Saturday, 18 October 2014

JOHN: 1:35-39


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is the impelling of love.

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

We use the expression: falling in love.

True love does not fall.

True love follows, catches up, journeys with.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Invitation replete with acceptance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

JOHN 1: 29-34


                                                                
Throughout the Holy Gospel according to St. John there appears an ever increasing sense of urgency, through his use of introductory words such as ‘immediately’ , development around the theme of the Lord’s ‘hour’, or within the quickness of actions such as, though not observed but rather experienced in the tasting, when Jesus changes the water into wine at Cana.

Thus with v. 29 the Evangelist uses the word ‘immediately’, stressing the very next day, that is the second day of what, as we shall see, appears to have been a three day event, the first being the interrogation of the Baptist, when unfolds now the second day and later we shall see the events of the third day.

All woven together like a catechetical tapestry.

Within the aforementioned theme of urgency the Baptist is described as seeing Jesus ‘coming toward him.’

Was this Jesus emerging from the Jordan? Unlikely as the text would seem to indicate this was later as from the descriptive it would appear most of those listening to the Baptist had not been observers at the event with Jesus in the Jordan.

Perhaps it was indeed the next day.

There are another two threads which weave themselves throughout St. John’s Gospel and indeed in the Synoptics as well: 1] much toing and froing, which is lots of movement going places, people heading to meet Jesus, Jesus going to them, to meals, to healings, exorcisms; 2] proclamations which are sometimes parable teachings, other times glimpses by Jesus into who He really is, to responding to challenges from those who ultimately want to kill him.

Jesus certainly knew by approaching the Baptist for their encounter in the Jordan, and here, that He, Jesus, was irrevocably entering this ‘public’ life.

There would be no turning back.

His face now set firmly towards Jerusalem, which meant as well towards the garden of Gethsemane, the hill of Calvary, the awaiting tomb.

Like the echo of the exaltation which caused him to shudder with joy in his mother’s womb when he first encountered Jesus [cf. Lk.1:41], the Baptist in this instance [v.29,30] cannot contain himself and cries out, shouts, indeed commands: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me! I did not know Him, but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefor I came baptizing with water.’”

BEHOLD! – Nowadays we rarely use that expression, more likely we shout: “LOOK!”  - or perhaps nonetheless seeking someone to pay attention would more mutedly ask: “Did you see THAT!”

Granted some persons, usually the very young, do go rather nuts when a celebrity of some type is within view, older people most often reserve their excitement for the head of state, Catholics certainly get excited when the Pope is in view – but here, in this instant, on this day, it is Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God who has come into view, more is publicly entering history in a way which through the millennia to this very moment, continues.

For several decades, and it is most sad, there have been and continue to be struggles in Catholic parishes about when and if to kneel, or not!

Really!

Jesus in all His Risen glory is in our midst, in every Holy Mass, every Holy Communion more than in our midst, in our very beings and He resides with us in the Tabernacle.

We have not simply lost a capacity for wonderment, for BEHOLD!, we seem to have lost an appreciation, a humble, childlike love for Him.

One woman crawled on her belly just to touch the hem of His garment, another knelt at His feet washing them with her tears and kissing them with love and gratitude.

The Magi knelt to lean into the manger to love and adore Him.

Jesus is such radiant love and mercy not merely does the question pose itself, why not kneel, but pushes further, why not prostrate and await His loving touch where He says: arise!

This ‘behold’ moment was the moment all creation, all humanity, the People of the Promise in particular had been waiting for across the millennia, the advent of the promised Messiah, the Christ.

The Baptist’s urgency is to call our attention to this tremendous advent, the import of the moment, the wonder of the One for whom this moment is: Jesus.

Something I have wondered about, for it is not explicit in the text, did the Baptist at this juncture suspect that soon Herodias would seek to have him killed?

None of the Gospels tell us precisely when he challenged Herod about his adultery but we do know ultimately this would cost St. John the Baptist his life.

It just seems to me perhaps some premonition added urgency, clarity, to his words about Jesus.

Certainly here he wastes no time further fulfilling his mission as the precursor of the Messiah, imbued as he is with the spirit of Elijah.

Again the Evangelist stresses that: “John bore witness, saying….”

In these verses 32-34 the Baptist reminds those who witnessed the event with Jesus in the Jordon, and informs those who did not, the reality both of what unfolded and the truth of the One now among us.

V.32- “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him.”

When we are Baptised the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us, making us at the one and the same time: disciples of Christ, children of the Father, temples of Himself, the Holy Spirit and immersion in Baptism is to receive the gateway sacrament opening to us the life of sanctifying grace in all the other sacraments.

Jesus, second Person of the Holy Trinity, true God and true Man, always in communion/union of love with the Father and the Holy Spirit did not suddenly be taken up into that Trinitarian reality at the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Him in the Jordon.

