking for a drink of a Samaritan woman added into the mix.

So, unless we hear the spoken word, see the facial expression, observe the body language, be we reading words spoken in a newspaper article, a work of history or fiction, unless the author adds a descriptive to indicate how the words were spoken: gently, harshly, pleadingly, for example – there is no way to know.

There is another occasion, reported by the Evangelist, when Jesus reveals He is thirsty: After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst”. [cf. Jn. 19:28]

Many Saints across the millennia, St. Mother Teresa among them, have seen Christ’s “I thirst”, spoken on the Cross as His thirst not just for souls in general, but for you, for me, as individuals and the saints have sought to satiate this thirst of Christ through serving the poor, through prayer and acceptance of suffering, through all the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

So, we would not be amiss to ‘hear’ Jesus’ request for a drink spoken with the sound of tender love and thirst for the soul of the Woman of Samaria.

V. 8= His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.

As he often does St. John is giving us a clue here to something very important which we will discover at the end of the dialogue between Jesus and the Samaritan woman. This is also St. John making it clear why Jesus was alone.

V.9= The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.)

Some translations indicate not ‘use nothing’ but rather ‘have nothing in common.’

Despite their common heritage various events over the centuries caused extreme bitterness, even hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans, some were religious/cultic differences, others were claims of right of territorial possession, none them, justified the enmity, just as no cultic, theological, ethnic or other assertion of one group of human beings against another can be justification for hatred and violence in our own day.

It amazes me how human beings can get all gaga when seeing a rainbow, the multiplicity of colours in a field of wild flowers, marvel at the plumage of varieties of birds but go apoplectic when seeing human beings of different colours!

Racism, for example, if we were truly thinking and reflective human beings, is counter intuitive.

Blood has only one colour.

We all bleed red.

Air, so vital to life that it is the very breath of God within us, is colourless.

We all breathe.

Enmity between peoples, the dark seedlings of hatred and violence can only grow in hearts frozen by enmity, is always rooted in the bitter retelling-blaming stories which become ever more divorced from objective truth with each retelling.

Jesus, who knows everything about us, about all human history, thus about His own people and the Samaritans, simply will not participate in the enmity and so His reply is a truth way beyond bitterness, blaming, hatred, anger: v. 10= Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and Who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.”

Jesus has also just turned the whole encounter on its head.

From supplicant, He has become gift-giver and the woman no longer the one from whom something is expected: now she is offered gift.

Jesus Himself is the gift of God.

Jesus as gift of God gifts to us also the name of God: Abba/Father and with the Father gifts us the Holy Spirit, who is Himself the living water:

As "by one Spirit we were all baptized," so we are also "made to drink of one Spirit." Thus the Spirit is also personally the living water welling up from Christ crucified as its source and welling up in us to eternal life. [Catechism of the Catholic Church # 694]

Pope Francis has taught eloquently on this when commenting on this very encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan Woman: Jesus promised the Samaritan woman that he will give a superabundance of “living water” forever to all those who recognize him as the Son sent by the Father to save us (cf. Jn. 4:5-26; 3:17). Jesus came to give us this “living water”, who is the Holy Spirit, that our life might be guided by God, might be moved by God, nourished by God……In the Letter to the Romans we find these words: “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (5:5). The “living water”, the Holy Spirit, the Gift of the Risen One who dwells in us, purifies us, illuminates us, renews us, transforms us because he makes us participants in the very life of God that is Love…… The Holy Spirit teaches us to see with the eyes of Christ, to live life as Christ lived, to understand life as Christ understood it. That is why the living water, who is the Holy Spirit, quenches our life, why he tells us that we are loved by God as children, that we can love God as his children and that by his grace we can live as children of God, like Jesus. And we, do we listen to the Holy Spirit? ….. Let us hear the Holy Spirit, let us listen to the Holy Spirit and may we move forward on this path of love, mercy and forgiveness. [Pope Francis, General Audience, May 8, 2013]

Vs. 11,12= The woman said to Him, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the well is deep; where then can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?”

From the ‘you, a Jew’ hostility to now a respectful, less hostile, yet in a sense still uncertain about who Jesus is and what this is all about, the woman uses the honourific, “Sir” as she seeks clarity and, by referring to Jacob hints at the common ancestry, shared by both Jews and Samaritans.

There is a softening here of tone and attitude.

Vs. 13,14= Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

That drinking a cup of mere ‘created’ water can never satisfy our need for full daily hydration is an obvious observation Jesus makes to counter point the truth He is revealing, namely that within the water He is offering is the gift of the Holy Spirit, but also therein all that Jesus teaches us, which is why the water of Baptism, or rather the Sacrament of Baptism itself, when we first receive the Holy Spirit, is called the gateway to sacramental life.

More, it wells within us like a river upon which we are carried into eternal life!

