Monday, 29 April 2019

ST. JOHN 8:12-18


                                                              



It is Saturday, in the West the Octave of His Glorious Resurrection, so we continue to pray in the Roman Canon: …..celebrating this most sacred day…..and in the East this is Bright Saturday. This morning, there is a heavy spring snowstorm. The light reflecting off the new fallen snow makes is bright indeed, while our brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka bear the burden of such danger all Holy Masses, including for Divine Mercy Sunday, have been canceled.

We experience the power of created light overcoming darkness because the moon and stars illumine the night. Human ingenuity over the millennia – from fire to oil lamps to gaslights to electric lights, along the streets, in homes, fractures the darkness.

All those: sun, moon, stars, human made sources of light, are as feeble and as translucent as a single drop of water.

The True Light, the Real Light, the Powerful Light, uncreated, always existing, always ‘is’: infinite of infinite, translucent, as solid as rock.

Light as we experience it is a result of something which still eludes physicists. The theory is light comes from created energy know on electromagnetic spectrum and photons, known also as light quantum. Man-made sources of light are as numerous as that radiating from a camp fire to electricity firing up a light bulb. Light, not having mass per se has no weight!

Only one Light, the real Light, is not composed of anything, has not, for want of a better expression an ‘external’ source, but simply IS, and is not as a ‘something’, but as SOMEONE, God, the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

Thus we pray in the Nicene Creed:…..God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God. St. John in his Prologue, speaking of Jesus, affirms the truth that: What came to be through Him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. [Jn. 1:3-5]

In Genesis 1:3,4:….. God said: Let there be light, and there was light. God saw that the light was good. God then separated the light from the darkness.

It is critical we never forget we have been created to dwell in light, not darkness.

In hell there is no light.

Satan does not radiate light; he only brings darkness. Which is why St. John specifically notes, as Judas leaves the Last supper to do his dark deed: And it was night. [13.30] Satan cannot enlighten anyone. He only darkens.

Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” [v.12]

During the Exodus the chosen people were led, illumined, at night, by the pillar of fire. During the feast of the Tabernacles in the temple, huge candelabra were lit to remind the people of God as light, their, and yes our, light. During the time Simeon held Jesus, held Light Himself, in his arms, Simeon prophesied that Jesus would become a light to the entire world. [cf. Lk. 2:32].

Commenting that Jesus declared Himself, while in the ‘full glare’ of the burning candelabra, to be the light of the world, the Ven. Archbishop Sheen also notes that: He who was standing in the temple in which the lights were gradually dimming proclaimed Himself the Light of the World….He affirmed that He is the Glory and the Light of that Temple. He was declaring Himself more necessary for the life of souls than the light of the sun is for the life of our body. It was not His doctrine, nor His law, nor His commandments, nor His teaching, that constituted this light; it was His Person. [cf. Life of Christ, Fulton J. Sheen, pp.179/80; Image Books, 1990].

Essential to experiencing the life-giving power of Christ as Light is to follow Him, be His disciple.

It is a matter not only of ascent of our wills saying Jesus is our Light, but of the daily nitty-gritty of choosing, through living the Gospel with our lives without compromise, to walk only in the light of Christ, following in His footsteps.

Deviation from such following, stepping off the illumined path, is to choose to walk in darkness.

A most hazardous choice which can imperil our very souls, risking our plunging into the abyss of an eternity of dark fire.

So the Pharisees said to him, “You testify on Your own behalf, so Your testimony cannot be verified.” [v.13]

It is indeed pathetic that these men who claimed to be experts in the Scripture, certainly they knew the law about two witnesses, [cf. Deut. 17:6], deliberately, consistently close their hearts to everything in the Scriptures pointing to the Messiah, to Jesus Himself.

It is also the choice, right there in the presence of the Life-Giving Light Himself, to stay in the cold darkness of pride and hate.

What also leaps from this encounter is Christ’s patience with them, patience which flows from His merciful and loving Heart:  Jesus answered and said to them, “Even if I do testify on My own behalf, My testimony can be verified, because I know where I came from and where I am going. [v.14]

Just as the illuminating and comforting pillar of fire led the Chosen People through the desert, so the Hebrew Scriptures were an illumination about the promised Redeemer, which is precisely why Jesus can speak truth to the Pharisees that indeed His testimony can be verified.

A profound truth in Jesus’s assertion He knows where He came from and where He is going, is a type of ‘I am’ statement, for every time Jesus says ‘I am’ He is affirming His divinity.

Likely it shook the Pharisees to the very core, yet that core, i.e. their consciences, was engulfed in the clammy darkness of refusing not only light, but Light Himself.

