We plead with St. Joseph who knew how to handle all kinds of calamities and see his family safe to the shore to also come to our aid with his intercession and guidance.
Friday, 30 April 2021
Saturday, May 1, 2021 - St. Joseph the Worker - During this pandemic, we plead with St. Joseph to come to our aid
To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 1:26-2:3 or Col 3:14-15,17,23-24; Mt 13:54-58
The celebration of the feast of St. Joseph, the worker on the first day of May each year – when Workers Day or Labour Day is celebrated in many countries of the world - is a celebration of the saint and his work ethic, but also a celebration of the participation of humans in God’s work of creation. In this Joseph becomes an inspiration and model to workers of the meaning of hard work and earning one’s living through the sweat of one’s brow. It is also a celebration of the fact that just as creation is an extension of who God is, work is an expression of who humans are and are called to be. There is dignity of labour.
There are four points made in the letter to the Colossians chosen for the feast of St. Joseph the worker, which neatly summarize who Joseph was and continues to be.
The first of these is clothing of the self “with love which binds everything in perfect harmony”. Even the scarce details that the Gospels provide about Joseph are enough to conclude that Joseph did exactly this. This is evident from his response when he found out about Mary’s pregnancy before he had begun to live with her. He would have been justified in divorcing her and would have acted righteously, but he did not do that. Instead, love overcame the law and though he could not understand what had happened and how, he gave precedence to God’s will and not his own. Because he dared to do this and because he acted out of love Jesus could be born and in turn save the world.
The second aspect is the peace which comes from God. The English word ‘peace’ which is from the Hebrew ‘Shalom’ infuses every aspect of a person’s life. It includes the material, psychological, emotional and spiritual aspects. Indeed, peace is better translated as wholeness. In this regard Joseph was a person whose whole being was infused with peace. There was not a single aspect of his life which was not touched by God’s gratuitous grace. That this is true is evident in his constant listening to God even when he was asleep. As a matter of fact it was when he was asleep and dreamt in his sleep that all the revelations of his role in salvation history were revealed. He listened, assimilated and let God work in him. This peace resulted in the family of Nazareth becoming a model for families all over the world.
Gratitude or being thankful is the third aspect mentioned by the letter. This was a constant attitude of Joseph as is evident in his humility and his willingness to take second and even third place in the scheme of things. He preferred to stay in the background and would not look for commendation or praise. He did what had to be done and then realized that he did only what was required of him and that was that.
The fourth aspect is speaking and acting only as God would want one to speak and act. Just as God loves and showers that love without expecting anything in return, so Joseph showered his love on Mary and Jesus and indeed with all whom he came in contact. This is evident in the fact that he held no animosity towards Herod who was looking for ways to destroy Jesus (Mt 2:13-14) or even to the innkeepers because there was no room for them at the inn (Lk 2:7). Joseph had learned the art of already seeing his reward in the privilege that God had given him to be the foster father of Jesus. That was enough for him. He needed nothing else.
The Gospel text from Matthew informs us both about the profession of Joseph (Carpenter) and the fact that he was the father of Jesus. However, it is also a poignant text as is indicated by the response of Jesus. One reading of the text is that because they considered Jesus as merely the son of a carpenter, he could not be capable of doing the deeds that he was in fact doing. The Gospel of Mark states explicitly that Jesus too was a carpenter (Mk 6:3) and thus we can conclude that Jesus followed Joseph in this trade. It is likely that Jesus would have learned this trade from Joseph. We can gauge the kind of teacher that Joseph would have been from the way in which Jesus turned out. It is very likely that besides teaching him the carpentry trade, Joseph would also have taught Jesus about life itself and how to respond to the challenges that life would throw up.
During the time of the pandemic when there are millions all over the world who have been declared surplus or redundant because trade and business is almost as a standstill, we need the intercession of Joseph more than ever.
We plead with him who knew how to handle all kinds of calamities and see his family safe to the shore to also come to our aid with his intercession and guidance.