There is this wonderful vision in Revelation 22:1-5: Then the angel showed me the river of life-giving water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of its street. On either side of the river grew the tree of life that produces fruit twelve times a year, once each month; the leaves of the trees serve as medicine for the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there anymore. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His servants will worship Him. They will look upon His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. Night will be no more, nor will they need light from lamp or sun, for the Lord God shall give them light, and they shall reign forever and ever.

Vs 15-16=The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”  Jesus said to her, “Go call your husband and come back.”

The woman is still thinking, or at least by her reply seems to be so, in terms of material, physical thirst and that the water Jesus is offering would mean she would no longer have to endure the daily grind and humiliation of her solitary trips to the well.

Jesus however is offering faith, conversion, a restoration of her human dignity, membership in the community.

Jean Vanier, in his book BECOMING HUMAN, reminds us that: Those who are weak have a great difficulty finding their place in our society.

Acceptance of our weakness, ultimately our need of Jesus and the grace and gift He offers us as He is doing here with the Samaritan woman, is the first step towards faith and conversion of heart: metanoia.

As Jesus Himself teaches us, the journey of faith, the Spirit’s gift of metanoia, is a life journey, indeed a day by day journey: Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. [cf. Mt.16:24]

St. John Paul in his first Holy Thursday letter to Priests in 1979 stresses: We must be converted anew every day, we must rediscover every day the gift obtained from Christ Himself…[cf. op. cit. para.10]

As with the woman here, so with every human being, Christ’s ‘ask’ of us is always invitational, always protective of our human freedom, itself God’s gift to us, to say yes or no: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with Me.” [Rev. 3:20]

This whole dialogue with the Woman is, truly, Jesus knocking at the door of her heart and asking her to go and get her husband is, as it were, handing her the key to unlock the door and open to Him and the living water, the Holy Spirit.

IF she goes to get her husband then she is making a gesture of freedom, she is freely choosing to open the door of her being, in itself an act of faith and trust for:…….faith, in its deepest essence, is the openness of the human heart to the gift of God: to God’s self-communication in the Holy Spirit. Saint Paul writes: “The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” [cf. Dominum Et Vivificantem, para.51.2; encyclical of St. John Paul, May 18, 1986]

v.17= The woman answered and said to Him, “I do not have a husband.”

Speaking truth, indeed making a confession, we can hear not only the woman’s words, but the sound of a door being unlocked.

Ven. Fulton Sheen, in his book, LIFE OF CHRIST, speaking of another adulterous woman’s approach to Christ notes with great compassion: There was love in her boldness, repentance in her tears……[op. cit. p.122]

In his book ORTHODOX PSYCHOTHERAPY, Hierotheos, Bishop of Nafpaktos, quotes St. Gregory Nazianzen, who stresses that “…it is necessary to be truly at ease to know God.” [op. cit. p. 31]

Throughout this encounter Jesus has been putting the woman at ease.


Jesus zeros in not on her promiscuity but on her truth speaking, for the now unlocked door is beginning to open.

When Pope Francis began stressing the mercy of God early in his pontificate, in his book THE NAME OF GOD IS MERCY, he teaches us that: The Church does not exist to condemn people, but to bring about an encounter with the visceral love of God’s mercy….I like to use the image of a field hospital to describe this “Church that goes forth”; it exists where there is combat. [op. cit. p. 52]

In this encounter of Jesus at the well with the Samaritan Woman we have a template of what Pope Francis is teaching, a template in the first instance for bishops and priests, but for all the baptized on how we should encounter, witness to, love one another.

This encounter between Jesus and the woman is also a template for patient, attentive, dialogue, for apparently instant conversions, at least authentic ones, are rare – look at the struggles of a St. Augustine or a St. Teresa of Avila.

Vs. 19-20= The woman said to him, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”

Things have moved now from ‘you’ the Jew to ‘sir’ to ‘prophet’ indicating growing trust and respect, but still some resistance.

It is as if having unlocked the door of her being, opened it slightly, she is guarding the door still, needing perhaps assurance Jesus is indeed whom she thinks He may be.

So, she reaches back to the old enmity between Jews and Samaritans.

Vs. 21-24=Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and truth.”

In His reply, it is striking that Jesus, who has just heard the woman speak of ‘worship’ as generalization specifies that she, indeed everyone, will “worship the Father.”

It is Jesus who, after the millennials of human history, and specifically that of the Chosen People, reveals that God is indeed our Father.

Further, Jesus lays out the whole mystery of the Trinity while announcing that the fulfillment of the prophecies, which point to Himself and the gift of redemption, is at hand.

V.25= The woman said to Him, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Anointed; when He comes, He will tell us everything.”

Now she has opened to the door to Jesus. Not yet has she invited Him in, but in her own way, minus any of the previous attitude, she is conversing, person to person and, in her own way, making a statement of faith and hopeful expectation.

