Tag Archives: John’s gospel

A Heart Says it All

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Faith has ways to say great things in simple ways. Sometimes a few words say it all, like the simple words the publican says in the gospel, not raising his head. “Be merciful to me, a sinner!” Sometimes signs like bread and wine point far beyond themselves to an infinitely generous God.

Today’s Feast of the Sacred Heart offers the human heart as a way of expressing divine love that can’t be measured. How is it possible to sum up all the words and works of Jesus Christ who burned with love for us?

The feast of the Sacred Heart is always celebrated on Friday, the day Jesus showed us the depth of his love, the day he faced rejection and gave himself for us. The day he died, he gave us life. John’s gospel sums up this mystery by pointing to an easily overlooked moment of that fearful day– a soldier pierced the heart of Jesus on the cross and blood and water poured out. “Immediately blood and water poured out.”

Look at these signs with eyes of faith, John’s gospel says. They are powerful signs of God’s love for us and for our world. A pierced heart says it all.

Almighty God and Father,  we glory in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, your beloved Son,  as we call to mind the great things his love has done for us.Fill us with the grace that flows in abundance  from the Heart of Jesus, the source of heaven’s gifts.Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,  one God, for ever and ever.Amen.

Consider

Consider who hangs on the cross for you,

his death gives life to the dead,

his passing heaven and earth mourn, 

even the hard stones split.

Consider how great he is, who he is.

He slept on the cross 

that the church be formed from his side

and scripture might be fulfilled:

“They shall look on him who they have pierced, 

One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear,

blood and water flowed out

paying the price of our salvation.

He gave his blood that the sacraments give grace,

living water eternal life.

Bride of Christ, arise and like the dove,

like the sparrow finding a home,

drink from the wells of your Savior.

He is the spring flowing in the midst of Paradise.

from him four rivers flow to every heart,

watering the whole world and making it fruitful.

Run with longing,

cry out from your inmost heart:

Beauty of God most high,

Shining everlasting light,

Life that gives life to all life,

Light that illumines every light,

Water eternal and unseen, clear and sweet,

flowing from a spring hidden from all,

A spring whose depths can’t be plumbed,

whose height can’t be measured,

whose shores can’t be charted,

whose purity can’t be muddied.

From him flows the river 

that makes glad the city of God. 

So with songs of thanksgiving,

we sing hymns of praise.

With you is the fountain of life

and in your light we shall see light. 

Adapted from St. Bonaventure.

The Bread of Life

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All four gospels say that Jesus fed a great crowd near the Sea of Galilee by multiplying a few loaves of bread and some fish. It’s an important miracle.

John’s account (John 6), read at Mass on weekdays from the Friday of the 2nd week of Easter until Saturday of the 3rd week of Easter, indicates the miracle takes place during the feast of Passover. Like the Passover feast, the miracle and the teaching that follows occur over a number of days.

The Passover feast commemorated the Manna God sent from heaven to sustain the Jews on their journey to the promised land. Jesus claims to be the “true bread,” the “living bread” that comes down from heaven.

Jesus is a commanding presence during the miracle and the days that follow in John’s account. “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” he asks Philip as crowds come to him. He then directs the crowd to sit down, feeds them with the bread and fish, and says what should be done with the fragments left over. Unlike the other gospel accounts that give the disciples a active role in the miracle John’s account gives them a small role. Philip and the other disciples are tested during the miracle and the teaching that follows it.

As they embark on the Sea of Galilee to return to Capernaum after the miracle, a sudden storm occurs and Jesus’ rebukes the wind and the sea, the forces of nature, so that the disciples reach the other shore. He has divine power.

The crowds to whom Jesus speaks at Capernaum after the miracle are also tested as well as his disciples. They want to make him king after a plentiful meal and only look for a steady hand out instead of “the true bread come down from heaven.” Their faith is limited and imperfect after the miracle. They miss the meaning of the sign.

The disciples also are tested; some walk with him no more.

The miracle of the loaves and the fish remind us that Jesus is Lord and we are people of limited faith. We only see so far. The Risen Lord leads us to the other shore. He is the Bread of Life. “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life,” Peter says to Jesus at the end of John’s account. And so do we.

Wednesday, 5th Week of Lent

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Readings
Those listening to Jesus teaching in the temple area claim they’re “descendants of Abraham.”(John 8,31-42) They know well the splendid temple buildings, its well-ordered worship, its ancient traditions, and so they ask: “Why listen to this man? We have what God promised to Abraham; it’s automatically ours”.

But God’s promises are not automatic, Jesus says. “If you were the children of Abraham you would be doing the works of Abraham.” The great patriarch, a nomad, found God’s promises revealed from place to place. He discovered the works of God in time. So must we.

John’s gospel was written well after the temple and Jerusalem itself were destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. Jews and Jewish Christians in his time, “descendants of Abraham” may have longed for the restoration of ancient structures now gone and the surety they found in them.

This gospel would remind them, and us, that Abraham, “our father in faith,” ventured on paths unknown.

