Monthly Archives: March 2022

Thursday, 4th Week of Lent

Lent 1

Readings

We listen in John’s gospel today (John 5, 31-47) as different witnesses take the stand  to testify for Jesus as he faces his interrogators in Jerusalem.  John the Baptist, “a burning and shining lamp” speaks for him. Moses speaks for him. In our first reading from Exodus, Moses pleads for his people. Jesus takes that role on himself; he pleads for his people.

The miracles and works of healing Jesus performed testify for him. Above all, his heavenly Father, who through an interior call draws to his son those unhindered by pride, speaks for him. The scriptures, long searched by the Jews as the way to eternal life, “testify on my behalf.”

Faith in Jesus still comes to us in these ways. Do we accept them? The church, like John the Baptist and Moses point Jesus Christ out to us; are we guided by its light? His works and words and miracles witness to him; do we search into them? Our heavenly Father draws us to his son; do we pray for faith and humility to accept his grace?

We’re reminded by scholars that “the Jews” in these passages of John’s Gospel are not the whole Jewish nation but those who opposed Jesus because pride and position turned them against him. We have to remember this as we read about those who oppose Jesus in the gospels. Ever since, people still oppose him.

In lent, the voice of the Father says once more: “listen to him.”

Mystics like Paul of the Cross knew that faith is a gift of God; we don’t get it by reason alone. It’s God’s gift. He recommended prayer, steady prayer, as a means to gain, nourish and strengthen faith.

“Someone who left his community once wrote to Fr. Paul and signed the letter pretentiously , Archpriest, Lawyer, Theologian. Answering his letter, Fr. Paul signed himself, N.N.N., which means Paul of the Cross, who is nothing, who knows nothing, can do nothing, desires nothing in this world but Jesus Christ, and him crucified. This was his wisdom: to see with eyes of faith his own nothingness and to allow God who works within us to be born there.” (Life of Blessed Paul of the Cross, by St. Vincent Strambi, Chapter 35)

Prayer

O God
I come to you
who have given so much to me. You know “my inmost being” and “all my thoughts from afar.” I want to listen to you
and be changed by what I hear. Amen.

Lamps in the Light

Fourth Week of Lent, Thursday

Exodus 32:7-14; John 5:31-47 

He was a burning and shining lamp, and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light. 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… For if you had believed Moses, you would have believed me, because he wrote about me.

John 5:35-36, 46

The children of Moshe Rabbeinu (“Moses our Teacher”) had difficulty accepting the Messianic claim of Jesus of Nazareth. Wonders and signs failed to convince; teachings in the synagogue alienated. Mysterious references to his invisible, inaudible Father “who testified on my behalf” eluded not only his adversaries but even his friends (John 5:37; 14:9).

The tablets of the Ten Commandments were akin to the tree of life for Israel, guarded in the ark of the covenant by two cherubim as at the gates of Eden (Exodus 25:18-22). The word of God, living and active, fed the Israelites in the desert of exile as a refreshing, spiritual drink. Yet Jesus called into question the confidence of those who prided themselves as faithful keepers of the law shaped by the divine word.

…and you do not have his word remaining in you, because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent.

John 5:38

Jesus’ lamentation was devastating, for to be void of the word of God meant death and destruction.

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.

John 5:39-40

The first statement may also be read as an imperative: “Search the scriptures, because you think that you have eternal life through them.”1 Moving from the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures) to the man, Jesus, required a gigantic leap of faith. 

The awe-inspiring, wholly transcendent God of Mount Sinai spoke to Moses “face to face” from between the two cherubim over the ark in the tent of meeting (Numbers 7:89). The ark represented the ultimate manifestation of God’s physical presence on earth (shekinah). For a man to claim to be God in the flesh was the height of blasphemy.

Jesus, a Jew among Jews, understood the trauma and dissonance surrounding his person and work. Thus he appealed to the testimony of John the Baptist, his Forerunner, and especially to Moses, Israel’s foundational teacher and lawgiver. The appearance of Moses and Elijah with Jesus at the Transfiguration ratified his status as the true Messiah and Son of God.

The following poem is a reflection on Jesus’ appeal to his witnesses in John 5:31-47.

The lamp of the law given to Moses2 
Illumined prophets, priests and kings.
Pharaoh’s rival esteemed Christ’s reproaches
More than Egyptian glitterings.3

Elijah’s word burned like a blazing torch, 
Calling fire down from the heavens.4 
John prepared the way for the fan to scorch,5 
The Lamb’s lamp waking to penance.6

Dim was the lamp in the Light of the Word
Born in the beginning with God.7 
Hearts filled with the word recognize the Word,
Acknowledging the love of God.8

He who has seen me has seen the Father9 
Though his form is invisible.10 
Alone I am not, but from my Father—
His charaktér made visible.11

Moses, Elijah and I are aflame—
Lamps in the triple Light of God.12 
The Torah and Prophets proclaim
That I AM WHO I AM, your God.

