Tag Archives: signs

Sealed by God

Christ Pantocrator, 13th century Serbian icon

Monday of the Third Week of Easter

John 6:22-29

The next day, the crowd that remained across the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not gone along with his disciples in the boat, but only his disciples had left.

John 6:22

Whoosh! Jesus vanished like the wind without leaving a trace. Gazing across the Sea of Galilee, any “footprints” would have dissolved instantly in the crashing waves.

Not that the people fed by Jesus on the mountain surmised that the rabbi walked across the sea—what utter nonsense!—though he did miraculously multiply five loaves and two fish. Who knew what else Jesus could do? Like a collective Sherlock Holmes they noted (A) only one boat had been docked, (B) Jesus had not gone in the boat with his disciples, and (C) Jesus was missing. 

Other boats came from Tiberias near the place where they had eaten the bread when the Lord gave thanks. When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.

John 6:23-24

A brigade of boats rowed hotly in pursuit of their bread king.

And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

John 6:25

Not knowing what to make of Jesus’ appearance on the other side of the sea, the baffled people skirted the question, “How did you get here?” with a superficial “When?” 

Genuine, disinterested wonder in the marvels and person of Jesus was lacking in the crowd. Rather, impelled by fickle appetites, they chased him down for another free meal.  

Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. 

John 6:26

Signs point beyond themselves to an imperishable good beyond the fleeting undulations of hunger and satiety. The miraculous bread of the outdoor picnic was supposed to stimulate the deepest hunger of the human spirit. 

Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”

John 6:27

Bodily hunger necessarily drives people to work for food, but spiritual hunger is easily dulled and forgotten. Jesus presented himself, the Messianic “Son of Man,” as the very imprint of God the Father. Like an official declaration stamped and sealed (sphragizó) by the signet ring of a king, Jesus declared himself to be the very countenance and Word of God.

So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”

John 6:28-29

What kind of work is “believing” (pisteuó)? In the Hebrews Hall of Fame, Enoch is praised for believing, and Abraham for his extraordinary faith and obedience (Hebrews 11:5-12). Believing is not merely a cognitive assent, but a wholehearted trust in God even when his commands are incomprehensible, as with the sacrifice of Isaac. 

The “work” of believing is exemplified by Mary, Mary Magdalene, the women disciples, and John the Beloved standing at the foot of the Cross on Calvary. Like Abraham poised to slay his son on Mount Moriah they stood, not knowing the outcome of the crucifixion three days later. 

Paul preached that believing (pisteuó) the Word of God seals (sphragizó) the children of God with the Holy Spirit, making them unique imprints and icons of the Son of God (Ephesians 1:13).

Standing with Jesus in the best and worst of times surpasses logic and reason. Faith is a relationship and commitment to a person, Jesus Christ. 

-GMC

Friday, 5th Week of Lent

Lent 1


Readings

In St.John’s gospel, read these final days of Lent and into Easter, Jesus goes regularly to Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish feasts. In John’s gospel, the Jewish feasts are signs that say who Jesus is and what he does.

In Jerusalem on a Sabbath feast, for example, Jesus heals a paralyzed man at the pool at Bethsaida. (Chapter 5); The Son does not rest from giving life as the Father never rests from giving life. At a Passover Feast (Chapter 6), Jesus calls himself the true Bread from heaven, the manna that feeds multitudes. On the Feast of Tabernacles (chapter 7-9) he reveals himself as the light of the world and living water. On the Feast of the Dedication, which celebrates the rededication of the temple after its desecration, Jesus claims to be the true temple, dwelling among us and making God’s glory known.

The feasts are signs that what Jesus says and does are from God. “The Father is in me and I am in the Father,” he claims for all these feasts. 

For the most part, his listeners are blind to the signs and accuse him of blasphemy, John’s Gospel says. They try to stone him and have him arrested. Instead of accepting him, Jerusalem rejects him. In today’s gospel, Jesus leaves Jerusalem and goes to a place across the Jordan where John baptized. 

He will come back as a new sign. God will give a new sign, not in the temple and its feasts, but in One who is lifted up on a cross. John’s gospel, more than the others, finds glorious signs in the sufferings of Jesus. Intent on finding God’s glory in his narrative of the passion of Jesus, he often seems to ignore what really happened. 