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 13:44-52; Jn14:7-14
These verses continue the teachings begun in 14:1. The one who knows Jesus also knows the Father for Jesus reveals the Father as Father. In Jesus, one sees the Father as never before because no one has revealed him like Jesus does. Like Thomas before him, now Philip does not understand what Jesus is saying and in his ignorance, asks a question. He does not realize that in seeing Jesus he has seen the Father because of the revelation that Jesus makes of the Father. In offering himself, Jesus has offered all the revelation that the disciples need to identify the Father.
Jesus can only do what the Father has told him and so his works are those of the Father. Philip and the other disciples must be able to see Jesus as the revelation of the Father, if not in his person, at least through the works that Jesus does. The works flow from his person and are not separate from him but an integral part of who Jesus is. The works, too, are works of revelation. They show that the primary aim of God is not to condemn but to save and so are works that enhance and build up.
Since it is Jesus who sends the disciples, the works that anyone who believes in Jesus will do will be the same as those of Jesus. In fact, these will be able to do even greater works than Jesus. These works will make known the whole story of Jesus as Word made flesh and so, will be greater than those which Jesus does. Since these will be done after the whole Christ event – death, resurrection, and ascension to the Father – they will continue the glorification of Jesus. They will continue to reveal Jesus to the world, sitting at the right hand of God. Jesus will answer every prayer of the disciples made in his name and he will grant their petitions
As Jesus made God known to the world through unconditional, magnanimous love, so the disciples are called to do the same. The works that Jesus did have to be continued today if Jesus is to be made present and is to be revealed to a world that does not yet know him. It is the present community of disciples that has the responsibility to continue the mission that Jesus began. Whenever an enhancing word is spoken, whenever an action that heals is done, whenever love is shown in a tangible manner, then the work of Jesus continues and Jesus continues to be made present.
To be sure, the revelation of God that Jesus made can also be recognized in the depths of one’s heart, but this is not the whole story. It is a love that must be shared and revealed to the world if it is to be complete and whole. The incarnation was not a private revelation given to a select few, but an earth shattering event made visible to the whole world. So the revelation of Jesus, today, has to be done visibly and tangibly.
Thursday, 29 April 2021
Friday, April 30, 2021 - Have you, by your narrow mindedness, prevented others from encountering Jesus? Will you realize that he is bigger than anything that you can ever imagine?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 13:26-33; Jn14:1-6
Today’s Gospel reading contains the first of the teachings of Jesus that speak about his departure and what it means for his disciples. At the beginning of these teachings, Jesus commands his disciples to stand firm. They are not to let the event of his departure overwhelm them. They are not to give in to despair, give up, or lose hope. They must continue to trust and believe. Even though it might seem, on the surface level, that evil is winning, the disciples must realize that God is always in charge and in control of all situations. They must place their trust in God and in Jesus. Since Jesus shares an intimate relationship with the Father, and since the disciples can do so too, there will be as many rooms as there are believers. God and Jesus will exclude no one who wants to share this relationship with them. Jesus goes, but only to return and so, his going is not permanent. It is a temporary act that must be done and completed. This going and returning will be evidence of his power over everything, including death. Nothing and no one will ever be able to separate the disciples from the love that Jesus has for them. The purpose of Jesus’ returning is to take the disciples to the place where he is: the bosom of the Father. Even as Jesus points to himself as the one who reveals the Father, Thomas misunderstands and asks a question. He interprets the words “where I am going” only as a physical destination and so, protests that, since he does not know the final destination of Jesus, it is not possible to know how to get there. Jesus corrects this misunderstanding with an “I am” saying. “The Way” is not a geographical term or physical road, it is Jesus himself. Thus, to know Jesus is to know the way and, to know the way is to know Jesus. In his being “the Way” Jesus is also “Truth” and “Life”. Jesus is the “Truth’ because he has been sent by God to make God’s word known. He became “flesh” and anyone who recognizes this and listens to his voice, is of the truth. Recognition of the truth in Jesus leads to “life” in abundance. Since the fullness of God’s life was revealed in Jesus, one can only partake of this life through Jesus.
