Saturday of the Second Week of Easter
Darkness, turbulent waters, and a mighty wind threatened to capsize the disciples into the whirling vortex of chaos. The image recalls the antediluvian waters at the dawn of creation.
and the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters—Genesis 1:2 (New American Bible Revised Edition)
The One who brings order out of disorder stepped out onto the surface of the deep. Fear struck the hearts of the disciples who, in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, thought they were seeing a ghost (Mark 6:49; Matthew 14:26).
“I AM. Fear not.”John 6:20
Egō eimi. The Greek words for “I AM” in John 6:20 match the Greek Septuagint version of the Hebrew Tetragrammaton in Exodus 3:14. The holy, almighty and ever living God—I AM WHO AM—is the Alpha and the Omega with a human voice and face in Jesus Christ. Moses parted the Red Sea by the power of God. Jesus commanded the wind and waves by his own power.
The Spirit of God in the Word of God pacified the waters as “in the beginning.”
And the earth was tohu vavohu (without form, and void); and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Ruach Elohim (Spirit of God) was hovering upon the face of the waters.Genesis 1:2 (Orthodox Jewish Bible)
Innocent Job deluged by wave after wave of suffering extolled the God of all creation who “stretches out the heavens,” recalling Genesis 1:1, and “treads” or “walks on the waves of the sea” (Job 9:8), anticipating the Son of God walking on water centuries later.
They wanted to take him into the boat, but the boat immediately arrived at the shore to which they were heading.John 6:21
Many commentators, including St. John Chrysostom, have thought that this last statement needed reconciling with the accounts of Mark and Matthew which explicitly state that Jesus entered the boat. Reading the line with the lectio divina approach, however, Noah’s ark comes to mind. The Lord of all creation is neither in nor out of the ark, but encompasses all space and time and brings the boat safely to land, with the sign of the Spirit (an olive branch in the beak of a dove).
“I AM. Fear not.”
Fourth Week of Lent, Monday
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 bonesGenesis 2:23
and flesh of my flesh;
This one shall be called ‘woman,’
for out of man this one has been taken.”
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
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
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.
1 Genesis 1:1-2; 2:1-7.
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.
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.”
First Week of Lent, Friday
I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. ’But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna. 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.Matthew 5:20-24
As temples of the Holy Spirit, humans have a God-shaped heart. Thoughts and words that kill shrivel the heart and turn sacred space into a Gehenna.
Blessed are the peacemakers,Matthew 5:9
for they will be called children of God.
Heaven is not above
Nor is hell below.
The heart’s demon or dove
Harrows or hallows.
First Week of Lent, Thursday
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.Matthew 7:7-8
Asking, seeking, and knocking presuppose desire. In some wisdom traditions, desire is the root of suffering and must be extinguished in order to be liberated, but in the protological account of human origins in Genesis, desire is presented as primordial—an energy that must be directed in accordance with the Law of Knowledge and Life to blossom into godlikeness.
The serpent’s temptation to Eve to partake of the forbidden fruit contained a partial truth: “your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know good and evil” (Genesis 3:5).
Jesus said to the Jews, quoting Psalm 82:6, Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods”’? (John 10:34)
Early Christian writers like St. Ephrem the Syrian and St. Gregory of Nazianzus believed that Adam and Eve were created in an intermediate state, with the potentiality for deification and infallible knowledge hinging on obedience to the commandment.
St. Ephrem writes:
For had the serpent been rejected, along with the sin, they would have eaten of the Tree of Life, and the Tree of Knowledge would not have been withheld from them any longer; from the one they would have acquired infallible knowledge, and from the other they would have received immortal life. They would have acquired divinity in humanity; and had they thus acquired infallible knowledge and immortal life they would have done so in this body.1
St. Gregory of Nazianzus writes:
This being He placed in paradise… And He gave him a Law, as material for his free will to act upon. This Law was a commandment as to what plants he might partake of, and which one he might not touch. This latter was the Tree of Knowledge; not, however, because it was evil from the beginning when planted; nor was it forbidden because God grudged it to men—let not the enemies of God wag their tongues in that direction, or imitate the serpent. But it would have been good if partaken of at the proper time; for the Tree was, according to my theory, Contemplation, which it is only safe for those who have reached maturity of habit to enter upon; but which is not good for those who are still somewhat simple and greedy; just as neither is solid food good for those who are yet tender and have need of milk.2
The primordial desire to “be like gods” is fulfilled in Jesus Christ who deified Adam by his Incarnation, obedience unto death, and resurrection.
Asking, seeking, and knocking is the process of walking hand in hand with the Father as his child in his only-begotten Son, and receiving freely the fruit of wisdom and life from the Spirit.
If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask him?”Luke 11:13
The syllabic count in the following poem adds up to fifty—the fifty days from Easter to Pentecost when the Holy Spirit is poured out upon the Church. ASK, SEEK, and KNOCK are 3, 4, and 5 letter words, and their respective stanzas consist of 3, 4, and 5 syllable lines.
32 + 42 + 52 = 50 syllables
Son of God,
King and Priest
Strolls with Abba—
Eating fruit of
Knowledge and Life.
Kingdom of Heaven,
Come, Holy Spirit,
Kingdom come on Earth.
1 St. Ephrem the Syrian, Commentary on Genesis II.23, in St. Ephrem the Syrian: Hymns on Paradise, trans. Sebastian Brock (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1990), 214. St. Ephrem’s view is also found in the Palestinian Targum tradition at Genesis 3:22 and in Nemesius, On the Nature of Man 5. See Brock’s introduction (footnote 39).
2 St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 45.8.
Saints are examples of how far we can rise, from the depths to the heights. Today the church celebrates the Conversion of St. Paul, who never forgot that God’s grace raised him from the dust to become a powerful force in his church and in the world.
The dramatic conversion of Paul is recalled in today’s first reading at Mass from the Acts of the Apostles. Luke describes this event three times, a way of acknowledging Paul’s special role in the spread of Christianity from Jerusalem to Rome.
Paul’s conversion and ministry was a work of God, who used the apostle for his own divine purposes. It’s not Paul’s genius or imagination that achieved so much. God’s grace brought him to the ground on his way to Damascus and God’s grace sent him on his mission.
“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Jesus says to him. From that meeting Paul gained the conviction that faith is a gift that justifies us and that the church is the body of Christ. He did not come to those beliefs on his own.
Paul’s great conversion story in Acts leads to the conversion of the gentiles. Paul has a prominent part in these stories; he’s an agent whom God sends and constantly empowers. But he never forgot the moment he was blinded by a light that made him see.
“Paul, more than anyone else, has shown us what we really are, and in what our nobility consists, and of what virtue a human being is capable. Each day he aimed ever higher; each day he rose up with greater ardour and faced with new eagerness the dangers that threatened him. He summed up his attitude in the words: I forget what is behind me and push on to what lies ahead. When he saw death imminent, he bade others share his joy: Rejoice and be glad with me! And when danger, injustice and abuse threatened, he said: I am content with weakness, mistreatment and persecution. These he called the weapons of righteousness, thus telling us that he derived immense profit from them… ” ( St. John Chrysostom)
Then John said in reply, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow in our company.” Jesus said to him, “Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”Luke 9:49-50
This reading coincides with those from the previous day, Sunday of the Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time:
John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us.”Mark 9:38-40
The Lord then came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses. Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses, he bestowed it on the seventy elders; and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied but did not continue.Numbers 11:25-29
Now two men, one named Eldad and the other Medad, had remained in the camp, yet the spirit came to rest on them also. They too had been on the list, but had not gone out to the tent; and so they prophesied in the camp. So, when a young man ran and reported to Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp,” Joshua, son of Nun, who from his youth had been Moses’ aide, said, “My lord, Moses, stop them.” But Moses answered him, “Are you jealous for my sake? If only all the people of the Lord were prophets! If only the Lord would bestow his spirit on them!”
Moses and Jesus were less interested in forming an elite cadre of prophets and disciples than in diffusing the divine goodness everywhere. The infinite Spirit of God cannot be limited or restricted.
The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes…John 3:8
Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’ As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Messiah. The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.Matthew 23:1-12
Between the Creator and creation, there is no barrier. Phylacteries and tassels, like the fig leaves of Eden, seek cover from the original, naked simplicity before God.
As no barrier exists between the Son and the Father, none exists between the Son’s brethren and the Father. Abba’s children are directly in his hand and in his womb. God designed the human person to hear his voice directly in the Spirit. The Son of God came to restore Adam’s union with the Father, for “the Father and I are one” (John 10:30).
In the Bread of Life discourse, Jesus quotes Isaiah 54:13, which prophesies a new intimacy with the Father:
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.John 6:44-45
All your children shall be taught by the Lord;Isaiah 54:13
great shall be the peace of your children.
The Hebrew word for “peace” is shalom, which means wholeness, soundness, and completeness in God. Fractured Adam and his offspring will be made whole by the Spirit of God:
I will pour out water upon the thirsty ground,Isaiah 44:3
streams upon the dry land;
I will pour out my spirit upon your offspring,
my blessing upon your descendants.
The law of life written on hearts is the voice of the Holy Spirit, our interior teacher:
But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days—oracle of the Lord. I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. They will no longer teach their friends and relatives, “Know the Lord!” Everyone, from least to greatest, shall know me—oracle of the Lord—for I will forgive their iniquity and no longer remember their sin.Jeremiah 31:33-34
And I will give them another heart and a new spirit I will put within them. From their bodies I will remove the hearts of stone, and give them hearts of flesh, so that they walk according to my statutes, taking care to keep my ordinances.Ezekiel 11:19-20
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost fulfilled the prophecy of Joel:
It shall come to passJoel 2:28-29 (NABRE: Joel 3:1-2); cf. Acts 2:17-18
I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
Even upon your male and female servants,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit.
The essence of prophecy is the recognition of truth, which is given by the Holy Spirit:
But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.John 16:13
In the Last Supper Discourse, Jesus enigmatically told the disciples that the hour and day is coming when he will no longer intercede for them. They will find themselves “in the Father” just as the Son is “in the Father.”
I have told you this in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures but I will tell you clearly about the Father. On that day you will ask in my name, and I do not tell you that I will ask the Father for you. For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have come to believe that I came from God.John 16:25-27
I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.John 17:20-23
But beware of people, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.Matthew 10:17-20