The soldiers arresting Jesus in the garden fall to the ground before him. Pilate shrinks before him on the judgment seat, Jesus speaks calmly, majestically from the cross. Realists that we are, we find it hard to find suffering revealing God’s glory and power. It’s hard to see glory in someone suffering and dying on a cross..

We find it hard to see anything but absurdity in the pandemic we’re experiencing now. That’s why John’s Gospel may be an important guide today. “Look for the signs,” it says.  If we believe God is with us, there are signs of glory and a promise of resurrection, even in suffering and death.

The world is caught in a storm, like the disciples caught in their boat at sea. We need to know God is not asleep.   

Lead me on, O Lord,

through your holy signs, especially the sign of your Cross.

Through the One lifted up, show me the glory I don’t see. 

Morning and evening prayer here

Prayers for Children here..

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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.”

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 father from Galilee, the official 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

5th Sunday of Lent: Strengthening Signs

 

To listen to today’s homily select the audio below:


Our gospel today (John 12,20-33) is part of the Palm Sunday event, when crowds acclaimed Jesus by casting palm branches before him as he entered Jerusalem, crying “Hosanna to the Son of David.” We will celebrate that aspect of his entrance into Jerusalem next Sunday.

But this Sunday we enter into the mind of Jesus as he enters the city. He’s troubled as he enters the city, as well may he be. “My soul is troubled now, yet what shall I say, “Father, save me from this hour. But it was for this hour I have come.”

He understands what’s going to happen to him. It’s a critical moment. Jerusalem’s religious establishment, resenting his words and actions, want to dispose of him. He has just raised Lazarus from the dead; his popularity is growing; he could easily topple the uneasy balance at a volatile time and place for the Jewish nation.

So he enters Jerusalem a marked man. But as he enters the city, he’s given a sign to strengthen him, a very simple sign. Some Greeks, pilgrims for the feast no doubt, approach Philip and Andrew and say, “We would like to see Jesus.” In their request and eagerness to meet him, Jesus sees the lasting fruitfulness of his mission on earth. “Like a grain of wheat I will fall to the ground and die,..”

The gospel of John is known for signs like this, signs that point to glory. They are signs that say it is not the end, but the beginning. The Greeks who come as Jesus approaches his death are like the Magi at his birth. They are people from afar, we don’t see what will happen by the coming, but they are the first of many. There will be consequences of their coming, People will come from the east and the west; they will come from centuries beyond his own.

Like a grain of wheat, he falls to the ground and dies, but his life and his death bring much fruit .

We ask the Lord to help us see signs like he saw, signs so small, like a grain of wheat, they may be missed.
Yes, signs are there in our lives, especially as we struggle. Sometimes it’s an outsider whom we never expected help from at all. Sometimes it’s something unexpected we never thought about before. Sometimes it’s as small as Bread, the Bread of the Eucharist, which tells us we shall be fed.
God works great wonders, but we know them most through simple signs: words, things, moments that seem like nothing but they tell us all will be well.

The Greeks who came to Jesus were like that. They told him all will be well.

Immaculate Conception Parish: Melbourne Beach, Fl

Today we began a parish mission in Immaculate Conception Parish, Melbourne Beach. I’m preaching at the Sunday Masses and Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at Masses at 8 AM and 7 Pm.

Here’s the sermon at the Sunday liturgy.

“We would like to see Jesus”

In his remarkable books on Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict describes his own personal search for God as he follows Jesus through the mysteries of his life, death and resurrection. Jesus is the way to see the face of God. The pope, who spent most of his life as a theologian, understands especially how modern scholarship has influenced the way we see Jesus.

The figure of Jesus has become “more and more blurred” today by different interpretations of him, the pope says. For example, some say  that “Jesus was an anti-Roman revolutionary working–though finally failing–to overthrow the ruling powers.” For others, “ he was the weak moral teacher who approves everything and unaccountably comes to grief.” Jesus loves everybody and everything goes.

What we face today, the pope says, is widespread skepticism about our ability to know Jesus at all. “This is a dramatic situation for faith, because its point of reference (Jesus Christ) is being placed in doubt: Intimate friendship with Jesus, on which all else depends, is in danger of clutching at thin air.” The pope wrote his books on Jesus of Nazareth to affirm who Jesus is and what he means to us and to our world. They’re worth reading.

