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?
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]