Does that sound like our times? We’re called to have Abraham’s faith, a mystic faith. In our first reading today from the Book of Daniel three children thrown into the fiery furnace in Babylon sing in the flames.

Is God telling us to do that today? Sing in the flames and God will lead us on.

Two centuries ago, St. Paul of the Cross urged those who sought his advice to hold on to the Unchanging One we meet “in spirit and truth.” God will be our guide..

“Jesus will teach you. I don’t want you to indulge in vain imagery over this. Freely take flight and rest in the Supreme Good, in God’s consuming fire. Rest in God’s divine perfections, especially in the Infinite Goodness which made itself so small within our humanity.” (Letter 18)

O God, you are my God,
For you I long.
My body pines for you,
Like a dry, weary land without water. (Ps 63)

You guide our steps into the unknown. Lead us on.

Monday, 5th Week of Lent

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Readings
Jesus meets a woman accused of adultery in the temple area during the Feast of the Tabernacles, according to John’s Gospel. He claims to be the light of the world and living water. His enemies, fiercely disputing his claims, likely brought the woman before him to discredit him. He said, “As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just…” (John 5:30) Here was a test.

Moses, the woman’s accusers say, commanded she be stoned. What is your judgment?

Adultery, though, is not the greatest issue here. Gender injustice is also on the table. Jewish religious law said if a woman were caught in the act of adultery and two men witnessed it, she could be stoned to death or strangled. The system obviously led to abuse; two witnesses paid by a vengeful husband might give false testimony and have her stoned to death. The woman becomes a victim and the man avoids blame.

Jesus, who brings a lens of justice and mercy to every age, brought life and light to the woman in the temple that day. Her accusers met his judgment.

The story of Suzanna from the Book of Daniel, like the gospel story, is also about injustice and  abuse of power. Two old men, judges with lots of power, think they can do anything they want. Abuse of power, combined with lust, is still behind many of our sexual crimes today. It’s found in the workplace, in politics, in the celebrity and sports world, and also unfortunately in the world of religion. 

Suzannah refuses to give in to their advances, and she finds a champion in Daniel who faces up to the powerful men. Her story calls for standing up for truth and fighting against abuse of power wherever we find it.  

Lord,
let me judge others fairly with your eyes, your heart and your mind.
Help me work for a world that is right and just.
Give me the grace to know myself.

Thursday, 4th Week of Lent

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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. 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.

Wednesday, 4th Week of Lent

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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.

“Who do you say I am?” is an important question we must answer when we look at the One who teaches in Jerusalem, calls his disciples to join him at table on Holy Thursday, prays in the Garden of Gethsemane, is arrested and sentenced to death, then dies on the cross.  In our public prayers we say:
“He is the Word of God, through whom you made the universe,
the Savior you sent to redeem us…
For our sake he opened his arms on the cross,
He put an end to death,
And revealed the resurrection…” (Eucharistic Prayer 2)

Who do we say he is?

Our personal prayer too rests on this powerful belief.  “Often turn to our holy faith and let it lead you into the bosom and the arms of God. You’ll be blessed if you faithfully follow my advice. When affliction lays heavy on you, you can go to your room, take the crucifix in your hands and give yourself a sermon from it. What a sermon you will hear! How quickly your heart will be calmed.” (Paul of the Cross:Letter 1464)

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

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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.

Weekday Readings: Third Week of Easter


Monday Acts 6,8-15; John 6,22-29
Tuesday Acts 7,58-8,1; John 6,30=35
Wednesday Acts 8,1-8; John 6,35-40
Thursday Acts 8,26-40; John 6,44-51
Friday Acts 9,1-20; John 6,52-59
Saturday Acts 9,31-42; John 6,60-69

The Mass readings this week continue from the Acts of the Apostles with the story of the Greek-speaking deacon Stephen. His fiery preaching against temple worship and “stiff-necked” Jewish opposition to Jesus results in his death and a persecution that drives Hellenist Christians out of Jerusalem. (Monday and Tuesday) But Stephen’s death, like the death of Jesus, brings new life. The church grows. “The death of Christians is the seed of Christianity.” (Tertullian )

Philip the Deacon, one of those displaced, preaches to the Samaritans north of Jerusalem. Then, led by the Spirit, he converts the Ethiopian eunuch returning home after his pilgrimage to Jerusalem. (Wednesday and Thursday} Following Philip’s activity, Paul, the persecutor, is converted by Jesus himself. (Friday)

Before Paul’s ministry begins, Peter leaves Jerusalem to bless the new Christian communities near the coast; at Joppa he’s told by God to meet the Roman centurion in Caesarea Maritima. The mission to the gentile world begins with that meeting. (Saturday)

Stephen, Philip, Peter and Paul serve God’s mysterious plan. It’s not human planning. The Holy Spirit is at work.

The gospel readings this week are from St.John’s gospel– segments of Jesus’ long discourse on the Bread of Life to the crowd at Capernaum after the miracle of the loaves. (John 6) In the Eucharist we meet the Risen Christ.  He not only feeds us personally, but a growing church is fed.