Thursday, 21 March 2019

St. John 7:21-31


Considering the hateful murder of our brothers and sisters while at prayer in mosques in New Zealand, and the equally hateful murder of innocent people on a tram in Utrecht this verse bears repeating: The crowd answered, “You are possessed! Who is trying to kill you?” [v.20]

The answer is truthfully that anyone who tries to, or does, kill another human being, because they are ‘possessed’ of a different religion, ethnicity, whatever, is trying to kill Jesus anew.

Baptized or not every human being is connected to Jesus who tells us clearly: "Whatever you do to the least of My brothers or sisters you do to Me" Mt. 25:40.

To restrict this to simply the acts listed by Jesus in Mt. 25:31ff, is a narrowly restrictive understanding of the critical word: whatever, which is a term meaning fundamentally no restrictions ‘whatsoever’!

Jesus answered and said to them, “I performed one work and all of you are amazed because of it. Moses gave you circumcision—not that it came from Moses but rather from the patriarchs—and you circumcise a man on the sabbath. If a man can receive circumcision on a sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a whole person well on a sabbath? Stop judging by appearances but judge justly.” [vs 21-24]

One of the things that, like a cancerous invasion of heart and soul, which erodes the dignity of the person possessed by it and leads to that person eroding the dignity of others, is particularly unworthy of the baptized disciples of Christ: the hypocrisy of Sunday piety and weekday harsh judgement and rejection of others.

Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. [Mt.5:23,24]

Conversely if we leave our gift at the altar and then go out and do something against another human being it makes our offering a putrid thing.

We are not authentic Christians if our faith and actions are limited to Sunday.

As in our day, when Christ is sought with argument rather than with listening hearts, so the people of Jesus’ day argued and tried to figure things out intellectually, rather than with listening hearts immerse themselves in the truth of revelation: So some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said, “Is He not the one they are trying to kill? And look, He is speaking openly and they say nothing to Him. Could the authorities have realized that He is the Messiah? But we know where He is from. When the Messiah comes, no one will know where He is from.” [vs 25-27].

The sad thing is those speaking did not know where Jesus was from, for if they did then, knowing Jesus was from, that is born in Bethlehem, they would have recalled the prophecies about the Messiah, instead they repeat to each other the myth that when the Messiah comes, no one will know where He is from.

It may appear odd that also they assume, because the authorities are letting Jesus speak that those same authorities accept Jesus as the Messiah, and then instantly reject that because they know where Jesus is from.

Even in our own day people get lost in convoluted arguments around the Divine Person, the Incarnate One, the Redeemer.

"Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses." [St. Paul vi, from an address Oct. 2, 1974]

We can apply this wisdom to Christ Himself: it is across the millennia the powerful witness of His Self-Gift through His Passion, Death and Resurrection, that affirms the authority of, and the grace of His teaching.

V.28=So Jesus cried out in the temple area as He was teaching…..Just how did Jesus, why did Jesus suddenly do this? St. John does not elaborate.

Perhaps the surrounding crowd had become too noisy as they argued back and forth, so Jesus had to ‘cry out’, that is scream, speak loudly, to be heard. People cry out when terrified, or in pain or grief, His love is so intense He was terrified the people would not listen – is terrified we will not listen – perhaps too His Heart was filled with the pain of those lost and seeking yet not recognizing Him, when we are lost and do not go to Him, finally His grief is real, exemplified in His weeping over Lazarus, over Jerusalem, in the Garden and on the Cross, for us because His love is REAL.

V.28-cont.= and said, “You know Me and also know where I am from. Yet I did not come on My own, but the One who sent Me, Whom you do not know, is true.”

Repeatedly in teaching situations Jesus must cover the same territory, emphasize anew the same truth that He is indeed the Redeemer sent by the Father and that He, Jesus, does nothing of His own, but only what the Father has sent Him to do.

“I know Him, because I am from Him, and He sent Me.” [v.29] This is a love statement as well as a teaching moment. With His words Jesus is first being a witness, a witness to the love between Himself and the Father.

V.30=So they tried to arrest Him, but no one laid a hand upon Him, because His hour had not yet come.

This stark assertion by St. John that the failure to succeed in arresting Jesus was because Jesus’ hour was not yet is also a declaration of Christ’s divinity, for God, and Jesus as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, has power over time.

No human being started time, because no human being has created anything that exists, and if nothing exists neither does time. True we can, simply by parsing in various ways the experience of day into night into day, set the ‘time’ by clocks, for instance, when we will do something, but we have no control, no power, over the passage of even a single moment, simply the ability to choose what we do, or do not do, with a given moment: In Christianity time has a fundamental importance. Within the dimension of time the world was created; within it the history of salvation unfolds, finding its culmination in the "fullness of time" of the Incarnation, and its goal in the glorious return of the Son of God at the end of time. In Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, time becomes a dimension of God, who is himself eternal. With the coming of Christ there begin "the last days" (cf. Heb 1:2), the "last hour" (cf. 1 Jn 2:18), and the time of the Church, which will last until the Parousia……..In the liturgy of the Easter Vigil the celebrant, as he blesses the candle which symbolizes the Risen Christ, proclaims: "Christ yesterday and today, the beginning and the end, Alpha and Omega, all time belongs to him, and all the ages, to him be glory and power through every age for ever". He says these words as he inscribes on the candle the numerals of the current year. The meaning of this rite is clear: it emphasizes the fact that Christ is the Lord of time; he is its beginning and its end; every year, every day and every moment are embraced by his Incarnation and Resurrection, and thus become part of the "fullness of time".  ~APOSTOLIC LETTER TERTIO MILLENNIO ADVENIENTE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE JOHN PAUL II -From the Vatican, on 10 November in the year 1994.

But many of the crowd began to believe in Him, and said, “When the Messiah comes, will he perform more signs than this Man has done?” [v.31]

It is germane to remember the people having this somewhat torturous questioning around the ‘messiah’ issue lived under the harsh occupation by Rome, have seen false ‘messiahs’ and revolutionaries, and risk excommunication from the Temple and their local synagogue if they run afoul of their religious leaders.

There is courage in their open debate and struggle to ascertain the truth.

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #’s 2087-2089 is an excellent discussion of faith and doubt, of hesitations and questions. Faith is a gift to which we are invited to respond with the continuous grace of Baptism. we, no less than than our Elder Brothers and Sisters in the faith are often struggling, as St. John notes. Do we expect faith as once baptized instant believer and its done? Faith is a journey, a process of ever deepening wisdom and understanding, through the process of cooperation with the Holy Spirit when doubt, obscurity, difficulties assail us.

O my God, I firmly believe that You are one God in three divine persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I believe that Your divine Son became man and died for our sins, and that He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the holy catholic Church teaches, because in revealing them You can neither deceive nor be deceived. Amen.

© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph

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