It is important not to be too fundamental in interpreting the last verse of today’s reading. All too often, insistence on the exclusiveness of the Christian way has been responsible for problems in various parts of the world. The Gospels all agree that the approach of Jesus was all inclusive and excluded no one who would want to come to the truth. There is no doubt that Jesus revealed the Father in the most unique of ways, as no one before had ever done. This is because, in the incarnation, God took on “flesh” in all its weaknesses and limitations. Jesus did not simply put on human nature but became like us in every single way and thus, can understand every aspect of our lives. However, by the fact of the incarnation, Jesus also gave us an insight into who God is and who we are called to be. He made us aware of our own limitlessness. Though he limited himself, we must realize that Jesus is much bigger than the narrow image of him we often have. This narrow image is responsible for our restricting him and making him as small as we are.
John was writing about his community’s experience of seeing God in Jesus incarnate and was not concerned with showing the superiority of this revelation over any other or with the fate of believers of other religions. We must keep this in mind when interpreting the last verse of today’s text. We must, however, rejoice because we are privileged to receive such a unique revelation of God in Jesus Christ.
When one brackets out the questions that contemporary Christians falsely import into these verses, there is nothing outrageous or offensive about the claims made here. Rather, at the heart of Christianity is this affirmation of the decisive revelation of God in the incarnation. John 14:6 can thus be read as the core claim of Christian identity; what distinguishes Christians from peoples of other faiths is the conviction given expression in John 14:6. It is, indeed, through Jesus that Christians have access to their God.
Wednesday, 28 April 2021
Jesus’ act toward us, in love, manifested symbolically in the washing of the feet and sharing of bread, presents everyone who sits at his table with a choice: One can embrace Jesus’ gift to us and embody one’s embrace of that gift through one’s own acts of love or, one can turn one’s back on Jesus’ gift of love.
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 13:13-25; Jn13:16-20
These verses contain the second part of the discourse spoken by Jesus after he washes the feet of his disciples. In the first part (13:12-15), Jesus teaches his disciples about the meaning of his washing their feet, and the implications that this action has for their lives as his disciples.
In the second part of this discourse (13:16-20), Jesus teaches about discipleship in general and the relationship that the disciples share with him. The double Amen at 13:16, and at 13:20, forms an inclusion and so brackets and highlights what Jesus says in between. The disciples must remember that their role, in their relationship with Jesus, is that of servants to their master. If they understand this and act on it, then they will be blessed. They must, at every stage, know where their authority ends. The sayings which are highlighted by the inclusion are in 13:18-19 and contain a prediction of betrayal. Jesus is aware of who the betrayer is and also knows that it is not an outsider, but one who has eaten at table with him. Ps 41:9 is quoted here to accentuate the intimacy of the betrayal. The betrayer is someone whose feet he has washed, one with whom he has broken bread and one whom Jesus has loved to the very end. This foreknowledge of the betrayer also means that Jesus is in control of the events that lead to his death and is not taken by surprise. Another reason for informing his disciples about his betrayal, in advance, is so that they may realize who Jesus is: Son of God. Even as he is betrayed, he will reveal himself as God for us.
Since Jesus has been sent by God, he has God’s stamp and authority. The disciples, who are in turn sent by Jesus, have the authority and stamp of Jesus. Thus, if anyone accepts the disciples, they are in effect accepting Jesus. Just as Jesus shares fully in God’s work, so the disciples share fully in Jesus’ work of giving life to all and giving it in abundance.
Jesus’ act toward us, in love, manifested symbolically in the washing of the feet and sharing of bread, presents every one who sits at his table with a choice: One can embrace Jesus’ gift to us and embody one’s embrace of that gift through one’s own acts of love or, one can turn one’s back on Jesus’ gift of love. This means that merely sitting at Jesus’ table, and even eating the bread that he gives, is not the full story. It has to be continued in the giving of self to others and is only completed when this is done. We then enter into community with Jesus and with one another.
