Friday, 13 July 2018

ST. John 5:36-40


                                                            

       

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These words of Jesus are heartbreaking.

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

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








Friday, 15 June 2018

ST. JOHN 5: 31-35


                                                               

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What then do we know about each of them?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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








Sunday, 22 April 2018

ST. JOHN 5:24-30


                                                               

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hell exists.

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

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

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

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

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

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










Thursday, 29 March 2018

ST. JOHN 5:22-23


                                                              



Continuing the meditation on chapter 5 of the Holy Gospel according to St. John, this Holy Thursday, it is good to recall the Sacred Triduum is active remembering of all Jesus teaches, does for us.

It is part of the truth-witnessing of the Church, of our faith, that in the liturgies of Christmas, Epiphany, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil, Easter Sunday, and at the consecration in every Holy Mass, we proclaim in the present tense, the personal tense: this is the night; this is the day; this is My body, this is My blood.

We tend to think, mainly because of what our eyes perceive externally, of heaven as the place where God dwells, above us.

Yet the reality is that God is not above us, in the spatial sense of an above or a below.

True He is beyond the confines of the cosmos, which is finite, that is has a limit, even if with the best of scientific instruments, we humans cannot ‘see’, as we can for example at the shoreline where the limit of the ocean is.

God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit is present in all places, in everyone: LORD, You have probed me, You know me: You know when I sit and stand; You understand my thoughts from afar. You sift through my travels and my rest; with all my ways You are familiar. Even before a word is on my tongue, LORD, You know it all. Behind and before You encircle me and rest Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, far too lofty for me to reach. Where can I go from Your spirit? From Your presence, where can I flee? If I ascend to the heavens, You are there; if I lie down in Sheol, there You are. If I take the wings of dawn and dwell beyond the sea, Even there Your hand guides me, Your right hand holds me fast. If I say, “Surely darkness shall hide me, and night shall be my light” Darkness is not dark for You, and night shines as the day. Darkness and light are but one. You formed my inmost being; You knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise You, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self You know. [Ps.139:1-14]

He is God within, because Jesus dwells among us, as St. Paul teaches: ......Christ is all and in all. [Col.3:11], for the Holy Trinity lives within every human being, for we are immortal souls in His image and likeness, alive because He has created us, breathed life into us: …..the Kingdom of God is within you. [Lk.17:21], For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly await for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He Himself is able to subdue all things to Himself. [Phil. 3:20,21].

Again, it is vital to hear, to open wide the doors of our beings to, that we be penetrated by all the words and actions of Jesus.

V.22=For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgement to the Son…..

This is part of the subduing St. Paul refers to.

We have revealed to us how Jesus judges in Mt. 25:31-46, where we see judgement is just and merciful, just because judgement is based upon the free choices we have made to love or not love, merciful because Jesus Christ presents Himself in the ‘disguise’ of every human being we encounter, presents Himself at the same time as the opportune moment to choose to love or not love.

Love is not static, but active, active as external gestures of service, forgiveness, patience, listening, truth speaking; interiorly as intercessory prayer for others.

Indeed, we should be conscious that judgement occurs each time we make a choice to love, or not.

If we choose love, then …of His fullness we have all received grace for grace. [Jn.1:16], if we choose not to love then immediately, with for example the Jesus Prayer, trust in Divine Mercy, we beg forgiveness and begin again, for in Him in every moment we are graced to begin again.

V.23=that all should honour the Son just as they honour the Father. He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent Him.

When I was a boy, seventy plus years ago, by teaching from my grandfather, indeed by osmosis from society in general, children were taught to honour and be honourable.

To honour, for example, Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament by genuflecting on entering and leaving the Church, by bowing our heads when hearing His Holy Name; parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, by using the proper honourific; likewise we boys were taught to honour our elders and women, by rising if we were seated and they entered a room, by holding doors open for them, making sure we gave them our seat on the trolley bus.

Personal honour is to have integrity, to treat ourselves with respect, thus to be an honourable person who moves through life, in a secular sense, with dignified self-confidence, speaks truth, yes obeys the laws and customs of the country, so long as neither of those contravene the law of God, for that would be dishonourable.