( Jesus of Nazareth, From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, Ignatius Press 2008,  foreward xi)

It’s true what he says, isn’t it? If you go into the religion section in a big book store like Barnes and Noble today, you face an array of books about Jesus Christ that see him in totally different ways. If you search the internet, you find the same situation. The figure of Jesus becomes “more and more blurred;” some wonder if we can see him at all. Then, of course, others say he’s totally irrelevant to our times and our lives.

That’s why today’s gospel (John 12,20-33)–part of the Palm Sunday event we’ll celebrate next Sunday– is so interesting. Let’s look at its context. Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead.  A crowd is ready to acclaim him by casting palm branches before him as he enters Jerusalem, crying “Hosanna to the Son of David.” Many of them see him as a political messiah, someone who is going to change the government and restore Judaism to its golden age. As his popularity grows, his enemies see him as a dangerous troublemaker in a volatile time and place. Jerusalem’s religious establishment has decided to kill him. Jesus, of course, sees death coming.

Even before he enters the Garden of Gethsemane, he’s fearful about what lies before him.

Just then, some Greeks approach Philip and Andrew and say, “We would like to see Jesus.” It seems like a minor thing, some Greeks requesting to see him, but John’s gospel loves simple signs like this, signs that point to something else, signs that point to glory.

The Greeks who come to Jesus tell us it’s not the end, but the beginning. They come as Jesus approaches his death, like the Magi who approached him at his birth. They’re people from afar; they’re the first of many, the promise that others will come from the east and the west, from centuries beyond his own.

And Jesus rejoices at their coming. At this crucial uncertain time, when so many misunderstand him, when so many oppose him, so many ignore him, these strangers want to see him.

He sees the lasting fruitfulness of his mission on earth. “Like a grain of wheat I will fall to the ground and die, but if I die I’ll bring much fruit.” “My soul is troubled now, yet what shall I say, “Father, save me from this hour. But it was for this hour I have come.” His Father gives him this sign to strengthen him.

The unnamed Greeks received an immense grace when they saw Jesus at this time. An immense grace can come to us when we see Jesus at a time like theirs, when we search for him and find him.

The Greeks see him as seed falling to the ground, as the one rejected by his own, as a suffering man who dies on a cross. Shall we join them?

Help us see signs like those you gave them, Lord,

Unexpected signs like the mystery of your cross,

Dark signs like a church in decline,

Small signs like Bread and Wine

And Words from an old Book.

We want to see you,  Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

The Finger of God

Lk 11:14-23

Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute,

and when the demon had gone out,

the mute man spoke and the crowds were amazed.
Some of them said, “By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons,
he drives out demons.”
Others, to test him, asked him for a sign from heaven.
But he knew their thoughts and said to them,
“Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste
and house will fall against house.
And if Satan is divided against himself,
how will his kingdom stand?
For you say that it is by Beelzebul that I drive out demons.
If I, then, drive out demons by Beelzebul,
by whom do your own people drive them out?
Therefore they will be your judges.
But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons,
then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.
When a strong man fully armed guards his palace,
his possessions are safe.
But when one stronger than he attacks and overcomes him,
he takes away the armor on which he relied
and distributes the spoils.
Whoever is not with me is against me,
and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”

(thursday, 3rd week of lent)

Talk of devils and demons and the miracles of God, so common in the bible, sounds strange to people today, especially in the western world. We prefer seeing other forces at work when something remarkable happens, as it did to the man who couldn’t speak. Some natural cause was at work–maybe the power of suggestion; whatever it was, we’ll discover it. We find it hard to see “the finger of God” causing miracles today.

Miracles of healing were among the signs that established the identity of Jesus among his early hearers, but they were not the only signs.

‘Listen to what I have to say to you about Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonder and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know,” Peter says to the crowds in Jerusalem after Pentecost. But the apostle goes on from these signs of Jesus’ ministry to the culminating sign of his death and resurrection.

“You crucified and killed him by the hands of those outside the law, but God raised him up…”(Acts 2.22-23)

No human power can explain this mystery, surpassing all others. Bearing  all human sorrows– the sorrow of the mute, the deaf, the paralyzed, the possessed, the dead, the sinner far from God– Jesus gave himself into the hands of his heavenly Father on the altar of the cross. And he was raised up, to give his life-giving Spirit to the world.

Some deny this sign too. but it’s great sign that we celebrate this holy season.