Rather this event is for our eyes confirmation of the always existing union of Jesus and the Holy Spirit and affirmation of the Spirit’s being with Jesus in His human life – just as in Baptism the Holy Spirit gifts Himself to us for our lives: clothing us with Christ, empowering us to cry Abba! Father!, teaching and sanctifying us.

v.33 – “I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.”

THEOPHANY:  This is the English of the Greek word theophania, which means God revealing Himself, God appearing.

In the accounts of the baptism of Jesus in the Jordon found in Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22 we find details not present in the Baptist’s teaching above, namely the voice of the Father affirming Jesus is His Son and we must listen to Jesus.

Yet even in the Baptist’s words we have a theophany teaching for it is the Father who both has sent St. John the Baptist, indeed given him his Forerunner mission, tells him what to say/teach in this moment and, of course, the Baptist testifies also to seeing the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus, God in human nature yet remaining true God, Second Person of the Holy Trinity.

From this moment on, with absolute certainty, we know the one true God is one, yet a trinity of persons: Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

St. John the Evangelist concludes with an explicit testimony, surely with the great behold still echoing in our hearts, from the Baptist, v. 34: “And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”

 

 

 

Friday, 4 July 2014

JOHN 1: 19-28


                                                                  JOHN 1: 19-28

These verses of dialogue between the Baptist and the emissaries of the religious leaders of the Chosen People, from Jerusalem as the Evangelist notes – Jerusalem being the fixed destination toward which Jesus deliberately will head to fulfill the will of the Father – is fascinating, illuminating dialogue:  equally a serious interrogation of the Baptist, and from him a brilliantly clear catechesis.

While not noted explicitly by the Evangelist no doubt there were various sources of the curiosity, itself a powerful human motivator on the personal level of the questioners, mingled with their mandate from their masters in Jerusalem.

 We can glean from the Synoptic Gospels the various events, both in the life of St. John the Baptist and of Jesus, which would have been known among many of the people at large, certainly by the religious authorities and likewise by the occupying Roman powers and their civil puppets, in the days when this event occurred, Herod and his minions.

Granted some thirty years had passed since the events in the Temple leading to the birth of the Baptist, the Roman census, the birth of Jesus, appearance of the Magi, the slaughter of the children by another Herod – but memory is powerful, a component of history and certainly along with the expectation of ordinary people, the hope filled longing for the promised Messiah, the religious authorities would be versed in the Scriptural promise.

It is, given their subsequent attitude towards Jesus and eventual determination to kill Him, unlikely that the emissaries were sent with a pure motive, for we know those who sent them were ferociously protective of their power, not unlike Herod and the Romans.

This gives critical importance to the way the Evangelist sets the stage for the exchange between the Baptist and his interrogators.

Verse 19 rather than beginning with some phrase such as ‘here is what John said ‘ – or – ‘this is the conversation between…’, stresses this is “the testimony”.

Like the Baptist before us, our whole lives of we the baptized, must be the Gospel lived without compromise. Therefore when asked about, or interrogated about in Whom we believe, we listen for the subtext, the real question being asked.

We do not so much speak/ reply as witness to, testify.

The Gospel is not spread, does no transfer from one human heart to another primarily by teaching, rather it is the radiance of witness which permeates the heart of another.

This is precisely what the Baptist does, testify: for he hears what is truly being asked.

v.19 – “Who are you?”

At this juncture the Evangelist twice uses the term ‘confessed’ as a descriptive of the Baptist’s response.

Most people hearing the terms ‘confessed, confesses, confession’ assume the reference is admission of guilt for some crime or sin.

There is another form of confession: confession of faith.

This is the articulation not primarily of a series of doctrines believed in but rather of testifying about the One in Whom we believe, the truth we have received from Him in the gift of faith received with Baptism.

In the case of St. John the Baptist much would have been illuminated within him through his profound listening silence during his desert years, so the Baptist does not tell them who he is, rather hearing the real question tells them, v. 20 –“I am not the Christ.”

He has heard the yearning of the People of the Promise, the Chosen People, the People of Israel and within them the yearning of every human being from Adam to every beating heart on earth today.

Then comes the second challenge of his interrogators, v. 21 – What then? Are you Elijah?”

If he is not the Messiah then they must probe, from their tradition about who will proceed the Messiah, a returned Elijah, if John is him, in other words is the Messiah coming soon?

The Baptist’s reply is succinct: “I am not.”

They reach back even further into Scripture, to the declaration of Moses [Deut.18: 15-19] as the promise of the Prophet, i.e. the Messiah.

“Are you the Prophet?’

“No.”

St. John the Baptist is a prophet, not the Prophet.

He is the last prophet of the Hebrew Scriptures.

After the Baptist the Father no longer sends ‘prophets’ to announce the promise, for in Jesus, the Prophet, the Messiah, the promise is fulfilled.