-GMC


References

1 See New American Bible (Revised Edition) footnote to John 5:39

2 Psalm 119:105.

3 Hebrews 11:26.

4 Sirach 48:1, 3.

5 Luke 3:17.

6 John 1:29; 5:35.

7 John 1:6-9; 1:1-2.

8 Inverse of John 5:38, 42.

9 John 14:9.

10 John 5:37; 1:18; 6:46.

11 Charaktér from Hebrews 1:3: image, stamp, or imprint. Click phonetics for the pronunciation of charaktér.

12 Transfiguration of Jesus: Mark 9:1-8; Matthew 17:1-8; Luke 9:28-36. Triple Light refers to the epiphany of the Holy Trinity.

Wednesday, 4th Week of Lent

Lent 1


READINGS
In today’s reading from John’s gospel, the cure of the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethsaida sets off criticism of Jesus by Jerusalem’s leaders who accuse him of working on the Sabbath. Others before questioned their absolute proscription of Sabbath work;  God, after all, maintained creation on the Sabbath, babies were born, people died, God passed judgment on that day.

But now the leaders make a greater charge– Jesus claimed to be God’s Son, saying he continued his Father’s work; he had power over life and death; he will judge the living and the dead. These are divine powers.  Jesus claims to be God’s unique Son, true God, true man.

“Who do you say I am?” is a question Jesus raised then and he asks us now. That’s a question our readings from John’s gospel asks through the remainder of this week and into Holy Week.

Our readings and prayers this week recognize that God gives the gift of faith and restores it in us;  John’s gospel, read from now on till after Easter at Mass, reminds us of that.  The man waiting for 38 years at the pool of Bethesda, the man born blind, Nicodemus in the dark, Lazarus in the tomb are signs of the helplessness of humanity that waits for the life-giving Word of God. God alone makes the weak strong and those who have nothing live.

Waters from the temple flow through the world, yesterday’s reading from Ezechiel says. We’re not meant to be a small church.

Wednesday of the 4th week of Lent was an important day for the early church in Rome which met today at the church of St. Paul Outside the Walls with its catechumens preparing for baptism at Easter. A cross was traced on their foreheads. They were given the Apostles’ Creed and told to memorize it and reflect on it as a summary of faith. They were also given the Our Father to be prayed as their basic prayer.

Lord Jesus,
I believe you are God’s Son,
true God from true God,
I believe you have come to save us.

For Morning and Evening Prayers today.

Tuesday, 4th Week of Lent

Lent 1


READINGS
Our readings from John’s gospel continue today with the healing of the paralyzed man at the pool at Bethesda (John 5,1-18). Compare him with the official in our previous story who came from Capernaum to Cana looking for a cure for his son. The official was obviously an important man. He knew how to get things done and came to get Jesus to do something for him. He’s resourceful.

The paralytic at Bethesda, on the other hand, seems utterly resourceless. For 38 years he’s come to a healing pool– archeologists identify its location near the present church of St. Anne in Jerusalem– and he can’t find a way into the water when it’s stirring. Paralyzed, too slow, he can’t even get anybody to help him. He doesn’t approach Jesus; Jesus approaches him, asking: “Do you want to be well?”

Instead of lowering him into the water, Jesus cures the paralyzed man directly and tells him to take up the mat he was lying on and walk. The man has no idea who cured him until Jesus tells him later in the temple area. He’s slow in more ways than one.

“God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in this world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God,” St. Paul tells the Corinthians.

Here’s one of the weak, the lowly, the nobodies God chooses, and he wont be the last. The mystics saw weakness differently that most do. It’s a time God acts, St. Paul of the Cross say it that way:

“Be of good heart, my good friend, for the time has come for you to be cured. Night will be as illumined as day. As his night, so is his day. A great difference takes place in the Presence of God; rejoice in this Divine Presence. Have nothing, my dear one; allow yourself to be deprived of all pleasure. Do not look your sufferings in the face, but accept them with resignation and satisfaction in the higher part of your soul as if they were jewels, and so they truly are. Ah! let your loving soul be freed from all that is created and pay no attention to suffering or to enjoyment, but give your attention to your beloved Good. (Letter 41)

Lord Jesus,
like the paralytic I wait for you,
not knowing when or how you will come.
But I wait, O Lord,
however long you may be.

Monday, 4th Week of Lent

Lent 1


Readings
From now to Easter our gospel readings are mostly from the Gospel of John. The story of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday and many of the readings in Easter time as we celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection, are also from John’s Gospel.

In John’s Gospel Jesus reveals himself as God’s Son in what he says and does. “Your son will live,” Jesus tells the government official from Capernaum, who in today’s reading comes to Cana in Galilee where Jesus is staying to plead for his son near death.

“Your son will live” Jesus tells him and the official returns to Capernaum “believing” until his servants meet him on the way announcing his son’s cure. “Your son will live,” Jesus tells him and the deadly fever leaves his son. But the official does not see it at once, he must believe till he sees it himself.

