Monday, 17 December 2018

ST. JOHN 6:43-51


                                                              

We are in the season of Holy Advent for the 18th time in this second millennia of grace, and yet billions of our brothers and sisters still do not know Christ; millions of the baptized, because their ‘churches’ sundered Apostolic succession centuries ago, lack fullness of sacramental life;  the choice of many Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians to forego praxis of faith, they also live in a state of sacramental malnutrition because they cannot, will not, welcome Jesus into their lives through reception of Holy Communion.

Because of the urgency for the spread of the Gospel, to those who do not know Jesus and for the return of the separated, or the fallen away, to fullness of sacramental life, each time we approach the altar to receive Jesus, in Holy Communion, we should plead with Him as He dwells anew within us, for grace of discovering, or returning to Jesus, for all of our brothers and sisters missing from receiving Him who so yearns, so knocks at the door of every human heart, to be welcomed.

That grace of return for the missing, of first encounter for the not yet baptized, is implicit, if we plead for our brothers and sisters, in these verses as Jesus continues His first great teaching on His Self-gift in the Holy Eucharist: Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. “[vs.43.44]

This connection between coming to Jesus and being resurrected on the last day, because the Father Himself draws us to Jesus, connects to the reality of Holy Communion: it is not the deceased Jesus whom we receive, it is Jesus resurrected, glorified, sitting at the right hand of the Father who permeates our being in Holy Communion.

“It is written in the prophets: ‘They shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to My Father and learns from Him comes to Me.” [v.45]

Most human beings have the experience of being taught, learning from their dads, or someone who acts as a father for them. This teaching is a gift of love.

Fathers tend to be very proud of their sons and announce to others that this is my son, as our Heavenly Abba has already done before this teaching of Jesus. [cf. Mt. 3:17; Mk. 1:11; Lk. 3:22]

It is precisely because the Father loves the Son, that the Father seeks to draw us to Jesus, to teach us about Jesus, the ‘us’ being every person. Through this learning we are graced to go to Jesus.

 “Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; He has seen the Father.” [v.46]

Once more a clear statement by Jesus that He is indeed Son of God, therefore God Himself.

“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.” [v.47]

True faith is not static, but active.

The gift of faith itself is an active grace, motivating us, moving us to preach the faith by living the Gospel, the Gospel of life and loving service of others, with our lives without compromise.

“I am the Bread of Life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” [vs. 48-51]

We live in an age when, in the richer nations, obesity is a major problem, and where many people are obsessed with eating organic food.

The question: how many people who over eat or have money to spend on organic food, are hungry for Christ in the Eucharist, are aware of Christ hungry Himself in the underfed?

The poor often are obese because they cannot afford non over sugared, over fat content food, certainly not costly organic food, while daily millions of our brothers and sisters: the homeless, refugees in camps, prisoners in labour and concentration camps, people living in countries experiencing famine because of war or drought, go hungry, often starving to death.

In the liturgy we pray the Our Father before Holy Communion: Give us this day our daily bread.

As we approach the Bread of Eternal Life, Christ Himself, we should be crying out: Give our hungry brothers and sisters daily bread.

The “Our Father” prayer sinks its roots in man’s concrete reality. For instance, it makes us ask for bread, our daily bread, a simple but essential request, which says that faith isn’t something “decorative,” detached from life, which happens when all other needs have been satisfied. Rather, prayer begins with life itself. Prayer — Jesus teaches us — doesn’t begin in human existence after the stomach is full, rather, it nests wherever there is a man, any man who is hungry, who weeps, who struggles, who suffers and wonders “why.” In a certain sense, our first prayer was the cry that accompanied our first breath. Announced, in that newborn’s cry, was the destiny of our whole life: our constant hunger, our constant thirst and our constant quest for happiness. Jesus doesn’t want to extinguish what is human in prayer; He doesn’t want to anesthetize it. He doesn’t want us to dampen our questions and requests, learning to endure all. Instead, He wants every suffering, every anxiety to leap towards Heaven and become a dialogue. A person once said that to have faith is the habit to cry. [Pope Francis, General Audience, Dec. 12.18]



 © 2018 Fr. Arthur Joseph


Tuesday, 13 November 2018

St. John 6: 35-42


                                                             

During the Fatima apparitions the children saw an Angel prostrate before a chalice and host suspended in the air and the Angel taught the children this prayer: Most Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit- I adore You profoundly. I offer You the Most Precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges, and indifferences whereby He is offended. And through the infinite merits of His Most Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I beg of You the conversion of poor sinners.