But you do not know where I come from or where I am going. [14.cont.]

In the Roman Rite for the ordination of a deacon there is a point where the bishop hands the deacon a copy of the Holy Gospels and, as the ordinand and bishop both hold the book at the same time the bishop, among other words says: Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.

If the Pharisees truly believed what they read, taught only what they believed, and lived what they preached, Jesus would not have had to constantly challenge their lack of fidelity to the very faith and Scriptures they constantly asserted they knew better than anyone.

You judge by appearances, but I do not judge anyone. [v.15] Since St. John began this section with the reference of Jesus speaking ‘to them again’, it may well be that some of them would have known the truth that Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in adultery. Perhaps they had been there, left and then come to the Temple.

And even if I should judge, My judgment is valid, because I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me. [v.16]

Real judgement of human beings, in the reality of salvation, is of the Divine. Jesus asserts His judgement is valid because it is enacted in union with the Father. Each Person of the Holy Trinity is distinct, yet not, in the poverty of human language, ‘separate’, but mysteriously one as God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit. This is the mystery of One God, Three Divine Persons. Every divine act is Trinitarian.

Again, the ‘I am’ is a statement of the other great mystery of faith: the Incarnation, that is the one person Jesus, within whom co-exist the two natures: the Divine and the human. Jesus here is urging His hearers to embrace the truth that as man, He does not judge, but as God He rightly does so. Also, Jesus is once again referencing the Law about witnesses: Even in your law it is written that the testimony of two men can be verified. I testify on My behalf and so does the Father who sent Me.” [vs. 17,18]

Once more our Most Gracious Lord, the patient one, the Teacher, is giving them the opportunity to step out of the darkness into the light.



© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph


Sunday, 21 April 2019

ST. JOHN 8:10,11


                                                             

While every Sunday is a ‘Little Easter’, today is Pascha, the day of Jesus’ Holy Resurrection, the day, in matins of the Orthodox, the Eastern lung of the Church – for we must always breathe with both the Eastern and Western lungs of the Church – we pray: It is the day of the Resurrection, let us be radiant for the feast, and let us embrace one another. Let us say, Brothers, even to those who hate us, let us forgive all things on the Resurrection, and thus let us cry out: Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs lavishing life.

With the Sequence in Holy Mass this morning the Church in the West proclaims: Christ the just one paid the price, reconciling sinners to the Father.

Not every human being is baptized, filled with the radiance of Christ Risen. We who are, are mandated by baptism to radiate Christ to everyone.

Billions of our brothers and sisters, some unknowingly, are still on a hungry journey in search of Christ our life.

Some, however, perhaps in ignorance, perhaps not, give themselves over to the cold, hate-filled darkness of satan, and horrific acts of evil against other human beings result.

No one except Christ is able see with pure eyes into the heart of someone else. We can only observe objectively that such and such an act is an evil act.

Referring to the violent terrorist attack against people participating in Easter Mass in two Catholic Churches, Sunday service in an Evangelical Church, vacationing in three hotels, all this in Sri Lanka, with hundreds dead and injured, Pope Francis condemned the violence and added: “Before the many sufferings of our time, may the Lord of life not find us cold and indifferent,….May He make us builders of bridges, not walls.“

One may well ask what is the connection between all the above and Jesus with the Woman caught in adultery?

There is a similarity between the hatred of those who accused her, were seeking to kill Jesus, and what lurks in the heart of every perpetrator of terrorism.

Those who are incapable of repentance for their own sins are not only incapable of reconciliation with other human beings, but the poison of self-hatred, which renders repentance impossible, keeps us in a bondage which hobbles the ability to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and thus to live out the Great Commandment: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind…….You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” [22:37-39]

Another connection flows from the Resurrection of Jesus and the encounter in the Garden of the Resurrection, between Jesus Risen and another, formerly adulterous, repentant woman: ……she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”  She thought it was the gardener and said to Him, “Sir, if you carried Him away, tell me where you laid Him, and I will take Him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. [cf. Jn. 20: 1-18]

Only by encountering the Risen Christ, not simply in baptism but through lives that strive to be peaceful, holy, without sin, and attentively gazing upon Jesus the Beloved, who never takes His loving eyes away from us, will we then hear Him speak our name, and at that moment our eyes become open to see Him, yes to see ourselves as a real person created in the image and likeness of God.

Without such hearing, and accepting, without such seeing and surrendering to His loving embrace, we remain strangers to ourselves, split, bent towards self, through sin walking, as it were, beside ourselves, and every other human being is as unrecognizable to us as all the creatures paraded before Adam until the Lord put him to sleep and when Adam awoke he opened his eyes, was able to see one like himself.