Jesus is the final word of the Father to us, the complete word, the redeeming, life-giving word.

Jesus is the fulfillment of the Father’s love for us.

Anyone claiming to be ‘the prophet’ since Jesus is a liar.

There is in the next question a degree of desperation, a sense of fearful urgency, on the surface because these minions must return to their masters with some answer – when in reality the deeper source of their question is the expectancy in every human heart of hearing, finally, that the Messiah is among us.

v.22 – “Who are you that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?”

It is very human to want to be able to define other – and this leads most of the time to us prejudicially putting one another in some kind of box.

It is a power and control thing.

The opposite of what Jesus does!

Jesus loves us as we are in the moment, for He knows who we are, children of the Father, sinners in need of redemption, beloved of God.

The Baptist does not allow himself to be defined, boxed in, and categorized according to whatever preconceptions his interrogators have.

This is the moment of catechesis!

v.23 – Drawing on Isaiah 40:3, the Baptist declares: ‘I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the Lord.”’

We the baptized live in an immense and complex wilderness of the cold darkness of the culture of death in what has been named the ‘post-Christian’ era; in the wilderness of anti-Christian governments, terrorists, and a media which is both anti-Christian and anti-life; in the wilderness of parishes which more often than not are mere liturgical gatherings of a Sunday rather than joyously vibrant communities of love; an era so anti-family as to be heartbreaking; an era of absolutely unnecessary poverty, homelessness, hunger, loneliness, because we live in the wilderness of ego, fear and greed.

How desperately our brothers and sisters who co-dwell with us in the vast wilderness need to hear our voice cry out!

v.24 – At this juncture the Evangelist introduces another group present at the interrogation of the Baptist who, apparently until now, have remained silent: the Pharisees.

Eventually they will become the prime challengers of Jesus and become so steeped in denial of Him, outright hatred of Him, they will egregiously violate the very Law they claim to treasure in order to kill Him.

For now they tip their hand, using a challenge they will later throw at Jesus, to wit ‘by what authority!’ – while not asked directly of the Baptist the challenge is implied, v. 25 – “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

Once again the Baptist will not be boxed in, rather he again seizes the moment to catechize.

v.26-27: “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know, it is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.”

Silence!

No expression of a desire to meet the Messiah, the Christ.

No further challenge.

Silence!

Perhaps they slunk away like the accusers of the woman caught in adultery.

The following verse is simply the Evangelist, after the Baptist’s humble catechesis, indicating where this event happened.

We are left to wonder what report the interrogators made back in Jerusalem to their masters.

Look closely at the sandal dangling from the foot of the Child in His Mother’s arms.

This icon, attributed to St. Luke, is almost like a quick snapshot taken in mid event.

Perhaps he asked Our Lady to pick up Jesus to make the original sketch and one sandal fell off, the other about to fall.

In any event Our Blessed Mother, like all mothers, was worthy to loosen and to put on the sandals of her child.

Jesus, through His redemptive Passion, Death, Resurrection, in the sacrament of Baptism, wherein we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to love and serve one another, makes us worthy to do more than loosen sandals, more than to wash feet in His memory, but grants that every act of love, every cup of water, morsel of food, care, visit given to another human being IS an act of loving service of Jesus Himself.

May She who cared for the Child help us to care for Him in one another.

Monday, 12 May 2014

JOHN 1: 15-18


                                                                     

It is already, and this far north the weekend brought more snow [!], two weeks since what follows was first written. However other than necessary spell checking have left it as written:

IT is the day after Mercy Sunday whereon two Pope: Francis and Emeritus Benedict, participated in the canonization of two other Popes: John xxii and John Paul ii.

Speaking of the two Saints Pope Francis noted: Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II were not afraid to look upon the wounds of Jesus, to touch his torn hands and his pierced side. They were not ashamed of the flesh of Christ, they were not scandalized by him, by his cross; they did not despise the flesh of their brother (cf. Is 58:7), because they saw Jesus in every person who suffers and struggles. These were two men of courage, filled with the parrhesia of the Holy Spirit, and they bore witness before the Church and the world to God’s goodness and mercy. They were priests, bishops and popes of the twentieth century. They lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them. For them, God was more powerful; faith was more powerful – faith in Jesus Christ the Redeemer of man and the Lord of history; the mercy of God, shown by those five wounds, was more powerful; and more powerful too was the closeness of Mary our Mother. In these two men, who looked upon the wounds of Christ and bore witness to his mercy, there dwelt a living hope and an indescribable and glorious joy (1 Pet 1:3,8).