To honour the Father and the Son, possible by cooperating with the Holy Spirit – which is to honour Him – is to live the Gospel with our lives without compromise, to love one another, for that at its core is how we honour the Father and the Son, remembering we have the grace-gift of the Holy Spirit to do so, because Jesus in His Passion and Death, embraced dishonour, humiliation, for us.

I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. [cf. Rm.12:1]


Friday, 16 March 2018

St. John 5:19-21


                                                                



St. John Paul frequently referred to the great treasury of the Church from which we can always draw gifts ever ancient and ever new.

Within this treasury, in the last century, were added the documents of the Second Vatican Council, of which the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation is a particular treasure, known by its Latin title: Dei Verbum – the Word of God. The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of the Lord, since, especially in the sacred liturgy, she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life from the table both of God's word and of Christ's body….. [Op.cit.ch.VI, para.21]

This came to mind early in the morning when, for spiritual reading, I took up again THE MYSTERY OF EASTER, by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa: The very words uttered by Jesus in His life….are raised to a new state by the resurrection. They become freed from their time limitations and acquire universal absoluteness. No longer just sapiential or prophetic teaching, they can be seen for what they are: “words that do not pass away,” the Word of God.

In the context of “universal absoluteness”, since we know the word of God is “…living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of thoughts and intent of the heart. [Heb.4:12], we should not simply ‘read’ Sacred Scripture, but hear it as well, for each word, most importantly each word spoken by Jesus, in its universal absoluteness, living and powerful, is, by the Holy Spirit, spoken directly to each of us individually.

As mentioned before, St. John does not give us the explicit statement to which Jesus begins to reply in 5:19, nonetheless this great teaching of Jesus from verse 19 to 47 is more than just a reply: it is revelation.

v.19=Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.”

While here the Holy Spirit is not named specifically by Jesus, this is nonetheless a Trinitarian teaching, for the unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is unique, indivisible – the Three Persons [unique], One God [indivisible] – this is part of the great revelation within the Gospel accounts of the life and teaching of Jesus.

This is a comforting truth:  the Three Persons of the Trinity as One God love-work thus:  while we tend to attribute creation to the Father, redemption to the Son, sanctification to the Holy Spirit, all divine acts of love are Trinitarian, the work of each Person is love for us, beyond the human mind to comprehend, and the dynamic-binding communion of love which makes the Three distinct Persons simultaneously One God. 

This is not some mathematical conundrum to be solved, not some scientific mystery challenging us to comprehend, nor is it even a theological enigma to burn out our brains as we try and ‘get it’!

St. Basil the Great is very blunt on this point: When the Lord taught us the doctrine of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, He did not make arithmetic part of this gift! He did not say, ‘In the first, second, or third’ or ‘In one, two and three’…There is one God and Father, one Only-Begotten Son, and one Holy Spirit…..

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us: The mystery of the Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in Himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them….The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and means by which the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit reveals Himself …. ‘and reconciles and unites with Himself those who turn away from sin’……God’s works reveal who He is in Himself; the mystery of His inmost being enlightens our understanding of all His works……[paras. 234, 236] and in para. 256 this beautiful quote from St. Gregory Nazianzus :…..Each Person considered in Himself is entirely God…..the Three considered together…I have not even begun to think of unity when the Trinity bathes me in its splendour.

V.20=For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.

While I recall these words from Fr. Teilhard de Chardin, I do not remember exactly from which of his writings they come, nonetheless they have been in my heart for years: By means of all created things, without exception, the divine assails us, penetrates us, and molds us. [see Isaiah 64:]

The heavens declare the glory of God[Ps.18(19)]-creation eagerly awaits for the revealing of the sons of God[Rm.8.19].

The wrath of God is indeed being revealed from heaven against every impiety and wickedness of those who suppress the truth by their wickedness. 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. [Rm.1;1-20]

Today as I write the news reports the death of Stephan Hawking, among whose works over the years I read, when published, his A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME and THE GRAND DESIGN.

Hawking, not unlike countless scientists, philosophers, indeed some people who profess themselves to be believers, but approach revealed truth with a pick and choose what suits mentality, struck me, when I finished reading A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME, as someone who, for all his intellectual brilliance, missed it, didn’t get it: IT being objective truth.