Only when we recognize every other human being as one like ourselves are, we able to love one another, forgive one another, to see our real self, repent and forgive ourselves.

It is to experience the immense grace, so long as we live on this earth, in each moment to begin again: for His merciful love, His Divine Mercy, His radiant-healing Beauty shines upon us in every moment.

This Risen Jesus, though not yet having suffered, died, risen, is the very Jesus present to the woman and it is no accident how St. John phrases the beginning of verse 10: When Jesus had raised Himself up…..

Jesus, loving this deeply hurt, embarrassed, frightened human being spoke “Woman” with tenderness, love, respect, the way we should speak the name of any person or group for everyone is a brother, a sister, even if we have not , or will never, on this earth, meet them face to face.

V. 10 cont.: ….and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

Jesus knew full well where they were, like most predators in the animal kingdom, and most human beings given over to crime, hiding away from daylight, more deeply, trying to hide away from Christ our Light, from whom no one can hide.

Jesus is comforting this frightened woman through His question assuring her she is now safe from harm.

She replied, “No one, sir.” [v.11]

We, through baptism, have the power to lift the burden of condemnation off the backs of those who sin against us by being Christ-like forgivers of others.

Imagine the relief beginning to pour into this woman’s life as she realized those who had condemned her and were prepared to murder her were gone!

V.11 cont.: Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”

While it is true, as sung in this morning’s Holy Mass in the sequence: Christ the just one paid the price, reconciling sinners to the Father., to participate in this reconciliation we must have truly contrite and repentant hearts, compassionate and forgiving hearts for others AND avoid further sin.

That latter may seem as a sort of moving horizon goal for most of us, nonetheless it is something which, constantly asking the help of the Most Holy Spirit, we must always work towards and if we fall then go to, rejoice in, the grace of sacramental confession-reconciliation, resuming the journey in the Light of, and walking with, Jesus Risen.

Walking with open, humble, honest, yes often with wounded, confused hearts, with Jesus Risen, like the Emmaus disciples we within, the journey, when He speaks and enlightens all we have spoken of, encounter Jesus glorified in the Holy Eucharist wherein He feeds and strengthen us with Himself.

The more we strive to be faithful disciples the more we will radiate the Light of Christ Risen and the less hatred and violence there will be within the human family.



© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph


Thursday, 18 April 2019

ST. JOHN 7:53-8:9


                                                             

And everyone went to his own house. [7:53] There is a suddenness to this simple line. Clearly after the long back and forth between Jesus and the crowd, the crowd amongst it self, they were either exhausted and out of argument, or perhaps simply having much to ponder, either way it is a rather abrupt moment. It also is reminiscent of St. Luke’s words after Christ has died on the cross: When all the people who had gathered for this spectacle saw what had happened, they returned home beating their breasts…..[23:48]

This evening we cross the threshold into Holy Week and, revealing his profound understanding of Divine Mercy, which we are about to witness in chapter 8 of the Holy Gospel according to St. John, St. Gregory Nazianzen urges us: If you are a Simon of Cyrene, take up your cross and follow Christ. If you are crucified beside Him like one of the thieves, now, like a good thief, acknowledge your God. For your sake, and because of your sin, Christ Himself was regarded as a sinner; for His sake, therefore you must cease to sin.

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. [8:1]

The very name of the place, Mount of Olives, refers to a place which is an important one in salvation history: As David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, he wept without ceasing. [2 Sam.15:30]; On that day God’s feet will stand on the Mount of Olives….[Zec.14:4]; When they drew near Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives…[Mt.21:1]; As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples approached Him privately and said, “Tell us, when will this happen, and what sign will there be of your coming, and of the end of the age?” [Mt.24:3]; As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple area…[Mk. 13:3]; As He drew near to Bethphage and Bethany at the place called the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples.[Lk.19:29]; During the day, Jesus was teaching in the temple area, but at night He would leave and stay at the place called the Mount of Olives.[Lk.21:37]; Then going out He went, as was His custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed Him. [Lk.22:39] Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. [Acts 1:12]

The above passages link the Mount with the promises of a Redeemer, Jesus, and with the constant communion in love and prayer between Jesus and the Father, the entry into Jerusalem the week of His Passion, the place of the agony in the Garden and the Ascension of Jesus. But early in the morning He arrived again in the temple area, and all the people started coming to Him, and He sat down and taught them. [v.2]

There is here a statement of both ordinariness in the life of Jesus and of fearlessness. He knew the Pharisees hated Him, were constantly seeking ways to trap Him that they might eventually kill Him. St. John now presents us with one of these traps, particularly vile because the evil men use a vulnerable human being, a woman, to set the trap.

Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and

made her stand in the middle. [v.3]

How could they have possibly caught her? Clearly either she was a known prostitute and they had the police arrest her, or some neighbour spied upon her, or some wife whose husband was having an affair with her reported her, however it happened no mention is made of the man who was complicit in this. Perhaps he was the one who denounced her and struck a deal to save himself.

The evil behind what the scribes and pharisees is about should not be ignored, because it goes to the heart of what Jesus will say shortly as a challenge to anyone who would judge or condemn another human being, either in our hearts, thoughts, or by some external action.

Interior judging of others quickly morphs into anger and anger devours both the angry person and everyone around them.

Love is of Christ.

Anger is of satan.

They said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do You say?” [v4,5]

Their sneers and disdain for the woman, their hatred of Christ, wafts across the ages as a stink that hangs in the air. This too oozes from anyone who disdains another human being.

They said this to test Him, so that they could have some charge to bring against Him. [v.6]

There is a way human beings, with crafty questioning, test others regarding their faith, political alliance, race, and so forth, to be sure they are ‘one of us’.

To do so is to test Christ Himself.

Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. [v. 6 cont.]

Nowhere else in the Gospel accounts is mention made of Jesus writing.

Scholars have speculated for millennia as to what Christ might have written since St. John does not say. Clearly whatever He wrote was not considered by St. John as important as what Jesus says and does.

But when they continued asking Him, He straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” [v.7]

Jesus does not enter a legal dispute with them, rather His answer implies: The hands of the witnesses shall be the first raised to put the person to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. [Deut.7.17]

Frankly that makes these men, who by their very presence indicate they were witnesses,

on top of all the other evil darkening their hearts, clearly lacking any shred of compassion.

Again He bent down and wrote on the ground. [v.8]

It may appear Jesus is showing disdain by appearing to ignore them. Rather what clearly Jesus is doing is allowing them time to be stirred in their consciences.

It is to be hoped that such stirring would have motivated them to compassion, but what happens next might indicate self-preservation as clearly, if anyone of them threw a stone, the people would have reacted, harshly no doubt, at such blasphemous arrogance, for Jesus pointedly said only the sinless one could throw the first stone.

And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So He was left alone with the woman before Him. [v.9]

In the pre-Vatican II ritual of prayers for souls at the hour of death, one prayer has the line: We implore You, O Lord, do not remember the faults of his [her]youth and his [her]ignorance…..

It is a grace, perhaps this is what the elders experienced, to be mindful that what we may have done out of youthful ignorance, if repeated in adulthood, is a far heavier burden in old age.

If graced with enough years to be an elder, our hearts, from life experience and hopefully wisdom, should have transformed into hearts like Christ’s own.

 We elders should be living icons of compassion.



© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph




Friday, 5 April 2019

ST. JOHN 7:32-52


                                                           

Even in our day, the evil of those in power sending police to arrest dissenters is, tragically, very common. In democratic countries where such oppression does not happen there are still ways in which, those in power, by stirring up public opinion, assure that people can be cowed into silence through massive pressure from so-called voices on social media.

The Pharisees heard the crowd murmuring about Him to this effect, and the chief priests and the Pharisees sent guards to arrest Him. [v.32]

Perhaps the Pharisees might be given some slack if there existed any evidence their primary concern was for the safety of the people in case Jesus was just another person inciting rebellion against the Romans, a fool’s errand given the military might of the Romans. However, the preponderance of the evidence is that their main fear was losing their own power over the people, something certain religious leaders, such as in some Muslim countries, do even today with their ‘religious police.’

We who live in countries with religious liberty, an aspect of human dignity and a human right, should pray for such freedom for all our brothers and sisters, whatever their religious belief, who live in countries where freedom is denied them.

Vs. 33,34: So Jesus said, “I will be with you only a little while longer, and then I will go to the one who sent Me. You will look for Me but not find me, and where I am you cannot come.”

Not just here but also in chapters 8:21; 13:13 & 33; 16:16 Jesus tells the crowd and His disciples that He will be going and that they cannot follow, because He is referring here to His passion, death, entombment, resurrection and ascension.

Only after Pentecost and the descent and gift of the Holy Spirit can anyone truly follow Jesus into the depths of the Holy Gospel, into the depths of discipleship.