Tuesday, 27 April 2021
These verses are a call to decision and commitment. One has to decide for or against, one has to make a choice. If one does not make a choice “for”, one is, in effect, making a choice “against” because with Jesus, there is no middle way.
Wednesday, April 28, 2021 - Have you decided “for” or “against” Jesus? How will you show the choice that you have made?
To read the texts, click on the texts: Acts 12:24-13:5; Jn 12:44-50
Today’s Gospel reading contains the last public discourse of Jesus in the Gospel of John. It serves as the epilogue to, and summarizes the main themes of Jesus’ public ministry. The words are a proclamation, as indicated by the words “cried out” in 12:44, which begin the discourse. Jesus has been sent as the revelation of God and, though no one has ever seen God, the one who sees Jesus, sees God. Jesus makes God known in a way never known before. He is the unique revelation of the Father as Father since he is Son. His reason for coming into the world was not to hide but to reveal and hence, he came as light. All are invited to come to this light so as not to stay in darkness any longer. Since the invitation that Jesus gives is free, one is not compelled to accept it. Every individual is free to make his/her choice. There is no coercion or force or any kind of pressure to accept. One will not be judged, even if one rejects the invitation, since the prime purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world is not to judge, but to save. Though this is true, the ones who do not accept the true word spoken in Jesus will have to accept responsibility for the choice that he/she makes. Jesus keeps revealing all that the Father has asked him to reveal.
These verses are a call to decision and commitment. One has to decide for or against, one has to make a choice. If one does not make a choice “for”, one is, in effect, making a choice “against” because with Jesus, there is no middle way.
Monday, 26 April 2021
Tuesday, April 27, 2021 - Do you believe that God always wants what is best for you? How will you respond if things do not go the way you wish them to go today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 11:19-26; Jn10:22-30
The verses that begin today’s reading inform us that Jesus is in Jerusalem at the Feast of Dedication which was celebrated in December each year. This feast is the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. It celebrated the liberation of Jerusalem from the reign of the Syrian (Seleucid) king Antiochus Epiphanes. Antiochus had defiled the Jerusalem Temple in 167 BCE by building an altar to his own gods within the Temple sanctuary. In 165 BCE, Judas Maccabeus and his brothers regained control of the Temple and rededicated it to the God of Israel. The eight-day feast took place in the month December and was marked by the lighting of lamps and rejoicing.
The Jewish religious authorities begin the dialogue by asking Jesus whether he is the Messiah. They are annoyed that Jesus is not being explicit. This is the only place in the Gospel of John where Jesus is asked explicitly whether he is the Messiah. Jesus responds that he has been explicit and that he has told them, in no uncertain terms, the truth about himself and yet, they do not believe. Jesus then points to his ‘works” as indicators of this claim. “Works” here does not refer to miracles alone, but to the broader scope of Jesus’ ministry and includes the revelation of himself as having been sent by God.
Belief in Jesus determines whether one belongs to the fold of Jesus. Since the Jewish leaders do not believe, they cannot and do not belong to the fold. Those who belong to the fold hear the voice of the Shepherd and follow trustingly. Following Jesus leads to eternal life which he alone can give. The reason why Jesus can do this is because he has received this gift directly from the Father. What is more is that Jesus and the Father are one. This means that Jesus and God are united in their work of salvation and Jesus shares completely in God’s work.
We are privileged, as Christians, to have as our God one who is Good Shepherd, one whose primary interest and concern is to care for the good of the sheep. Our God is a God who wants to lead us to safety and to places where there is abundance. He wants what is best for us at all times and will do anything to protect us from any kind of harm. Though this is the case, we do not always listen to his voice and we prefer to go our own way. The only result that we can expect, after such a choice, is destruction and death.
Sunday, 25 April 2021
Monday, April 26, 2021 - What is the shepherd calling you to do today? Will you listen to his voice?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 11:1-18; Jn10:1-10
These verses contain part of the Discourse on Jesus, the Good Shepherd. This Discourse appears in the Gospel of John after Jesus has healed a blind man on the Sabbath, because of which, the Jews are upset (9:1-41). It is the last full discourse of the public ministry of Jesus. The Farewell Discourse from 14:1-16:33 is exclusively given to the disciples and not to the public.
The focus in the first part of the Discourse (10:1-5) is on the shepherd and his relation to the flock. A contrast is made between the authorized shepherd and the bandit. The authorized shepherd enters by the gate, but the bandit climbs in another way. The reason for this is because the gate keeper opens the gate for the authorized shepherd but not for the bandit. Since he is the authorized shepherd, the sheep hear and recognize his voice. When he calls, they answer. There is an intimate bond between the shepherd and his sheep. They recognize and know each other. The shepherd walks ahead of the sheep and leads them out. The sheep are confident in his leadership and thus, follow him trustingly. They will not follow a stranger but will rather run away from him. The comment of the evangelist serves two purposes. The first is that the reader must understand that Jesus is using a “figure of speech” and thus, not take the metaphor literally. The reader must realize that many meanings are possible and therefore, must go below the surface, to the deeper meaning. The second point is that the listeners did not understand this figure of speech. If seen in the context of the miracle, and the healing of the blind man on the Sabbath, and the Pharisees objection because the healing took place on the Sabbath, then it seems clear that the authorized shepherd is Jesus and the bandits are the objectors. Jesus has the good of the sheep at heart and the bandits do not.
In the second part (10:7-16), while pastoral imagery is still used, the Discourse moves in a new direction. Jesus is also the “Gate” for the sheep. The gate has two functions: one is to give access to those who are legitimate and have a right to enter, and the other is to prevent those whose intention is to cause destruction. Rightful entry into the fold is only through Jesus, who is the gate.
The text of today concludes with one of the most beautiful and comprehensive statements of the mission of Jesus. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and Gate. He has come to give life and give it to the full. All who listen to his voice will receive this life in abundance.
As the gate, Jesus is the way to life, but he is not merely that. He also leads the way and so, is the Good Shepherd. Jesus is the way to life because he is himself life and he leads the way to life because he lays down his own life. These are non-transferable attributes; they derive from the heart of Jesus’ identity as one sent by God.
Saturday, 24 April 2021
The readings of today therefore call each one of us to live out our lives according to the model of community envisioned here by Jesus. It is a model of mutual self-giving, of self-sacrifice and of living as a community. It is a model where the needs of the other take precedence over my own.
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 4:8-12; 1 Jn3:1-2; Jn 10:11-18
The fourth Sunday of Easter is traditionally known as Good Shepherd Sunday and it is easy to see why. In the eight verses of today’s Gospel, Jesus twice describes himself as the Good Shepherd. This clearly indicates that the thrust of these verses is on meaning of this term and also on the relationship of the shepherd and his sheep. Even as he describes himself as the Good Shepherd, he contrasts himself with the hired hand and through this emphasizes the qualities of the Good Shepherd.
Those of us who live in cities or towns may not be able to fully appreciate this allegory. Our experience of sheep leads us to see them as dumb creatures who are good only for their wool and as food on our tables. However, if we go beyond this superficial understanding and attempt to understand instead the deeper meaning then we will be able to appreciate more fully what Jesus means.
The adjective ‘good’ used here can also be read as “model” or “true” and so Jesus is saying that he is the model of true shepherd. This is a reference to the image of God as the good shepherd in the prophet Ezekiel. There God is described as the shepherd who cares for the sheep, rescuing them from danger, feeding them, tending to the weak sheep, healing the wounds of those who are injured and going after those who are lost.
Jesus as the model or true shepherd does all this and more. He even willingly, and of his own accord, lays down his life for his sheep. He does this not to earn a reward, but as an expression of the love that he has for the sheep which is an expression of love for the Father. This is why he in control of even his own death. No one can take his life, because he gives it up freely and without reserve. However, his death is linked inextricably with his resurrection and ascension, and it is through all these three events that he completes his work as good and true shepherd.
