Friday, May 22, 2015
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts28:16-20,30-31; Jn 21:20-25
The first two verses of today’s text shift the focus from Peter to the Beloved disciple. Like he does elsewhere, with other characters in his Gospel, John reminds the reader of when the beloved disciple first appeared in his narrative. The question of Jesus to Peter in : “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” has caused consternation. John already provides a correction of the misunderstanding that this disciple would not die and so, this is not what Jesus meant. By using a favourite word of his, “remain”, John points out what he means by Jesus’ seeming enigmatic words. This disciple will indeed remain through the words that he has written in his Gospel. Though he will die a physical death, he will continue to live in the witness that he has given to Jesus in his Gospel. Just as Peter will give witness to Jesus by dying a martyr’s death, the beloved disciple will give witness to Jesus by his Gospel.
The Gospel ends with a hyperbolic statement which also serves as a warning of how the Gospel and all of scripture must be interpreted. The Gospel is only a pointer and must be seen in that light. The person of Jesus is bigger than any writing or Gospel can ever contain and, no matter how much is said of Jesus, in the final analysis, it will always be inadequate. This does not mean that we must not say what we know. Rather, it means that, even as we say what we know, we must realize that there is much more that we do not know and so cannot say.
There is an obsession with so many today with prolonging life. These use all kinds of artificial means to try to look younger. They dye their hair black; get tummy tucks, nose jobs, and even plastic surgery to remove wrinkles. They imagine that they can cheat death and live forever. They hardly realize that what is important is not the length of time one lives, but how one lives in the time given to us. It is quality, not quantity, that is important. Jesus’ words about the beloved disciple are not about his living forever, or not dying, they are about the witness that endures even after he dies. This means that each of us, like the beloved disciple, has the ability to leave a legacy even after we are gone from this world. It is up to us to decide what kind of legacy it is going to be.
Thursday, May 21, 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015 - Be careful of saying you are a friend of Jesus, he will call you to live and love for him.
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 25:13-21; Jn 21:15-19
The first verse of today’s text links this section with the previous one (21:4-14) through the words, “When they had finished breakfast”. It is a continuation of the appearance of Jesus to the disciples at Lake Tiberius where, because they obey his instructions, they are able to haul in 153 fish.
The verses of today’s text narrate the conversation that Jesus has with Simon Peter. Some are of the opinion that the reason why Jesus asks Peter three questions is because Peter denied him three times. While this may be so, it is also important to realize that the questions are all different. The first question which Jesus asks is inclusive. It includes the other disciples, the boat, the nets, and the fish. Jesus is asking Peter whether Peter loves him more than he loves the other disciples and/or his livelihood. The second question is direct and involves only Jesus and Peter. Everything else recedes into the background. The spotlight shifts only to the two. Does Peter love Jesus? Though the third question seems similar to the second, it is really different because in it, Jesus asks Peter about friendship. It reads: “Simon, son of John, are you my friend?” This is a crucial change from the earlier question because, in 15:13, Jesus had explained the true meaning of friendship when he said: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” By affirming that Peter is, indeed, a friend of Jesus, he is affirming his willingness to die for Jesus.
This interpretation is confirmed by the fact that as soon as Peter affirms his friendship, Jesus invites him to lay down his life. This invitation begins with the double Amen in 21:18, and so marks the introduction of a solemn pronouncement. The saying of Jesus that follows explains how, when Peter was young, he fastened his own belt and went wherever he wished to go. This is an indication of the freedom that Peter experienced earlier. However, soon he will have to stretch out his hands and someone else will fasten his belt for him, and take him where he does not wish to go. This is seen as a specific reference to Peter’s death by crucifixion, and is confirmed by the explanation that John gives in parenthesis in 21:19: “(He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.)”
The text ends with Jesus inviting Peter to follow him. Though this command of Jesus may be seen as a general invitation to discipleship, here it means a specific command to martyrdom and even death.
It is significant that the call to martyrdom to Peter is given only after his threefold confession of his love of Jesus, and he is given charge of the sheep only after he has confessed this love. It is thus clear that there is no coercion on the part of Jesus, but a call that Peter has accepted freely. Peter knows, even as he answers, that trials and difficulties are part and parcel of his commitment. He is aware that following Jesus is not going to be easy and that he will be called to make great sacrifices. He is ready, willing, and able.
The call to follow Jesus today is a call that will continue to be heard as long as there are people who dare to open their hearts to this call. While it will not always be a call to martyrdom by death, like it was in the case of Peter, it will always be a call to be a martyr or witness. This is because the voice of Jesus can only be heard today in his disciples and he can be seen and experienced only when those who profess to follow him reach out in love.
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Thursday, May 21, 2015 - Are the troubles and difficulties of your neighbour as real to you as your own? Or do you regard their problems as of no consequence to you?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 22:30-23:6-11; Jn 17:20-26
In these last verses of the prayer, Jesus expands the circle of those for whom he prays to include believers of the future. Since Jesus did not come to make a limited revelation, but one that was meant to embrace the whole world, it is only appropriate that he pray also for those who will believe because of the disciples’ word and witness. The primary invocation that Jesus makes here is the all be one. It is a petition for unity. The reason for this petition is that Jesus wants all those who will believe in him to share in the same relationship that he shares with his Father. Just as Jesus and the Father are one, so, he prays, that all believers will also share in this mutual indwelling. When this unity is seen by those who do not yet believe, they, too, will be inspired to know and believe that Jesus was indeed sent by God. Unity of the community, which has as its source the unity of the Son and Father, will be the drawing force that will lead others to Jesus. By the unity that is shown in community, those who believe in Jesus will also be able to complete God’s work in the same way in which Jesus did.
In the last three verses of the prayer (17:24-26), there is a greater intensity. Petition changes to want. This is not to be interpreted as selfishness but rather, as audacity or confidence. Jesus is confident that his Father will give him what he wants and also, that this is his Father’s will for him and all believers. What Jesus wants is that God, he, and the believers, share in a mutual indwelling. What he wants is that all be one. This oneness and unity is expressed in the tangible reality of love.
Christianity was never meant to be, and can never be, a private religion. Everything about Christianity is both individual and communitarian. The seven Sacraments are beautiful examples of the communal dimension of Christianity. This is because Jesus did not come to make a private or esoteric revelation to only a small group of individuals but to make a revelation to the whole world. Thus, the community of believers today is faced with this challenge of showing the communal dimension or unity of the community and so, drawing others to believe. It is a tremendous privilege and responsibility. It is a privilege because we are called to continue the work of Jesus himself and so share in the mission entrusted to him by his Father. It is a responsibility because, as believers, we cannot be complacent and content with our private devotions or individual faith. We must manifest it to everyone we meet. It is a faith that is to be shown in action, a faith that is to be shown in tangible love.
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - How do I measure my own success? Is my striving to “have more” or to “be more”?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 20:28-38; Jn 17:11-19
The prayer of Jesus continues with a prayer for the disciples. In the first verse today, Jesus prays for God’s protection for the disciples and the oneness that they must share. This unity must be like the unity that the Son, Jesus, shares with God, his Father. While Jesus was on earth, he was able to instruct his disciples on this unity and show it in his own words and actions. Now that he is going to the Father, he entrusts this teaching to God. The “world”, with its own set of values and way of proceeding, will try to draw the disciples away from the teaching of Jesus, much like it drew Judas Iscariot. Yet, he was the one who decided that he wanted to break away from the community and align with the “world” and so, made his choice. The disciples need to be given the same strength that Jesus had and be sanctified in the truth.
It is so easy to be sucked in by all that the “world” has to offer. The lure of money, riches, and the desire to have more, are tempting and inviting. Success is often measured by how much a person has rather than by how much he/she is. This results in a striving to possess more and more even, if at times, it is at the cost of someone else having less than is their due. The prayer of Jesus for his disciples must be read today in this context and we need to constantly ask ourselves if, as his disciples, the prayer that he made is having its desired effect on us.
Monday, May 18, 2015
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 20:17-27; Jn 17:1-11
Chapter 17, from which we will read today, tomorrow, and the day after, is titled “The High Priestly Prayer” of Jesus. However, this may also be seen as a farewell hymn of praise to God. This farewell is not simply the death of Jesus, but is the “departure” from this world, a return to the Father, after completing the work entrusted to him. It is thus a prayer of thanksgiving and confidence. Since is the last prayer before the Passion Narrative, which begins in Chapter 18, it must also be interpreted with this in mind. The intimacy that Jesus shares with the Father shines through every sentence of the prayer. Jesus speaks in this prayer directly to God.
The prayer is divided into three parts. In the first (17:1-5), though it seems that he is praying for himself, what Jesus is really doing is giving thanks to the Father for his graciousness and love. In the second part (17:6-19), Jesus prays for his disciples and, in the final part of the prayer (17:20-26), Jesus prays for those who will believe because of the disciples preaching, i.e. future generations of disciples.
The prayer begins with Jesus adopting a formal posture of prayer, looking up to heaven, and addressing God as “Father”. On the one hand, this shows that Jesus now distances himself from his disciples and, on the other, indicates the intimate relationship that Jesus shares with God. The announcement of the “hour” at the beginning of the prayer points to the fact that the prayer will be directed to God, keeping this in mind. It is the “hour” of glorification because during it, Jesus will obey God completely, and in that obedience, God will be revealed and glorified. Jesus, as Son, has revealed God’s gift of eternal life to all who were willing to receive it. Jesus has completed this work on earth and now, he has to return to the Father in order to complete the work of glorification.
The work of glorification included making the name of God known to all. Jesus has revealed the Father as Father and God as a God of unconditional and bountiful love. The disciples have been able to see God revealed in Jesus and thus, have kept God’s revealed word. Since Jesus is not going to be in the world in the same way in which he was with the disciples, he prays for their protection. This protection is to be manifested in the oneness that the disciples will share to show those who do not yet believe, that Jesus has indeed come from God and is with God.
Prayer is not primarily words, but an attitude. This is what Jesus displays in his prayer. The manner in which one addresses God displays the relationship that one shares with him. “Father” was the most intimate term for Jesus to use and it shows the oneness that he felt with God. Each of us has to find our own intimate term with which to address God. It is important to realize that, after Jesus, God can never be looked at with fear or trepidation, but only with confidence, courage, and hope.
Prayer does not begin with “me” but with God and his glorification. However, the glorification of God is complete when love abounds, because where love is, there God is. The effect of our prayer has to be seen in tangible love, expressed in deeds, like it was in the life of Jesus.