Indeed St. John the Apostle, speaking of St. John the Baptist, uses similar language in the Gospel, language which should be spoken truthfully of all the baptized: …a witness to the Light…[cf. 1:7]

The Baptist also bore further witness of Jesus when, crying out: This is He of whom I said, “After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.” [ cf. 1:30]

Ven. Bishop Fulton Sheen frequently notes, in particular in his major work THE LIFE OF CHRIST, how the Evangelists in the Holy Gospels “understate things.”

John’s “…He was before me.”, is one such understatement!

We know from the Lucan infancy narrative [cf. Lk. 1:57-63 & 2:4-7]John the Baptist and Jesus were about the same age, as cousins would have been known to each other since childhood, John in the chronological order having been born before Jesus clearly knew in mere human terms he was older than Jesus.

Yet here, long before Jesus will declare of Himself [cf. Jn.8:58] His precedence, the Baptist can neither contain His love for Jesus nor his true understanding of reality, that Jesus IS God.

[Jesus is the “I AM”. Satan is the: “I am not.]

Here too St. John the Apostle continues declaring who Jesus truly is v.16: And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.

There is a sort of back and forth flow with St. John’s writing, namely He speaks about this event and includes the above truth about the result of Jesus’s death and resurrection, namely transformation into Jesus through baptism is receiving divine fullness – we become co-heirs with Jesus of all that He receives from the Father.

Of course what we do with such a gift, in a word how we use our freedom, this is the journey, the struggle, the pilgrimage of life.

v.17: For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth come through Jesus Christ.

All the rest of St. John’s account of the words and actions of Jesus throughout the remainder of this Gospel will underscore this fact and after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension will come the outpouring of the Holy Spirit who will pour grace and truth within us, living gifts for our journey, activating, as it were, all sacraments.

As St. John Paul has written:  In His intimate life, God “is love,” the essential love shared by the three divine Persons: personal love is the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of the Father and the Son. Therefore He “searches even the depths of God,” as uncreated Love-gift. It can be said that in the Holy Spirit the intimate life of the Triune God becomes total gift, an exchange of mutual love between the Divine Persons and that through the Holy Spirit God exists in the mode of gift. It is the Holy Spirit who is the personal expression of this self-giving, of this being-love. He is Person-love. He is Person-gift……..As the Apostle Paul writes: “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.” [cf. St. John Paul’s encyclical on the Holy Spirit paras.10.1/10.2

V18: No one has seen God at any time.

It is true that Moses, for example {cf. Ex. 33-20} had intimate encounters with God, however God had to veil His face by various means, as with Elijah who covered his own face when he encountered God. [cf. 1 Kings 19:11]

Indeed in Exodus as referenced above because as God says: …no man can see My face and live…God tells Moses not only will he put Moses in the cleft of a rock, but for extra protection, for Moses, God will cover him with his hand.

Still even these encounters are such that Moses’ face will be so brilliant from the Sinai encounters, Moses will have to veil his own face!

Only ONE human being has ever seen God and lived, because being God Himself He has in His divine nature seen the Father and the Holy Spirit, but in His Incarnate human flesh Jesus is never shown to us as having an encounter with the Father face to face as it were – in this Jesus shares our own limitation – we know God who knows us, we yearn to see Him face to face, a yearning which finds its ultimate fulfillment in the beatific vision.

St. Paul says at the end of his great hymn on love: For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as also I am known. [cf. 1 Cor. 13:12]

 

Saturday, 12 April 2014

ST. JOHN 1: 14


                                                               

In his Apostolic Letter: Tertio Millennio Adveniente, of November 14, 1994, Bl. John Paul notes that: Time is indeed fulfilled by the very fact that God, in the Incarnation, came down into human history….and….In Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, time becomes a dimension of God, who is Himself eternal. With the coming of Christ there begin “the last days”….the “last hour”…and the time of the Church, which will last until the Parousia. From this relationship of God with time there arises the duty to sanctify time. [paras.9, 10]

It is the eve of Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday, the threshold of the holiest week of the year, the week wherein Christ Jesus Incarnate will institute the essential food for our journey through time, the source of all we need to sanctify time, His very self in the Holy Eucharist, leaving us Himself also in the sacramental priesthood so we are never orphans, never deprived of the Sacred Food of His very self; then will come the day when to the last drop of His Blood He will pour Himself out in His redemptive love for us, opening the treasury of divine mercy, transforming the terror of death into the gateway of eternal life for when He arises all will be well, time will have achieved its purpose, namely to be the ocean upon which we travel in the bark of Peter from the shores of our created beginning, to the other side where He awaits us with His, the Father’s, the Holy Spirit’s everlasting embrace of love.