In contrast, the hired hand is the bad shepherd or untrue shepherd. This one is concerned only about his own welfare and not the welfare of the sheep. When such a one takes charge, the sheep are scattered and neglected, and go astray.
The good shepherd on the other hand gathers the sheep and keeps them together. He is concerned not only with the sheep that belong to his fold and so is not exclusive. There are other sheep also, who though not of the fold will listen to the shepherd’s voice because they will recognize it as a voice of unconditional love. They will know that their salvation lies in listening to this voice.
Some may find being compared with sheep derogatory. However, if we understand the metaphor for what it is and capture its essence, we will find that this need not be so. The challenge to the sheep is to listen to the voice of the true shepherd and not the hired hand. This means that in a world in which we hear so many voices, to discern the voice of the true shepherd is not easy. The voice of the shepherd calls first to unity. This unity is manifested in community living, in which each is concerned about the other much like the shepherd who is concerned about each and all. It is also manifested in imitating the true shepherd’s qualities of self-giving and self-sacrificing love. Such imitation of the shepherd will draw all sheep into one fold, in which differences in individuals will not be points of contention, but will be celebrated instead. In the fold of the true shepherd there will be a unity even in diversity, because the mission of the true shepherd is an inclusive one.
This is why Peter can invite the rulers of the people and elders whom he addresses in the first reading of today to join this community of love. It is a community that has one head, one true shepherd, Jesus Christ in whose name and through whose power wholeness occurs. Though he was rejected, crucified, died and was buried, he continues to draw all peoples to him through his resurrection and ascension and being present always.
This gift of being drawn to him is, however, only a foretaste of what is to come. In the second reading John tells his community that they are to receive the grace to see God as he is and will always be: unconditional love.
The readings of today therefore call each one of us to live out our lives according to the model of community envisioned here by Jesus. It is a model of mutual self-giving, of self-sacrifice and of living as a community. It is a model where the needs of the other take precedence over my own. It is a model in which differences are not frowned upon but celebrated. It is a model in which there is a profound unity even in diversity. It is a model grounded in the mutuality of love embodied in the relationship of Jesus and God.
Friday, 23 April 2021
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 9:31-42; Jn6:60-69
The text of today begins with the disciples grumbling after hearing what Jesus has said. The sayings are too difficult for them to accept. Jesus responds to their grumbling by issuing a challenge to them. If this affects them, they will be even more affected when they experience the death, resurrection, and ascension of the Son of Man. Jesus takes the disciples beyond the specific event of becoming and giving bread. He takes them to the whole of the Christ event and its mystery. Jesus, as Bread of Life, must be seen in the larger context of God’s plan of salvation through his Son.
The flesh, as flesh, and without the Spirit, is nothing. It cannot give live, nor does it have life. It is the Spirit that gives life and makes the flesh what it is. This means that simply eating the flesh of Jesus, without the right disposition, will not lead to life. Thus, those who eat and drink are not merely eating Jesus’ flesh and blood but the Spirit filled flesh and blood of Jesus. Even as Jesus offers the gift of life, through becoming bread, the gift is rejected because most prefer death. There are still those who will not believe. They have made their choice. God offers the gift of his Son to all, but not all will accept him. This is why many disciples drew back and no longer went with Jesus. This rejection leads Jesus to turn to the Twelve and ask them about their stand. They must choose whether they will accept or reject the offer of life that God makes in Jesus.
Simon Peter responds on behalf of the Twelve and at least verbally accepts that offer of life. He acknowledges that Jesus has the words of eternal life and that he is the Holy One of God, the one set aside by God.
Life always offers us choices. The choices that we are sometimes faced with might not always be what we desire, but the fact remains that we are free to choose. We can choose to be miserable or to be happy, we can choose to fear or to love, and we can choose to say No or to say Yes. Every choice that we make has its own consequences and we must be prepared to face them since it is we who have made the choice.