Without their knowing it the people, as they continue to discuss Jesus’ words, actually are pointing to the future: So the Jews said to one another, “Where is He going that we will not find Him? Surely He is not going to the dispersion among the Greeks to teach the Greeks, is He? [v.35]

There is a very human beauty in the somewhat anxiousness experienced when someone we either care for or are seeking to know better seems to abruptly say they are leaving but that we can neither know where they are going, nor follow. It is also very human, as in their wondering if He is going off to the Greeks, to try and figure out where is the where someone is abruptly announcing they are going to!

The Greeks, as Gentiles, are representative of all the peoples of the world to whom Jesus will go/be brought by the Apostles and over the millennia by the Church Herself.

V.36= What is the meaning of His saying, ‘You will look for Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come’?”

In all the back and forth between Jesus and the crowd, between those within the crowd amongst themselves we see a fascination with Jesus, for some perhaps mere curiosity about Him, nonetheless this back and forth allows for Jesus, sometimes admittedly in words that are oblique, nonetheless containing deep truth, to teach.

Vs.37=On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out….

That last day is the 8th day, and the 8th day is the day of the Resurrection, the day when all things are made new, during the Christmas and Easter octaves the Church prays ‘this IS the day’, the day of Jesus’ birth, the day of His Holy Resurrection.

The crying out of Jesus reveals His sense of urgency to accomplish the work of redemption, His passionate love for us, His hunger that we would come to Him, to the Father through Him, open ourselves to the sanctifying action of the Holy Spirit.

Vs. 37 cont. & 38= “Let anyone who thirsts come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him.’”

There are three great gifts for us in these words: 1] a reminder that Jesus is our real bread, our real drink, cf. 6:30ff; 19:34. 2] the renewed promise of living water first promised in 4:14; 3] living water is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and the great sacraments of Baptism and Holy Eucharist are seen as flowing from the Heart of Jesus to be bestowed upon us by the Holy Spirit in:.. one soldier thrust his lance into His side, and immediately blood and water flowed out. [19:34]

V.39=He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in Him were to receive. There was, of course, no Spirit yet, because Jesus had not yet been glorified.

The ‘no Spirit yet’ means that as yet the Holy Spirit had not come upon anyone other than Christ Himself in the fullness of the meaning of the descent of the Holy Spirit, indeed further on Jesus says: …..I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you. [16:7]

Vs.40-44=Some in the crowd who heard these words said, “This is truly the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Messiah.” But others said, “The Messiah will not come from Galilee, will he? Does not scripture say that the Messiah will be of David’s family and come from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?” So a division occurred in the crowd because of Him. Some of them even wanted to arrest Him, but no one laid hands on Him.

Sadly, no matter what Jesus teaches, no matter how obvious His love for the people, again and again their response is to argue, some asserting Jesus in indeed the Messiah, others the opposite.

 In what a chaotic situation was Jesus trying to teach!

Yet, within the hearts of those sent to arrest Jesus, a stirring of faith: So the officers went to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why did you not bring Him?” The guards answered, “Never before has anyone spoken like this one.” [vs.45,46]

Obviously, these men would have heard many a false prophet, or a revolutionary, speak over the years, as this was a time in Israel when there were many false prophets and revolutionaries seeking to stir up the people against the Roman occupiers, thus their astonishment at the words, if not the person, of Jesus.

Then the arrogance and hostility, the disdain for the people, of which they were allegedly the shepherds, the hatred for Jesus, seen as a threat to their power, spills forth from the darkened hearts of the Pharisees:  So the Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in Him? But this crowd, which does not know the law, is accursed.” [vs.47-49]

Those are the words of people deeply in bondage to satan, the words of people who know, but seek to deny, what the truth is, but to accept the truth would mean being humble, and anyone connected to satan, who is total, stupid pride, are proud and stupid themselves.

Nicodemus, whom St. John reminds us came to Jesus under the cover of darkness, shows a modicum of faith, a modicum only because Nicodemus argues for Jesus in terms of the law, not by argument from what the prophets clearly stated: Nicodemus, one of their members who came to Jesus at night, said to them, “Does our law condemn a person before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?” They answered and said to him, “You are not from Galilee also, are you? Look and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.” [v.50-52]

A foreshadowing of Jesus’ treatment when those same self-righteous leaders will falsely accuse, interrogate, and hand Jesus over to Pilate to be put to death.

On this very day in countries around the world with oppressive regimes thousands of our brothers and sisters are likewise dragged before tribunals where truth is ignored, justice and the rule of law a farce, by imprisonment, torture, execution, these our brothers and sisters, are, bluntly put, disposed of.

Because He took such suffering upon Himself no one is alone in such darkness, Jesus is right there with them.

© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph