Tag Archives: Father

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.

Abba, Draw Us to Your Son

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him”
John 6:41-51 in a prayer couplet
Sunday of the Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Related posts: Easter, Day 19 (John 6:51), I AM the Bread of Life (John 6:35)
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

The Jews murmured about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,” and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written in the prophets:

‘They shall all be taught by God.’

Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

John 6:41-51

The Cross and the Beatitudes

10th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday (Year I)

2 Corinthians 1:1-7; Matthew 5:1-12

A single teardrop from God could wash away the sins of the world, but the Father gave his only-begotten Son to the last drop of blood.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Our “Father of compassion” (2 Corinthians 1:3) is moved like a mother in the depths of her womb for her children. The Greek word for compassion (oiktirmos) translates the Hebrew word rachamim (from racham) in the Greek Septuagint, which means womb, tender love, mercy, and pity.1 God the Father sent the Son of his Eternal Womb into the womb of the Virgin Mother and Earth for the love of the world.

Our Father is also the “God of all encouragement” or “comfort” (paraklésis), a word that evokes the Holy Spirit, Comforter, and Paraclete (paraklétos).

Our Father who sent his Son and Spirit into the world is indeed a God of compassion and comfort, taking humans by surprise. 

Why not a God of sophia (wisdom) in the heights of heaven, an object of pure contemplation beyond human reach and relationship, to satisfy the Greeks?

Why not a God of power and authority, who would overthrow the Romans and enthrone the triumphant Messiah, to satisfy the Jews?

The plan of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit upset both reason and religion in the course of human history (1 Corinthians 1:22-23). The sufferings of Christ shattered all human expectations. What are philosophers and worshippers to do with a crucified God?  

St. Paul considered the “scandal” and “foolishness” of the Cross to be his greatest treasure. What all humans avoid, the apostle embraced to “overflowing” (2 Corinthians 1:5). St. Paul found true wisdom and power in the self-negation of the Cross.

Jesus transformed the curse of suffering and death into the blessing of eternal life. The Beatitudes from his Sermon on the Mount, full of paradoxes, are a roadmap to the fullness of life in God.

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God. 
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:3-12

The earthy God of the Cross and the Beatitudes shed tears and blood for us. Ever new and strange, the Gospel never ceases to challenge the human heart.

-GMC


Reference

1 An example of this Hebrew idea translated into Greek can be found in 1 Kings 8:50 (Hebrew, Greek). 

The Father’s Face

Russian icon, The Mystical Supper (early 14th century). Fresco in Vatopedi Monastery, Mt. Athos.

Saturday of the Fourth Week of Easter

John 14:7-14

If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.

John 14:7

Holy prophets longed to see what the disciples saw but did not see it (Matthew 13:17; 1 Peter 1:10-11). Angels bend and “stoop sideways” (parakúpto) with a yearning to peer into the hidden mysteries of Christ (1 Peter 1:12). 

Not even Moses, who saw God’s glory pass before him on Mount Sinai (Exodus 33:18-23), saw what the disciples saw. Theirs was a singular privilege in the history of Israel. Yet Philip repeated Moses’ request as if nothing new had taken place.

Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”

John 14:8

Moses said, “Show me your glory!”

Exodus 33:18; LXX

Philip duplicated Moses’ request with the same opening words in the Greek version: Show me/us the…

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.

John 14:9-10

What does it mean to know and be known in a relationship? The disciples knew Jesus’ name, physical features, family, community, culture, religion, language, and many of his teachings. But did they really know who Jesus was? 

None of the above variables for knowing a person touched the depth of Jesus’ identity. The unseen Father dwelling in the Son, and the Son dwelling in the Father remained an opaque mystery to the disciples. Yet this is who Jesus was, is, and ever will be, for ever and ever. Prior to the Virgin birth, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” Undivided yet distinct, Father and Son speak with one voice, and act as one God.

Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. 

John 14:11

Considering God’s point of view, how are free thinking human beings to be brought into the knowledge of the Blessed Trinity? Making himself visible in the Son as a human being was the climax of the Abrahamic covenant and prophecies, but the Father remained hidden and unknown. Jesus used two main methods: words (“believe me”) and works (signs and wonders).   Theophanies at the Baptism in the Jordan and the Transfiguration also revealed the identity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  As the Last Supper Discourse progresses, God’s final and most powerful method will be disclosed: 

The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.

John 14:26

The Holy Spirit completes the mission of the Son, whose outpouring of grace will be the cause of “greater works” accomplished through the Body of Christ:

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.

John 14:12

Jesus’ “going to the Father” is the hinge for the Spirit’s movement from one end of the earth to the other, and from the Jewish nation to the nations of the world.

And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.

John 14:13-14

In Hebrew culture, names represent persons and their characters. Faith in the name, character, and person of Jesus Christ brings glory to the Father. 