I will admit when the proclamation of the prologue of St. John’s Gospel was part of the end sequence of ever Holy Mass I never really understood why – now I do and admit I wish we would have it restored so that, as we all would genuflect, as we in those former days at the words:   Et Verbum caro factum est……. we would grasp anew the splendour, the grace-gift, the purpose of our existence in the mystery of chronological time, transformed, indeed taken up into the mystery of the Trinity by Jesus Incarnate so that, in reality, we live no longer bound by chronological time but in the freedom of kyros [ in Greek Kairos] : that is the Lord’s time for as the Church wisely proclaims each Christmas ‘this IS the night/day’ – and each Easter ‘this IS the night/day’, indeed both solemnities are celebrated in the ‘this is’ for 8 days reminding us that time is in large part a great mystery as St. Peter teaches us speaking of the reality of a thousand as one and one as a thousand. [cf. 2 Pt. 3:8]

v. 14: And the word became flesh and dwelt among us….

Each of we human beings one way or another dwells amongst the ‘us’ of the human family.

We are created because two of us, hopefully in a committed union of love, knowingly or not, making the gift of self to other also make a gift of the necessary matter within which God breathes His very self, creating each one of us by a choice which is His choosing “I” that I should have existence in His image and likeness, an existence whose immediate and ultimate purpose is communion of love with Him, indeed in Him and through Him and for Him.

The ‘for Him’ is because while not a necessity as in we human beings have a necessity for air, water, food, etc., His being infinite of infinite Love, chooses not simply to create us as beings who are beloved but makes it that our loving Him becomes our very joy.

He dwells among us appearing as an ordinary baby, born of a woman, going through all the realities of human life, growth, development.

God journeying in time as we do from infant to toddler to child to juvenile to adulthood.

More, He dwells among us as, like each of us, needing air, water, food, clothing, shelter, companionship, not exempting Himself from poverty or cold, vulnerability or heartache, loneliness, betrayal, pain or even death.

Do you dwell among us as a homeless person with nowhere to lay your head, orphan, with a single parent or widowed mother, fleeing as a refugee, as one who labours with your hands or is engaged in intellectual work, a person enduring temptation or doubt, hunger, thirst, rejection, abandonment, being arrested, accused, tortured, betrayed, convicted, executed?

He has dwelt among us, indeed dwells among us in every reality/experience of every human being.

v.14:….and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

St. John is writing down his account of the life, teachings, sufferings, death, resurrection of Jesus towards the end of his own life, in his old age when he himself, one who had so loved and been faithful to Jesus, was about to cross the threshold, to arrive at the far shores of time and through death meet again, this time never to be departed from, the One Who loved/loves him and whom He loved/loves.

The glory, St. John refers to here is both that manifested in miracles, such as at the wedding feast in Cana, and a reference to the glorious beauty of the risen Jesus, also, more than any of the evangelists, St. John give us the most extensive teachings and prayers of Jesus in relation to His Father, as shall be meditated upon further on the deeper we go into the Gospel.

For now, in an age when the greatest distortion of truth is relativism, in an age when countless people declare either no need of nor belief in God, how urgently we Christians need to pray, in particularly during Holy Week, that ever human being will come to know, listen to, follow, embrace the One who not only ‘dwelt’ among us but through the Church, the Eucharist in particular, still dwells among us.

Thus we truly sanctify time!

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

ST. JOHN 1:10-13


                                                              
To the pilgrims….elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. [1 Pt. 1,2]

Every human being, knowingly or unknowingly, from the moment of our creation are pilgrims of the Absolute, we originate with Him and we are headed to return to Him.

This pilgrimage is fundamentally possible because the Divine Pilgrim Himself has dwelt among us and, in the Eucharist primarily, but also in various other ways, remains with us as He Himself declares, promises: …I am with you always, even to the end of the age. [cf. Mt. 28.20]

I begin this meditation the evening of Ash Wednesday when the Church begins anew the annual pilgrimage with Jesus from His spiritual battle in the desert through His resolute journey, pilgrimage, to Calvary.

Now it is already evening of Monday of the first week of Holy Lent.

The meditation was set aside while attending to the needs of others, spending much time in prayer because of the extremely dangerous confrontation, taking place yes in Ukraine, but fundamentally between Russia and Western Democracies.

When Christ was incarnate and came to dwell among us Israel was an occupied country, the Roman Empire was engaged in many battles on its extended borders.

Hunger, violence, unemployment, oppression was rampant throughout the then ‘known’ world, and scholars these days have discovered much about other civilizations at the time throughout Asia, the Americas, Africa when human beings were struggling mightily to raise their families, protect the clan or tribe or region from others.

This is the human condition, this is the unfolding of human history, this is the challenge each day for human beings: to be born, grow and mature, discover self and other, to wonder about the universe, to wonder the who am I, why am I, to whence am I headed.

Left to ourselves….

But He who creates us to love us, lavishing among others of His gifts His love-gift of free will, understands us and how need of Him.

More through His incarnation He journeys, as we must from the womb to the tomb, on the path we follow, thus this pilgrimage we travel is more than just known to Him: He has marked the way for us with His Light, yes, more, with His blood.

