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]