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}