Tuesday, 21 May 2019

ST. JOHN 8: 21-30


                                                              ST. JOHN 8: 21 – 30

This Icon is of Jesus The Teacher. Traditionally in the East Icons are windows into heaven, in the West stained-glass windows, statues are also portals-reminders of the reality of the true place of our dwelling, the place of which Jesus assures: In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. [Jn.14.2]

The most important windows/portals are, of course the Divine Liturgy, Sacred Scripture, all Sacraments, deep prayer, every act of love-charity we perform in service of others including our willingness to forgive.

St. John, in each chapter, including the eighth, places Jesus the Teacher before us.

When we meditate upon Sacred Scripture, importantly the Holy Gospels, if we be still the Holy Spirit will gift us with illumination more profound than contemplating an icon, a stained glass window, a statue, for: 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]

He said to them again, “I am going away and you will look for Me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come.” [v.21]

He said to them again……..that word ‘again’ is used by St. John as emphasis when Jesus, with His loving patience, must teach and re-teach the same truth. He must do this in 8:12, 10:7, 13:12, 18:7; 20:21; 21:16 and St. John uses the word in 11:38, when he notes Jesus’ inner groaning ‘again’ as He approaches the tomb of Lazarus.

If we pause for a moment and reflect upon how and when we make use of this same seemingly ‘little’ word, it is not so little after all! Another time; once more; a second time; afresh; anew; extra; in addition; additionally; over and above; on top; also; too; as well; besides; furthermore; moreover: just a few synonyms for ‘again’. Hence, not only is every word uttered by Jesus of supreme importance, depth, meaning, but when contemplating Sacred Scripture, the Holy Gospels, each word has its own depth.

“I am going away and you will look for Me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come.”

The going away is to His passion and death, and unless His hearers, unless we ‘find’ Jesus in the depths of belief in His Holy Resurrection, then indeed death will be in the quagmire of sin, the sin of unbelief, not accidental because we never heard of Jesus, but when we have heard of Him and still refuse to believe, as His hearers not only heard of Him but were speaking with Him, then the sin is deliberate. We cannot go where He is going because the immediacy of Jesus’ Passion, Death, Burial, Resurrection is for Him a solitary journey to redeem us. Such is God’s love for us we do go there with Jesus in Holy Baptism where we are plunged into His death and brought forth, born anew, in His Holy Resurrection. A grace-gift we must beg of the Holy Trinity for all those who do not know Jesus and have not been baptized.

So the Jews said, “He is not going to kill Himself, is He, because He said, ‘Where I am going you cannot come’?” [v.22]

Though of course we do not know if Jesus’ questioners were aware of some spike in suicide around this time, we do know that: You shall not kill. [Ex. 20:13] You shall not kill. [Deut.5:12]        “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’ [Mt. 5:21]

The command is unambiguous. There is no qualifier.

We cannot kill any other person, pre-born or already born, nor can we self-kill, that is murder ourselves by self or other assisted suicide, also known as assisted dying/euthanasia. No matter the fanciful language used disingenuously to define abortion or euthanasia, it is murder, always murder, either murdering self, alone or with a co-conspirator, or murdering a pre-born or already born human being.

There are eight instances of suicide recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures [Jdg. 9:54; 16:28-31; 1 Sm. 31:1-4; 31:5; 2 Sm. 17:23; 1 Kg. 16:18] and only one recorded in the New Testament, that of Judas [Mt. 27: 3-5]. Only the Lord can read human hearts in any of the recorded instances, though there is a stark contrast between the repentance-tears of Peter and Judas’ choice.

Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God. [Catechism of the Catholic Church {CCC} 2281; If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law. Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide. We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. the Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives. [CCC 2282/83]

He said to them, “You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above. You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.” [vs.23,24]

Each time Jesus asserts “I AM” He is making it abundantly clear He is, while second Person of the Holy Trinity, Son of the Father, the same God who self-identifies in the Hebrew Scriptures. [cf. Ex. 3:14; Deut. 32:39; Is. 43:10]. It is an assertion Jesus makes constantly and should have enlightened anyone familiar with the Scriptures and thus begs their question: So they said to Him, “Who are you?” [v.25]

Some may have asked from a sincere seeking to be assured Jesus is indeed who He says He is, others as a challenge. Each of us can humbly ask Jesus repeatedly to show us that He is real, or variations of the question, but we must ask not as a challenge or out of mere curiosity, but with the sincerity of the man seeking to have Jesus free his son from a demon, the father crying out: Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” [Mk.9:24]

V.25 cont.: Jesus said to them, “What I told you from the beginning.” If anyone of us had to constantly reply to the same question, as Jesus must yet again being challenged to His identity, likely our frustration would be expressed by facial expression, tone, or words, yet Jesus patiently continues to teach and within His teaching is the answer His questioners, everyone seeks, if we open our hearts as Jesus says: Whoever has ears ought to hear. [Mt. 11:15]

I have much to say about you in condemnation. But the One who sent Me is true, and what I heard from Him I tell the world.” [v.26] Once again with these words Jesus is giving them the answer, namely that He and the Father are one, He is the awaited One, the Messiah, He speaks only truth, truth which the Father has spoken to Him. St. John notes: They did not realize that He was speaking to them of the Father. [v.27], a statement which connects to Jesus’ words from the Cross: Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” [Lk.23:34]

Yet again with a sense from the words of the fire of His love for His questioners, for us, Jesus repeats the constant truth about Himself, the Father, the mission to redeem us: So Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM, and that I do nothing on My own, but I say only what the Father taught Me. The One who sent Me is with Me. He has not left Me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to Him.” [vs.28/29]

These words also convey the intimacy of love between the Father and the Son and finally, after all this time, all His patient and clear teaching, St. John can tell us: Because He spoke this way, many came to believe in Him. [v.30]

© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph





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