It is this extraordinary gift and sacrament Jesus begins to reveal in detail: Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to Me will never hunger, and whoever believes in Me will never thirst.” V.35

The primary hunger in ever human heart and soul is for communion of love with the Most Holy Trinity, for Love Himself has created us to be Beloved.

We all know any degree of separation from our beloved, on the human, level creates an immense ache, a real pain in our hearts until we are together again.

The more we seek, in and through Jesus, communion of love with the Holy Trinity, the greater will be the intensity of the hunger, the thirst, yes, the pain, of this seeking this communion of love while on our earthly pilgrimage for, until death and embrace for ever by the Holy Trinity in heaven, we live in an aspect of separation.

It is the grace and gift of every Holy Communion, every moment spent participating in Holy Mass, in adoration with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, that we are filled more and more with the loving presence, through Jesus, of the Holy Trinity within us. This gift, for our pilgrimage towards the Absolute here on earth, prevents us from being overwhelmed by the hunger and thirst, the pain, of the not yet fulfilled eternally communion of love.

Vs. 36-38: “But I told you that although you have seen Me, you do not believe. Everything that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to Me, because I came down from heaven not to do My own will but the will of the one who sent Me.”

Before arguing we have never seen Jesus it is important to remember every time we gaze upon the Sacred Host during exposition or Benediction, or when we contemplate Him at the elevation during Holy Mass, or when holding Him in our hand at Holy Communion, and equally when we care for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the prisoner, encounter any human being {cf. Mt. 25: 31ff.} we do indeed see Jesus, are in His presence.

Such moments are moments to choose to believe, or not.

What a consoling promise that IF we come to Jesus we will never be rejected!

The impetus for this accepting love of Jesus is His obedience, and He is obedient because He loves the Father and is filled with the Father’s love, and the love of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus, as a living chalice filled with this love and overflowing, pours this love within us, IF we come to Him and ask for it.

Jesus then assures us of just how far this love extends, to the very union in communion of love with the Holy Trinity we have been created for, the point to which our pilgrimage to the Absolute leads, in, with, through Jesus: “And this is the will of the One who sent Me, that I should not lose anything of what He gave Me, but that I should raise it on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.” Vs.39,40

Once again, the crowd’s reaction shows how quickly we human beings can switch from acceptance of Jesus to challenging Him, rejecting Him: The Jews murmured about Him because He said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,” and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know His father and mother? Then how can He say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” vs. 41,42

There can be no acceptance of the truth of Jesus’ Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist, if, as the crowd is doing, we reject His Holy Incarnation.



© 2018 Fr. Arthur Joseph


Friday, 26 October 2018

St. John 6:30-34


                                                               ST. JOHN 6:30-34

Once Jesus has challenged the people about just coming to Him for bread, and revealed to them He is the one upon whom the Father has set His seal, the people respond by asking Jesus what they must do to answer His to call to have faith in Him: v.29.

The people reply:  So they said to Him, “What sign can You do, that we may see and believe in You? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”  Vs. 30-31

Very typically human.

Haven’t we all likewise challenged God at some time or other?

Faith originates as a gift of the Holy Spirit, offered to every human being.

We are free to accept this gift or not.

The Holy Spirit does give us, for want of a better expression ‘clues’ to help us open our beings to His gift of faith: we have the gift of intellect, that is our capacity for inquisitive thought, such as St. Paul points out, rather bluntly to the Romans, applicable to this generation so stuck in relativism: For what can be known about God is evident to them, because God made it evident to them. Ever since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what He has made. As a result, they have no excuse; for although they knew God they did not accord Him glory as God or give Him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened. While claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes. [Rms. 1:19-23]

By appealing to the Exodus event, thus the intercessory power of Moses, and not just to the manna from God, the crowd is saying: “Okay You claim the Father has set His seal on You so prove it, do something like that!”

There is within the crowd and, at least on occasion something of the proverbial ‘doubting Thomas’, within us too.

Elsewhere Jesus assures us: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” [Jn.20.29]

Jesus responds by teaching again on faith and trust: So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Vs.32-33

The crowd is back to their bellies again, missing the point entirely: So they said to Him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”  Vs.34.                                     

The verses, 30-34, are critical to trust the truth of the Holy Eucharist. Jesus, in the remaining verses of this chapter will make explicit, at no small cost to Himself in the immediate, and as we shall see, Jesus will pay the ultimate cost of this gift of Himself in the Eucharist through His Passion and Death.

Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. [Heb.11:1]

Realization is a critical word here for it points to experience.

The parallel to faith in our lives is love.

People assert they are in love, a multifaceted combination of physical attraction, emotional response, but above all a free will choice to make a commitment of gift of self to other.

Much the same dynamic occurs when accepting the gift of our vocation in life such as Holy Marriage and parenthood. In his vocation a priest also says yes to love of God, love of souls. It is the mutual self-gift of love between God and the Priest which enables his vocation to be fulfilled. Here too faith is constitutive, as in marriage.

Love, like faith, is fundamentally something hoped for and the realization unfolds not in the vagaries of emotions but it the persistence of commitment.

May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to His call, what are the riches of glory in His inheritance among the holy ones….[Ep.1:18]

When we struggle with faith/love, doubt and pain are an inseparable part of being true disciples of Christ because we may think we have reached the fullness of faith, that we know everything about God and the things of God, and what believing is all about and about the one we love and what loving is all about, when in truth, until the end of our lives, we are always mere beginners, should always ask the Holy Spirit for more, more, more faith and love, remembering as St. Paul teaches: At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love. [1 Cor. 13:12,13]

A very simple, yet powerful way to pray, not just to prepare our hearts for the next verses and Jesus’ teaching on the Eucharist, but whenever we struggle to believe, to love, or have doubts, perhaps a tinge of despair, hence needing to trust: Jesus, I believe in You. Jesus, I hope in You. Jesus, I love You.

© 2018 ~ Fr. Arthur Joseph






























Thursday, 18 October 2018

ST. JOHN 6:22-29


                                                                  

The following verses contain both teaching, about the real bread we should work for, and a prelude to the great teaching about Jesus Himself as the real bread of life.

Vs.23,24= The next day, the crowd that remained across the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not gone along with His disciples in the boat, but only His disciples had left. Other boats came from Tiberias near the place where they had eaten the bread when the Lord gave thanks. When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor His disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.

Sometimes a sign is just that, something that points to something, such as a stop sign, but it is inert, that is the sign indicates stop but stopping can only be accomplished by something or someone in motion.

None of Jesus’ signs is inert, they are indicators of His authority over everything that is, over every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth: In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death- even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the Name that is above every name, that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is LORD, to the glory of God the Father. [Phil. 2:5-11]

The multiplication of the loaves and fish is the fifth of what St. John refers to as signs, beginning with Cana: 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. [2.11]

The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that: Jesus accompanies His words with many "mighty works and wonders and signs", which manifest that the kingdom is present in Him and attest that He was the promised Messiah. [#547]

Common parlance uses the word ‘miracle’ whereas St. John’s use of the word ‘signs’ is actually more efficacious than alternates such as miracle, mighty works, wonders, because often, such as at Cana and the feeding of the multitude, they point as well to aspects of sacramental life for the sacraments are: "efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us" (CCC 1131).

V.25=And when they found Him across the sea they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You get here?”

Important to keep this verse before the eyes of our heart when we considered Jesus’s answer: Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for Me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.” V.26

In some respects, this is a non-direct answer because Jesus does not say how He got there, yet fundamentally it is a most direct answer because Jesus goes to the heart of the matter.


There is a lot in this answer from Jesus: Do not work for food that perishes: It is not only the food which perishes, we who consume food will ultimately perish, die and find ourselves before the awesome judgment seat of God, to render account of our choices in life, of how we have lived.

As Jesus also teaches, in St. Luke 12: 13-34, we are to reject the ‘food’ of greed and anxiety, and trust we have a Father who in His love for us knows all that we need, not merely to sustain earthly life, more importantly what we need to enter eternal life, embracing therefore all the expectations and costs of discipleship, verses 35-59.

Let us not be too harsh in any reflections on the crowd seeking Jesus and more bread.

They were living under the jacket boot of the Roman Empire, under a puppet king, and the immense burden of taxation by the Romans, by Herod, by their own religious leaders. All four Gospel accounts reveal to what extent the people suffered from not just taxation, but the burden of innumerable religious laws, besides the draconian laws of the state and from hunger, poverty, disease.

 Truly as Christ Himself saw them and sees us today: When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. [Mt.9:36]

Thus against this background it is from His compassionate Heart that flows, for those who had just questioned Him, and for us that we should work: for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.

In the above versus Jesus tells us why He will give us this food for eternal life: For on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.

Though no longer is the familiar red-wax circle imprinted with a signet ring, commonly used to seal letters, ‘to seal’, as Jesus uses the word, needs a point of reference:  Canada and other countries have, and use, what is commonly called “the great seal of….”;  in Canada it is rather large, heavy, and is held in trust by the Governor General of Canada and is used, by being stamped upon state documents. Minus the imprint of the Great Seal state documents are just pieces of paper. It is the imprint of the seal which authenticates the purpose of the document.

In a sense we can say that minus ‘the seal of the Father’, Jesus is just another human being.

An example of the power conferred on Jesus by the Father setting His seal upon Jesus is found in Revelation 5:1-5= I saw a scroll in the right hand of the one who sat on the throne. It had writing on both sides and was sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a mighty angel who proclaimed in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to examine it. I shed many tears because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to examine it. One of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. The lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has triumphed, enabling him to open the scroll with its seven seals.”

The ‘sealing’ of Jesus by the Father is a consecration, affirming Jesus as His Son, giving Him as the Incarnate One all the power He needs to fulfill His redemptive mission.

V.28=So they said to Him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”

These people, who had just been told, by Jesus, the only reason they came to Him was for free food, then were told to only seek food for eternal life, are the same people who had tried to seize Jesus to make Him their earthly king, now, suddenly, appear to have experienced some spiritual metamorphosis!

Perhaps as with the Emmaus disciples [Lk.24:13-35] just being in the presence of Jesus, just the power of His anointed words enabled an obvious conversion and: Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one He sent.” [v.29]



© 2018 Fr. Arthur Joseph


Monday, 8 October 2018

St. John 6: 15-21


                                                                      

When we meditate upon: Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry Him off to make Him king, He withdrew again to the mountain alone. [v.15], it helps to be aware of the nature of crowds and how, much like avalanches which begin gently at the top of a mountain with a slight movement of snow, and then cascade down with uncontrollable speed, to understand one reason why Jesus would get away from the crowd.

There are several aspects of this verse which merit closer meditation: a] the crowd moving towards Jesus to carry Him off; b] the attempt to make Him a king; c] Jesus withdrawing and d] alone to the mountain.

A] When Her Majesty the Queen, other members of the royal family, or the Governor General, or the Holy Father on his pastoral visits, come into view of the waiting crowd it is not unusual for people to press forward, gently, peacefully, so no one gets trampled.

Yet there are other circumstances when crowds of people can stampede, either from fear or unbridled enthusiasm, such as we all saw in New York when the towers came down, that was a flight of fear, whereas when the home team wins a major sporting event crowds can stampede onto the field to lift their heroes on their shoulders.

Sadly, be it stampeding from fear or enthusiasm people can get trampled, and seriously injured.

In the Gospel accounts presented each year in the Liturgies of Holy Week, the very crowds pressing forward crying “Hosanna” on Palm Sunday, will become the Good Friday mob rushing forward crying “Crucify Him!”

B] Unwittingly, no doubt, the crowd in its enthusiasm is seeking to accomplish what satan failed to tempt Jesus to do, namely abandon His divine mission and become a mere human potentate.

When Jesus urges us to learn from Him for “I am meek and humble of heart.” [Mt. 11:29], part of that learning is to embrace, with joy and fidelity, the Holy Will of the Father.

For Jesus the will of the Father encompasses fulfilling His divine mission as Redeemer which means, as King of the Universe embracing the humility and meekness of no gilded throne; the Cross becomes His throne; no bejeweled crown but one of thorns; no ornate palaces but rather a cave at birth and a tomb hewn from rock in death. No mere ersatz human majesty, but the glorious majesty of Resurrection.

C] St. John’s use of the word ‘withdrew’ is reminiscent of: They rose up, drove Him out of the town, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl Him down headlong. But He passed through the midst of them and went away. [Lk. 4:29,30].

In both St. John and St. Luke, we observe the uncontrolled nature of crowds. In both cases, in one to avoid being made a secular king, in the other to avoid death before ‘His hour’, Jesus leaves. These examples of Jesus withdrawing, avoiding if you will, anything that is not of the Holy Will of the Father is consistent with: …. I came down from heaven not to do My own will but the will of the One who sent Me. V.38.

This too is the example of the humble heart we are called to imitate.

D] But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you…..[Mt.6:6] We see Jesus throughout His earthly life practicing this aloneness with the Father He teaches us to imitate.

Solitary places for prayer, for encounters with God are found throughout Sacred Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.

Moses experienced this: Meanwhile Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law…..beyond the wilderness, he came to the mountain of God, Horeb. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him as fire flaming out of a bush. When he looked, although the bush was on fire, it was not being consumed. …………….God called out to him from the bush: Moses! Moses! He answered, “Here I am.” God said: Do not come near! Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. [Ex. 3:1-5]

Satan attempts to misuse solitude when tempting Jesus: Then the devil took Him up to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to Him, “All these I shall give to You, if You will prostrate Yourself and worship me.” [4:8,9], Jesus will have none of it: At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and Him alone shall you serve.’” [v.10]

Greater than the paltry magnificence satan offered Jesus is the reality of true magnificence which Jesus reveals to us on a mountain: After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; His face shone like the sun and His clothes became white as light. [Mt. 17:1,2]

Let us not forget the template of Christian life given us by Jesus on the Mount of the Beatitudes: St. Matthew chapters 5, 6, 7.

From the earliest days of the Church men and women have sought out places, spaces, to be alone with God, to, like Jesus, do battle with satan, thus keeping him, as one tradition says, away from the places where people dwell, the cities, to labour in prayer and manual labour as needed, as intercessors for the human family.

Those of the early centuries are known as Fathers/Mothers of the desert, from whose wisdom we get these teachings from two of them: Abba Agathon stresses that “prayer is warfare to the last breath” and Abba Lucius stressed that before seeking the solitary life, we must first have lived rightly among our brothers and sisters, otherwise we “will not be able to live rightly in solitude.”

In Medieval times Irish monks and hermits sought what they called ‘the thin place’, that is, for want of a better descriptive, the place where they would find the membrane between the cosmos and heaven, at its thinnest, for there, they figured, they would be closest to God.

Factually the true ‘thin place’ is in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

The key is to ask the Holy Spirit to lead us into communion of love with the Father, Jesus and Himself, in silence/solitude/the secret place within us.

Vs.16,17=When it was evening, His disciples went down to the sea, embarked in a boat, and went across the sea to Capernaum. It had already grown dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.

There is a beautiful ordinariness in these two verses.

After a hectic day, and needing to travel to their destination, how very ordinary for fishermen, to go down to the sea and travel by boat.

St. John does not indicate why they left without waiting for Jesus. Perhaps they assumed, since He had gone away, He was traveling by some other route and would meet them in Capernaum.

St. John takes note “It had already grown dark.”, and at the Last Supper once the traitor Judas has left, notes:  And it was night. [13:30]

Twilight is often beautiful but never lingering, pre-dawn likewise. The latter giving way to the brilliance of sunlight, the former to the weight of darkness. Satan is all darkness, and darkness has weight, light has nothing heavy about it, hence the expression that something is light, rather than heavy.

We associate darkness with depression, light with joy, as the psalmist says: At dusk weeping comes for the night; but at dawn there is rejoicing. [Ps.30:6]

All sources of light illuminate, many like the sun, produce warmth. Indeed, we combine both when we speak of the light of a fire.

Christ is “light from light, true light from true light”, the light which darkness cannot overcome.

With Jesus absent, while the disciples were still on the sea St. John notes: The sea was stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. [v.18]

Only St. Luke, of all the Evangelists, makes no mention of an event where Jesus walks on the water. St. Mark: 6:45-53 and St. Matthew: 14:22-24, both recount such an event and in each the disciples are traveling across the water without Jesus, a severe storm comes up and each account does include Jesus coming towards the disciples.

V.19=When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they began to be afraid.

To be afraid when on the water and the wind churns the water, is a normal reaction, for huge waves can swamp even the largest of ships.

History is filled with famous stories of shipwrecks and other hazards for sailors, as for example in this verse from the Canadian singer/song writer Gordon Lightfoot in his song: The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald: Does any one know where the love of God goes ~ When the waves turn the minutes to hours?

In fact, as St. John, St. Mark, St. Matthew show the love of God, Love Himself ‘goes’ towards us when we are in peril on the sea of life: But He said to them, “It is I. Do not be afraid.” [v. 20]

St. John concludes, without comment: They wanted to take Him into the boat, but the boat immediately arrived at the shore to which they were heading. [v.21]

© 2018 Fr. Arthur Joseph

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

St. John 6: 12-14


                                                               

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baptism makes us sharers in Christ’s prophetic mission.

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

©2018 Fr. Arthur Joseph

Monday, 27 August 2018

ST. JOHN 6:5-11


                                                            



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

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

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

Is St. John pointing to something deeper here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



©2018 Fr. Arthur Joseph






Friday, 17 August 2018

St. John 6: 1-4


                                                           

Have you ever been hungry?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



© 2018 Fr. Arthur Joseph

Monday, 30 July 2018

St. John 5:41-47


                                                              

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps.

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

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

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



© 2018-Fr. Arthur Joseph


Friday, 13 July 2018

ST. John 5:36-40


                                                            

       

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These words of Jesus are heartbreaking.

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

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








Friday, 15 June 2018

ST. JOHN 5: 31-35


                                                               

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What then do we know about each of them?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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