While in this verse [1:10] St. John speaks in past tense, in reality we can embrace every word of Sacred Scripture as present tense, certainly as regards Jesus, both because of His promise: …I am with you always, even to the end of the age. [Mt.20.28] and the intimate reality of His being with us in Holy Mass, within us in every Holy Communion, and so: He was in the world, and the world was made through Him…[v.10]

Because we are blessed with five senses we are sensory beings, human beings blessed as well with imagination and memory, the capacity for creativity in art and science, forming of cultures and body politics, economics; we are builders of cities and farmers of the land; builders of ever more complex and beautiful modes of transportation, even to an international space station – which itself is not only testament to our creativity as builders but to our ability, if we choose, to cooperate across languages, cultures, religions and even non-religion.

Our failures when it comes to Ukraine or Syria, to AIDS and poverty, hunger and homelessness, racism and violence are not because we lack the God-given talent to use love’s imagination to live in true solidarity, rather it is because as in the days when Jesus walked the earth, so in our day:….and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. [Vs.10-11]

For more than a millennia Christendom, which since the fourth century has morphed into the ersatz ‘western civilization’ has been the dominant power base of economics, media, military might, a dominance which is if not waning is certainly as tattered and weakened at the edges as when the so-called barbarians began to nibble at the edges of the Roman empire.

If our desire to see a renewal of Christianity – and among other things Lent is a time for renewal, for rediscovery of our baptismal vocation and heritage – is to assure a resurgence of Western power, then we are not only on a fool’s journey, we have learnt nothing from history, and certainly nothing from the Gospel.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. [Vs. 12-13]

One of the crucial actions Holy Mother the Church invites us all to participate in during the Easter Vigil is the renewal of our Baptismal Promises because Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit…and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word. [Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1213]

That is precisely what St. John is telling us about.

Certainly we must raise our voices for the hungry, the naked, the homeless, for an end to all forms of discrimination and hatred, strive to form political, economic systems which ensure global peace, a sustainable environment so our and future generations have food, medicine, freedom from fear of other human beings, but all our efforts will ultimately be as naught if we the baptized fail to be faithful to Jesus, to the Gospel.

Jesus came among us, is with us, because our loving Father heard/hears the cries of His children dwelling in a world still in so much darkness.

Millions are the voices raised to deny the presence of the Church in society.

Most tragically many are the voices of former Christians, for they tend to be the most angry and aggressive enemies of the faith, and in their anger they reject the presence of Jesus in the world through the reality of light-bearing, compassion-bearing, love-bearing, truth-speaking presence of Christians.

If we care about the suffering of our brothers and sisters in Syria and Ukraine, as but two examples some distance away, likewise if we care about the suffering of our brothers and sisters dumpster diving in the alley, or out of sight in some dark place of hopelessness, then we must this Lent receive Jesus anew.

The alternative is to choose darkness and chaos beyond anything we can imagine.

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

ST. JOHN 1: 6-9


                                                            

                          1: There was a man sent from God whose name was John.

Suddenly in the midst of this beautiful teaching, hymn really, about the LOGOS, the Word, the Evangelist inserts this statement about the Baptist.

I have always been struck by the indication that the Baptist did not appear on the scene, as it were, does not say what he subsequently says of his own accord.

Rather the Evangelist is precise, the Baptist is a man sent from God.

He is thus a man on, and a man with, a mission, a mission to point towards the One, the Word, the Truth-Bearer and the Light-Bearer: Jesus.

Several centuries before the Baptist set forth on his mission another missionary-prophet, Isaiah, had cried out to God for the whole human family: If only You would tear open the heavens and come down…” [Is. 64:1]

Jesus is the answer to this cry.

He is God come down, bringing the love of the Father, bringing light, truth, life, hope, redemption, in His very Person, Lamb of God who will lay down His life for us.

Jesus comes down at a very specific time in history; in the line through His human family that reaches all the way back to the Garden where His promised coming was first announced.

He comes among us Incarnate by the power of the Holy Spirit and the fiat, the yes of a woman, the Virgin Mary, His Mother, ably protected and loved by St. Joseph who will be called upon to save the child from those who would kill Him, to teach the boy to become a man with a trade, a carpenter, the son of a carpenter.

Our Lady Herself, present throughout the life of Jesus will witness His passion, and in that moment say yes to become the Mother of us all.

What St. John the Evangelist reveals throughout the Gospel, what St. John the Baptist has been sent to announce is what every human being has waited for through the millennia since the expulsion from the Garden: what every human being in this very moment, who has either not yet heard the Good News about Jesus or having heard has not yet said yes to Him, hungers for still.

Erasmo Levi-Merikakis in his book FIRE OF MERCY HEART OF THE WORD, vol. 1, his commentary on the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew, stresses: If man is to “see the face of God and have life”, it is God Himself who must turn around and reveal Himself to man. [p466]

The Evangelist places before us the reason the Baptist has been sent, and what his mission is: This man came as a witness… [v.7]

In his commentary on the Gospel of John, William Barclay notes that the word witness is one of the key words the Evangelist uses.

The most common notion of a witness in our day is of someone who witnesses an event, such as a car crash, or someone who gives testimony in a court proceeding.

In point of fact the deeper meaning of witness is someone who not only is able to testify about an event but whose very life, very person, is affirmation of the event – thus the powerful witness of martyrs whose very lives, even more so than their words, reveal powerfully the truth of belief in and fidelity to Jesus, as the Baptist himself in his own martyrdom.

To what then, rather to whom, is St. John the Baptist witness?

He has been sent to:….bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. [v.7]

Here seems appropriate to also include this from Levi-Merikakis’ commentary on the healing of the blind men in Matthew 9: 27ff, where Levi-Merikakis references the reality of light and darkness: Personified darkness implores the mercy of the incarnate Light of the World [cf. Jn.9:5]. {p.480}

It is the father of John the Baptist himself, Zechariah who, on the naming of his son in his great prophetic hymn, known commonly as the Benedictus, prayed  by the Church every morning in the Divine Office, announces that: …the Dayspring from on high has visited us; to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death. [cf. Lk. 1:78/79]

Celebrating the radiant Light of the Risen Christ, remembering the real immediacy of everything within the incarnation, during the Easter Vigil the Church exults with ineffable and expressible excitement: May this flame be found still burning by the Morning Star: the one Morning Star who never sets, Christ your Son….

It is all about Jesus Christ and so St. John the Evangelist denotes clearly about the Baptist that: He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. [v.8]

As Church, we bear witness to Jesus the Light every time we proclaim in the Nicene Creed truth rooted in the Gospel, echoing the Prologue from St. John: We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through Him all things were made. For us and for our salvation He came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit He became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.

As I approach reflections on verse 9 another polar vortex is sweeping across North America.

We also are within a few weeks of spring.

Already the sun is moving higher in the sky, the long dark days of winter are yielding to more hours of light.

Light is always stronger, as we know experientially, than darkness.

The splendour of the night sky when gazed upon reveals innumerable points of light, some emanating from stars, many of which have long since ceased to exist, yet their light travels on throughout the cosmos.

Eons ago with the so-called discovery of fire a “man-made” source of light became possible to push back the cold darkness of night.

Over the centuries oil lamps, candles, gas lights and electric lights increased our human ability to struggle against the darkness.

Yet all these sources of light: sun, stars, fire, oil, candles, gas, electricity are constructs, they, none of them, are self actualizing, not a one of them is infinite of infinite being.

Only God Himself is Himself true light.

All other light we experience cannot really enlighten us, certainly cannot permeate our beings.

He Himself IS our light, enlightens us, filling us with His very self, His very light.

The Evangelist affirms this in verse 9: That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.

 

 

Thursday, 30 January 2014

ST. JOHN 1: 3-5


Earlier, this brilliant, sunny, extremely cold day with a fierce wind, another polar vortex pushing deep into the south of this continent, I was outside for a brief walk, being very cautious as the sidewalks and roads are coated in a thick layer of ice.
I was reflecting on the notes I had, literally, penned earlier. Even though I enjoy the comparative silence of writing on a computer compared to the clack-clickity-clack of typewriters of old [remember the first computers which had a sound button so the keyboard would mimic the sound of a typewriter – what a hoot!] I do enjoy writing with pen and ink, not only is the physical motion of writing relaxing but it serves as a connection, a reminder of the importance in daily life of rhythmic slowness, gentleness, patience.
As I was reflecting on those notes, expanding them in my mind and heart I was moved to speak with the Holy Spirit, feeling a certain sense of unease it has taken me so long to write this next section when suddenly I realized what arrogance, indeed what a distraction from being steeped in, focused on, attentive to, listening and allowing to permeate my being, the sacred words of the Holy Gospel!
I like to think, and mostly living the hermitical life it is true, that I am not caught up in the hurly-burly rush of modern life – but some of it does seep in even here, Lord have mercy.
Granted there is a certain health benefit to jogging but on my daily walks when the weather is warm enough to encounter joggers I am always mystified by their expressions – never relaxed and joyful but always so intense and I find myself wondering to where or from what, from whom are they running?
This modern obsession with youth, with being buff, or whatever, that has modern entrepreneurs making fortunes with their gyms, exercise machines, vitamins, chemical peels, causes me to pray constantly for right order in human life.
Right order being quite simply that we all rediscover from the moment of our creation, indeed the reason we are created, is that we are beloved, beloveds whom He places tenderly on the first step of the journey, the pilgrimage of life within the wombs of our mothers, for we are already in His Heart for His Heart, His Love, He Himself is our origin, a journey whose end point is no point at all, but a person, Himself.
When St. John tells us, v. 3: All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made, the Holy Apostle is giving us the purpose and place of our existence: communion of love and life with the Most Holy Trinity, made accessible through the life, passion, death, resurrection of the Word Himself, Jesus Christ.
I leave it to scientists to argue over the material unfolding of creation to the extent such things are discoverable by human ingenuity.
We the baptized, I pray, should not be so limited for we are gifted by the Holy Spirit with His gifts of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.
From time to time I enjoy visiting the various websites where can be found images from Hubble and other spacecraft exploring the stars and planets, for everything in existence that can be named when gazing upon the stars above or tadpoles in a warm spring pond shine and shimmer with the amazing reality HE IS, HE LOVES!
Granted there is much within human life on this planet which is wounded and disordered.
Yet even this, even sin and evil bespeaks what a Good God, what a loving and tender Father we have, what a merciful Jesus, what a tirelessly working within us Holy Spirit, a Trinity of Love, Life, and Mercy.
When people speak with me in sheer horror, frustration, anger, pain about some personal or collective tragedy or evil and ask the “Why doesn’t God……?” question my heart aches – God doesn’t destroy houses/lives within tornado alley or on flood plains – we build in these places; God doesn’t kill women and children in Syria or Iraq – evil human beings bent on power and distorting religion to justify, in a word to embrace the evil of lie and dark rationalization to suit their own purposes, they do those horrible things.
God has set Himself a self-imposed limit on His direct intervention [outside of His exercising His love through miracles such as parting of the seas, healing of the sick, etc.] in the reality of daily life: my life, the life of the entire human family, and this limit He has set is His gift to us of freedom, most commonly expressed as free will.
Without this gift of freedom/free will, without the freedom and ability to choose lie over truth, hatred over love, darkness over light, death over life, we would be just divine pets or playthings and the One True Triune God would be nothing more than the latest occupant of Mount Olympus.
We have perfected a culture of blame and with such facility avoid responsibility, have made the notion of victim into a cult.
Of course when all else fails we can always choose to blame God.
Who has not heard some hormone crazed teenager scream how they never asked to be born!
What is crueler for a parent to hear?
Indeed what is crueler for God to hear?
St. John powerfully weaves together life and light as he teaches us the great truth v. 4: In Him was life, and the life was the light of man.
Light, the scientists tell us, is so powerful and enduring that many of the stars, the ‘light’ we see in the night sky, burned out eons ago, yet their light is not extinguished, thus we see them.
Sunsets and dawns, fireworks displays, coloured lights illuminating fountains, light of a television or computer screen, these and so many other forms of light literally illuminate our lives, bring us experience of joy, wonderment, beauty, in this modern era communication, connection.
During the war blackouts were an attempt to protect cities, people, in the, albeit mostly vain, hope the absence of observable light would make it more difficult for the bombers.
In our day night-vision scopes and other technologies and weaponry virtually assure the innocents have no place to hide in times of war and civil unrest.
Indeed the misuse of light which can enable seeing into the womb increasingly means children are aborted because of some defect or even being female – for we have reduced the human person at their most vulnerable stage to yet another mere object.
In a word even while using a form of light we are choosing darkness and while observing a beginning life are choosing death.
Once I was called to a neonate unit to baptize a newborn who was not expected to live as he was just over the size and age of viability outside the womb by mere ounces – so fragile I could only use tiny drops of water on my [no irony here] baby finger as I held him, literally, in the palm of my hand.
I have carved you on the palm of My hand [Is.49:16] is how intimately He keeps us close.
How tragic then the following words from the Holy Gospel in verse 5: And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
Flick on a light in dark room and the dark vanishes.
It is too weak to withstand brightness.
Stand in a dark room, light a match and immediately there is a circle of light around which the darkness is held at bay and cannot penetrate.
Darkness is absence.
Light is presence.
The evil all around us is the choice of people to replace the light of life within their own hearts and souls with the satanic darkness of death.
The Psalmist tells us [36:9] Yes, with You is the fountain of life, by Your light we see the light.
Suddenly I am experiencing an urgent need to go out into this brilliantly sunlit winter’s day where the snow magnifies the light!
So I will end here with this quote from Robert D. Pelton on light from his book, CIRCLING THE SUN: “Light. Light everywhere: light falling, finer than the haze of damp particles that my brother used to call ‘flea rain,’ finer than the air we invisibly breathe, finer than a saint’s heart. Light rising, more subtle and urgent than fire, denser than the night of interstellar spaces, more implacable in its kindness than that inner night we know as dread. Light: the whole universe breathes light because it is the indivisible syllable of Light that from the beginning has spoken the universe itself into life. Light: more ordinary than air, a synonym for blood, the secret face of love.”