God is not heartless before the mystery of death, we learn from our story. He’s not less loving than the official from Galilee, the father who pleads for his son. God is not less loving towards his Only Son, whom he brings to life after his death on the cross. The Father of Jesus, our Father, never wavers; he brings life to the world through his own Son.

But God’s mercy doesn’t appear immediately, our story reminds us. The official leaves Jesus “believing” not seeing. He has to wait. We see this also in the Lazarus story read towards Holy Week. “If you had been here, my brother would not have died,” Martha says to Jesus. She too has to wait, believing.

O God, let me rest in you
even now, before my earthly journey’s done.
For you bring me life even in death.
May I live believing
through the merits of Jesus Christ, your Son. Amen.

Try our new website for everyday prayer. www.praydaybyday.org . Morning and Evening Prayers, Week 4

Wine, Woman and Wakening

Wedding Feast at Cana

Fourth Week of Lent, Monday

John 4:43-54 

Then he returned to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine.

John 4:46

The Gospel of John calls special attention to Cana, the location of the first and second “signs” (sémeion) revealing Jesus as the Messiah to Israel. Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, the wedding feast at Cana (first sign), and the healing of the royal official’s son (second sign) are all connected in the Gospel.

In the light of the protological account of Genesis, the three episodes can be seen as the renewal of the primordial waters of creation, the transformation and divinization of all flesh in Christ (water into wine), and the restoration of a son to a father (Abel to Adam). 

Cana and Cain are etymologically related, and it is in this town that Jesus revealed his glory at the instigation of “Woman.” Jesus and Mary, the new Adam and new Eve, are the archetypes of Man and Woman (Ish and Ishshah in Hebrew) at the dawn of creation. 

Jesus addresses Mary as “Woman” twice in John’s Gospel—at the wedding feast at Cana and at the foot of the Cross (John 2:4; John 19:26). The appellation recalls Adam’s acclamation when presented with Eve: 

“This one, at last, is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
This one shall be called ‘woman,’
for out of man this one has been taken.”

Genesis 2:23

In the recreation of the world, Ish is taken out of Ishshah in the Virgin birth of Christ. Jesus and Mary redeemed the world as “one flesh,” the former as God, and the latter as the Mother of God, chosen by grace. 

The following poem expresses these ideas. 

The First Sign of Jesus in the Light of Genesis

John 2:1-11

Water churning and bubbling 
In the beginning of time… 
Hovering was the Spirit 
Over dark and oozing slime.1

Speaking, breathing and molding
In six days of creation…
Ish and Ishshah God made flesh—
A wedding celebration!2

Churning and bubbling water
Of the Jordan near Cana…
Ish from heaven purified
For the wedding fiesta.3

On the third day his mother
Came to the marriage banquet.
Mercy moved her heart to solve
A problem unexpected. 

“They have no wine,” Mary said.
“What is that to us, Ishshah?”4
“Do whatever he tells you.”5
The servants obeyed Ima.6

Bubbling and churning water
In six ceremonial jars…
Hovering was the Spirit,
Making yayin for the bars.7

“You saved the best wine for last!”
Cheered the master of the feast.
Thus the Bridegroom was revealed:
King of glory, the High Priest.

The Second Sign of Jesus in the Light of Genesis

John 4:43-54

The first father mourned his son,
The first victim of the curse;
Christ’s second sign at Cana
Cain’s calamity reversed.

Like Adam, the little king8
Ached to have his son restored.
Seeking Jesus with faint faith,
A home visit he implored.

“Your son lives,” said Christ, “Go home!”
“Yes, he lives!” servants confirmed.
At the seventh hour he revived,9
In the instant Christ affirmed.

God changed water into wine,
And gave life back to a son,
Infused flesh with breath divine—
Signs of earth’s recreation.

-GMC

1 Genesis 1:1-2; 2:1-7.

2 Ish and Ishshah are man and woman in Hebrew, from Genesis 2:23. The two are “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Click phonetics for the pronunciation of ish and ishshah

3 Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan: Mark 1:9-11; Matthew 3:13-17; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:32-34. In Middle Eastern culture, the bride and bridegroom prepare for the wedding with a special bath.

4 John 2:4 in Greek: “What [is that] to me and to you, Woman?”

5 John 2:5.

6 Ima is mom in Aramaic/Hebrew. Click here for the pronunciation of Ima.

7 Yayin is wine in Hebrew. Click phonetics for the pronunciation of yayin

8 The “royal official” (basilikos) in John 4:46, literally translated from the Greek, is “little king.” In the story of Genesis, Adam (a type of Christ) is also a little king. 

9 The Gospel writer specifies the “seventh” hour as the time when the fever left the boy (John 4:52). According to HELPS Word-studies, hébdomos (seventh) is a figure of God’s perfect, finished work. The New American Bible (Revised Edition) loses the religious significance by translating it, “one in the afternoon.”