The priestly blessing to Aaron and his sons became flesh in Jesus Christ. The face of God the Father shone upon his disciples and blessed them. 

The Lord bless you and keep you!
The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!
So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites, and I will bless them.

Numbers 6:24-27

-GMC

For the Love of the Church

Byzantine mosaic, Jesus Washing the Feet of the Disciples, Monreale Cathedral, Italy (1180s)

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Easter

John 13:16-20

In the foot washing scene at the Last Supper, a beautiful image of apostolic communion in Christ toward the Father is given to the Church. 

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.

John 13:20

An apostle (apostolos) is a “messenger,” one sent out by Jesus Christ to represent him. Sender and sent are so closely united that Paul reached for an organic metaphor to express it:

He is the head of the body, the church.
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
that in all things he himself might be preeminent.

Colossians 1:18; cf. Ephesians 1:22; 1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12:4-8

Jesus’ vision of the Church soars far beyond this earth, yet deep within its heart, into the glory of the Blessed Trinity who dwells in creation as in a temple. Apostles are sent by Christ to lead God’s children into the very heart of the Father, sender of his only-begotten Son.

Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.

John 13:16-17

Jesus’ standard of greatness was demonstrated on the floor with a basin of water and a towel around his waist. His actions and words mirrored the very character of the Father: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Apostles are called to be icons of Christ, mirrors of the Father’s heart, in the Spirit of truth.

Even if one out of twelve betray him, Jesus showed by his free acceptance of the Cross that the Church is worth dying for.

I am not speaking of all of you. I know those whom I have chosen. But so that the scripture might be fulfilled, ‘The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me. ’From now on I am telling you before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe that I AM.

John 13:18-19

Love is worth the price of betrayal. With only one disciple at the foot of the Cross, one hanged, and ten in hiding, Jesus looked beyond his scars, thorns, nails, and wounds to the Father and pleaded on behalf of the Church and world: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

When Jesus expired to the Father, he commended all of humanity to the Father: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46).

Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows and Mother of the Church, pray for us.

-GMC

Word and Eternal Life

Andrei Rublev, Icon of the Most Holy Trinity

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter

John 12:44-50

Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me believes not only in me but also in the one who sent me, and whoever sees me sees the one who sent me.

John 12:44-45

Jesus is not a one person mission. Again and again, he deferred all of his actions and words to the Father. Andrei Rublev’s icon of the Most Holy Trinity depicts the Son and the Spirit looking toward the Father, the unbegotten origin of the Son and the Spirit. God is, of course, beyond spacetime; thus words like “unbegotten” and “origin,” derived from sensible experience, must be understood as pointers to an ineffable reality.

I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness.

John 12:46

John’s Prologue introduces the Word of God who was “in the beginning with God” as Life and Light itself (John 1:1-5). 

And if anyone hears my words and does not observe them, I do not condemn him, for I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world.

John 12:47

Earlier in the Gospel, all judgment is given to the Son (John 5:22). Passages about judgment expose the core of the human heart. The voice of God in every heart provokes a search for flourishing. Fear of external judgment corresponds to an inner compass groping for Light, Life, Love, Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. 

Jesus forgave his enemies from the Cross for they did not recognize him as the Son of God (Luke 23:34). But failure to recognize the Spirit of God, Jesus says, is inexcusable (Matthew 12:31-32). These puzzling Scriptures seem to point to the fundamental orientation of our heart toward the voice and Spirit of God—receptivity or rejection?1

Whoever rejects me and does not accept my words has something to judge him: the word that I spoke, it will condemn him on the last day, because I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak.

John 12:48-49

The “word” (dabar) in Hebrew culture is loaded with significance. In Genesis, the word of God has the power to create, bringing light and life into being. A word of blessing, once given, could not be revoked (Genesis 27:1-46). Words have power to heal; they issue forth from the mouth of God to accomplish his purposes (Psalm 107:20; 147:15; Isaiah 55:11). God’s word is a living fire—a hammer that breaks rock into pieces (Jeremiah 23:29). 

In the Mosaic world, word and life (also law and life) are so closely intertwined that they are virtually indistinguishable:

When Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel, he said to them, Take to heart all the words that I am giving in witness against you today, words you should command your children, that they may observe carefully every word of this law. For this is no trivial matter for you, but rather your very life; by this word you will enjoy a long life on the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.

Deuteronomy 32:45-47

Jesus, the Word of God, offered himself to the world as Light and Life. A heart shriveled, closed to love, and sunk in darkness is a heart condemned. 

The words of Christ proceed from the Father, for “the Father and I are one” (John 10:30).

And I know that his commandment is eternal life. So what I say, I say as the Father told me.”

John 12:50

The new Moses elevated the equivalence of word and life to Word and Eternal Life. Jesus is the Word sent forth from the Father to heal and give life to a broken and dying world.

-GMC

1 More than conscience, the Spirit of God produces the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22).