What is this ‘everything’ that the Messiah, the Anointed One, will tell us, will tell her?

First and foremost, that ‘everything’ is what Jesus tells her, namely that the Expected One is now among us: V. 26= Jesus said to her, “I am He, the one who is speaking with you.”

How wonderful as He reveals Himself Jesus stresses that He is speaking ‘with’ her.

Too often when we seek to evangelize we speak ‘at’ or ‘to’ people, not with them.

Now she can allow Jesus to cross the threshold of her being for she no longer is speaking with a mere man but with the Messiah, the Redeemer, the sought-after Beloved Himself!

Next there is an interruption and here the words of William Barclay in his commentary on the Gospel of St. John, volume 1, page 103 apply: We must always remember that beneath John’s simple stories is a deeper meaning which is open only to those who have eyes to see. In all his gospel John never wrote an unnecessary or an insignificant detail. Everything means something and everything points beyond.

V. 27=At that moment His disciples returned, and were amazed that He was talking with a woman, but still no one said, “What are you looking for?” or “Why are you talking with her?”

Then an amazing thing happens, reminiscent of all the running to and fro, Easter Sunday, as people ran around proclaiming: HIS IS RISEN!

V.28/29/30= The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could He possibly be the Messiah?” They went out of the town and came to Him.

Metanoia, conversion of heart, leads to a willingness to proclaim, and for the Samaritan Woman this meant the courage to do so in the heart of the very community which held her in disdain and rejected her.

Indeed, given enmity between Jesus and the woman at the outset, for she noted He was a Jew and she a Samaritan, that between her and the people of the town, not merely her lifestyle but the state of her soul, then what transpires once she allows Christ to enter her being and transform her heart, we see what St. Gregory Nyssa illustrates when he teaches on Christian perfection: We have Christ, who is our peace and our light. He is our peace, who has made both one. Since Christ is our peace, we shall be living up to the name of Christian if we let Christ be seen in our lives by letting peace reign in our hearts. He has brought hostility to an end, as the apostle said. Therefore, we must not allow it to come back to life in us in any way at all but must proclaim clearly that it is dead indeed. God has destroyed it in a wonderful way for our salvation. We must not, then, allow ourselves to give way to anger or bear grudges, for this would endanger our souls. We must not stir up the very thing that is well and truly dead, calling it back to life by our wickedness. But as we bear the name of Christ, who is peace, we too must put an end to all hostility, so that we may profess in our lives what we believe to be true of him.

 Bl. Pope Paul VI: "Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses."

This is who the Samaritan woman is, a witness first and then a teacher and as a result the people went to meet Jesus, which means they too spoke with Him, and clearly, listened and took what He said to heart.

Was St. John, presumably at a respectful distance, present for the entire exchange between Jesus and the Samaritan Woman, or did he seek her out after the event to fill in the details?

In any event he would have been present when, the disciples have returned, the following took place:  VS.31-38= Meanwhile, the disciples urged Him, “Rabbi, eat.” But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” So the disciples said to one another, “Could someone have brought Him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish His work. Do you not say, ‘In four months the harvest will be here’? I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest. The reaper is already receiving his payment and gathering crops for eternal life, so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together. For here the saying is verified that ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap what you have not worked for; others have done the work, and you are sharing the fruits of their work.”

Over and over Jesus draws from the ordinary of life to illuminate the realities of who and why we are as persons, what the gift of life is ultimately about: As the Baltimore Catechism of my childhood stated, God creates us to: know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next. Thus, too the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in the Prologue, # 1, re-affirms: God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Saviour. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.

St. John closes this critical section of the Gospel with these verses: 39-42: Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me everything I have done.” When the Samaritans came to Him, they invited Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. Many more began to believe in Him because of His word, and they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

All of us, in imitation of Christ, as did the Apostles, as did the woman, as baptized Christians are called to witness to Christ and to teach the Gospel.

When a heart is open to Christ in the Gospel the person must then have a personal experience of Christ. The greatest of these personal experiences with Him occur within the Sacraments: Baptism, Reconciliation, Holy Eucharist, Confirmation, Holy Marriage, Priesthood, Anointing of the Sick.

Strengthened by sacramental grace we remain faithful, courageous even, especially in these days when Christians are constantly derided, hated, persecuted, even martyred.

This is the Samaritan Woman, commemorated in the East as St. Photini, a martyr for the faith.  The details of her life after meeting Jesus are not in the Gospel, nor in the Acts of the Apostles.

Many stories have been handed down by oral tradition long before someone wrote anything down about the lives of various people who do appear in the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles without accurate historical records of their later lives.


Purists may fret over the lack of historical records, but there is a strong presence of the sensus fidelis: Thanks to the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the understanding of both the realities and the words of the heritage of faith is able to grow in the life of the Church……[Catechism of the Catholic Church #94].

Thus, since devotion to St. Photini has been handed down over the generations, it is a beautiful tradition, inspiring, that the Woman has been given a name and is celebrated as one faithful to Christ to the very end, martyrdom.

St. Photini prayer for us.





















   






Friday, 4 August 2017

St. John + 4:1-6


                                                            

It is high summer.

In North America and several countries in Europe the hot dry weather has spawned the usual rash of wildfires.

In parts of Africa drought and famine spread.

While heat does warm the earth, causing seeds to grow, too much heat kills: plants, animals, human beings.

We humans can only live three days without water.

St. John, knowing well the reality of life in a desert country, as he frequently does throughout the Gospel, paints a vivid picture of heat causing fatigue and thirst and within that reveals more of the real humanity of Christ.

St. Paul reminds us that: …Christ Jesus Who, though He was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, He emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. [Phil. 2:5-8]

4:1-3= Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, just His disciples), He left Judea and returned to Galilee.

Given that the Evangelist wrote down his Gospel account of Jesus’ life and teachings, post-Pentecost, it is indeed crucial that St. John points out that Jesus did not baptize because, he would totally understand that what John the Baptist, and some of the enthusiastic disciples of Jesus, at this early stage still lacking a clear understanding of Jesus’ person and mission, were ‘baptizing’ in a symbolic sense, not as the actual sacrament of baptism, instituted by and mandated by Jesus: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” [Mt.28:19]

In the above verses from St. John we are reminded again that Jesus’ life on earth, His public life was never static. Mostly He is on the move, as if trying to get to every place, especially where the Chosen People lived.

This is missionary movement.

This is why the Church Herself can never be static, nor any diocese or parish, nor any individual Christian.

We must always be on the move, seeking, reaching out, proclaiming the Gospel with our lives, without compromise.

The way in which we do so will vary according to our vocation, but even a smile offered to a stranger on a crowded bus is an act of evangelization.

Indeed, it is the witness of our authentically Christ-centered lives, for by baptism we are Christophers, that is Christ-bearers, and not words, which will bring people to Christ. Once people have embraced the witness then their hearts will be open to hear the teachings of Christ: Tertullian, writing around 200AD, shows how astonished the majority pagan community was about the smaller Christian community, whose love and care for one another, Tertullian asserts, caused the pagans to declare: “See how they love one another.”

Such an observation of love in action leads to curiosity, which leads to approach from which flows questioning that becomes dialogue and then an ask to be baptized.

Vs. 4-6=He had to pass through Samaria.  So He came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon.

Translated here as noon, the term ‘noon’ is more often translated as ‘the sixth hour’, we see this in the Synoptic accounts of the crucifixion of Jesus noting moments which occurred at the sixth to the ninth hour, that is from noon until three in the afternoon. [cf. Mt. 27:45; Mk. 15:33,34; Lk. 23:44]

In most countries of the world, at least in summer, the hours between noon and three are the hottest of the day, indeed in some countries the heat during those hours can be brutal, even dangerous.

Oddly enough when meditating on these verses – and one never knows where meditations might go, perhaps in this case because it is near three in the afternoon on a hot summer’s day – a Noel Coward ditty came to mind from my childhood when, after the more serious anthems and classics had been sung as we celebrated Empire Days, Coward’s song MAD DOGS AND ENGLISHMEN would be sung by all with much glee, the colonials making fun of the particular British approach to peoples of the Empire: “In tropical climes there are certain times of day when all citizens retire……because the sun is much too sultry…..But mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.”

When we meditate upon the crucifixion of Jesus it is important to be aware He was crucified on the top of a hill during the hottest time of the day; to remember most people in countries of extreme heat do not have air conditioning, easy access to cool water; even in countries such as mine, where days above 25 Celsius/70 Fahrenheit, are rare, except in July.

Many countries with milder, even northerly climates, can still have days of brutal heat and the poor, the homeless, outside workers, the elderly, the sick, expectant mothers, small children, suffer much in the heat.

There is nothing in the life of Jesus, even if it seems to be mentioned almost in passing, that is outside of the experience of any human being.

Many of us live in cultures replete with elevators, escalators, moving sidewalks, air conditioning, and either public transportation systems or own our own cars replete with air conditioning, and cup holders for nicely chilled bottled water.

Not the case for millions of our brothers and sisters who must walk everywhere in the hundreds of countries that do not have such things, indeed even in countries with such things the homeless must walk everywhere to beg for food, for water, a place to sleep at night, and not to be gross about it but they and millions of the poor around the world even have to find a place to go to the bathroom.

So here Jesus, having walked for hours is hot, exhausted, thirsty.

He sits down at the well.

How very human!

Who among us has not experienced at some point being overheated, thirsty, worn out and sought a place of shade, rest, where we might slake our thirst?

Just as Jesus did.

But this is all prelude to the central event!