In A Brief History of Time Hawking notes that: “We find ourselves in a bewildering world. We want to make sense of what we see around us and to ask: What is the nature of the universe? What is our place in it and where did it and we come from? Why is it the way it is?”; and in the Grand Design asserts: “Because there are laws such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going."

Without the humility to embrace the Incarnation and the Incarnate One, all of creation, including ourselves to ourselves, remains ultimately incomprehensible.

We can grasp some of the components, for example, of matter, but not its totality; we can have a consciousness of self, but without that knowledge which enables us to fully be the person we have been created to be, living and moving and having being, within communion of love with the Most Holy Trinity.

Hawking deliberately misquoted St. John Paul as saying scientists should not investigate the universe, when in fact the Holy Father was simply showing them the right way to do so: Any scientific hypothesis on the origin of the world, such as the hypothesis of a primitive atom from which derived the whole of the physical universe, leaves open the problem concerning the universe's beginning. Science cannot of itself solve this question: there is needed that human knowledge that rises above physics and astrophysics and which is called metaphysics; there is needed above all the knowledge that comes from God's revelation. [St. John Paul, address to the Pontifical Academy of Science, Oct. 3, 1981]

In his book NEW SEEDS OF CONTEMPLATION, Thomas Merton teaches: Faith reaches the intellect not simply through the senses but in a light directly infused by God.

If we limit the teaching of Jesus in verses 19 & 20: “Most assuredly I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.”, to some ‘limited’ spiritual/miracles constraint, then we risk, as so many do, having our minds darkened.

While Hawking and others, scientists and non, since the ideas have entered the common mindset, assert the universe began with the so-called Big Bang, they also admit they can only postulate post-bang and have no way of knowing ‘what’ before the bang.

Any child who has ever popped a balloon or blown a bubble to watch it fly and pop, knows instinctively, sees, experiences ‘what’ before the pop, and the simple objective fact 1 + 1 is required for a pop: 1-something to pop and 1- a means of making the thing pop.

Therefore, to assert that any aspect of the universe, of creation, including Angels and human persons, self-create is sheer nonsense of darkened minds.

The guided by the Holy Spirit writers of Genesis used their observations and experiences of their chronological time in which they found themselves and cooperated with the actual grace they were given to understand, and articulate, the objective-truth meaning in the treasury of revelation as they wrote.

In this great teaching of Jesus being meditated upon, if we sit still with open minds and hearts, hearing His words, what opens before us in “…what He sees the Father do….”, extends way beyond and before the so-called Big Bang, extends beyond any part of the macro or micro aspects of creation, including wonders and marvels, perhaps even other living beings elsewhere in the cosmos, medicines, technologies, WE have not yet found/discovered, but Jesus has seen, Jesus knows all about.

To be so open avoids hemming in any words of Jesus with our own limited attempts to reduce everything to the ‘spiritual’, for all Jesus teaches is that, to be sure, but much more: He teaches, truth, life, the way to communion of love: with the Holy Trinity, with each other, with our selves.

In all this marvelous work which we experience, hopefully in awe and gratitude, when we hear the cry of a newborn, watch a shooting star, see love for us in the eyes of another, this work which the Father does, the Son does, the Holy Spirit does, while we dwell as pilgrims for a time within the cosmos on planet earth, a temporary dwelling, a dwelling within a cosmos which itself will pass away, we are endowed with the gift of God’s most wonderous work: “For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.” [v.21]

The Resurrection of Christ was God’s supreme and wholly marvelous work. ~ St. Augustine.
















Tuesday, 13 February 2018

ST. JOHN=9:15-18


                                                              ST. JOHN = 5:15-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unlikely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






Sunday, 21 January 2018

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


                                                     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Thursday, 4 January 2018

ST. JOHN=5:1-9


                                                      

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus on the move.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a profound offer.

Physical healing alone is just that, physical-alone.

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

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

One alone can heal.

One alone can make us well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How does this unfold? “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with Me.” [Rev.3:20]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not just cured. MADE WELL!