Thursday, 22 April 2021
It is not always easy to accept ideas which challenge our old way of thinking. Often our first reaction is rejection of that idea. We refuse to think outside the box, and are content with stereotypes with which we are comfortable.
Friday, April 23, 2021 - When someone places a new idea in front of you, is your first reaction one of rejection?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 9:1-20; Jn6:52-59
The first verse of today’s text, which contains the question that the “Jews” ask, is occasioned by the statement that Jesus makes in the previous verse. The agitation in their hearts is because Jesus has identified himself with the bread of life. Jesus replaces the manna that their ancestors ate.
Jesus addresses this protest in the verses that follow. The bread that is to be eaten is the flesh and blood of the Son of Man. Refusal to do this means death or non-life. Eating the flesh and drinking the blood results in life and resurrection on the last day. By not mentioning bread and wine and thus, not equating them with the flesh and blood of Jesus, John focuses on the corporeal and not only on the sacramental representations. He also wants to stress that Jesus gives his whole life to all who are willing to receive him. The flesh that Jesus gives is life giving and so is his blood. It is real food and drink that will end all hunger and thirst.
Eating of the flesh and blood of Jesus leads to a mutual indwelling. The one who eats and drinks abides in Jesus and Jesus abides in that person. This relationship is an extension of the relationship between Jesus and the Father. Just as Jesus lives the Father’s life, so all who eat and drink will live Jesus’ life. The penultimate verse concludes the Bread of Life Discourse and repeats a theme that has been prevalent throughout. The bread which Jesus gives has indeed come from heaven and will give life forever and give it permanently, unlike the manna which could offer only temporary life.
The reference to the synagogue in Capernaum is to highlight the difference between Jesus’ teaching and that of the Jewish teachers and the difference between the manna eaten by their forefathers and the Bread of Life that Jesus gives.
It is not always easy to accept ideas which challenge our old way of thinking. Often our first reaction is rejection of that idea. We refuse to think outside the box, and are content with stereotypes with which we are comfortable. We are comfortable with them because they do not threaten us or call on us to change. We prefer that our boats not be rocked. However, Jesus continues to rock the boat and challenge our ways of thinking and being. He continues to wake us from our stupor and keeps inviting us to see more and be more.
Wednesday, 21 April 2021
Thursday, April 22, 2021 - How will you show that you have accepted the gift that God gives in Jesus?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 8:26-40; Jn 6:41-51
The symbol of “bread” is misunderstood by the people. They respond with unbelief. They grumble at Jesus’ claim that he is the bread of life and has come down from heaven. They protest that they “know” where Jesus comes from, they are aware of his antecedents. Even as they make such a statement, they are unaware of its error. They “think” they know, but in reality do not know.
Jesus addresses the crowd and asks them to stop their grumbling and then repeats the promise made earlier of resurrection on the last day for the ones who will believe. To reiterate the point that he makes, Jesus appeals to scripture and specifically to the prophets. “And they shall all be taught by God” refers to the initiative that God takes. The emphasis is on God who does the teaching. This means that Jesus’ commission is divinely ordained and not from humans. If the ones who hear realize this, then they will come to Jesus and they will have learnt correctly. This means that, while God does take the initiative, humans are responsible for responding accurately.
Jesus shares a unique relationship with the Father and is the only one who has seen Him. Those who learn have to learn to see the Father in Jesus. They have to learn that it is in Jesus that they have eternal life and that he is indeed the Bread of Life.
By using the distancing “your ancestors”, Jesus makes a contrast between the manna that they ate and the bread of life that he gives. The manna their ancestors consumed could not result in saving them from death, but the bread that Jesus gives results in a person living forever. This is because the bread that Jesus gives is living bread, a life giving bread. The bread that he gives for the life of the world is his flesh. This can mean, on one hand, the incarnation, where the Word became flesh, but on the other, can refer to his death on the cross, when he will give his life for the life of the world.
The purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world was to reveal the Father as God who wanted to save all people. This results in God taking the initiative in the tangible way of sending his son to become flesh for all. Even as God takes the initiative, he leaves humans free to respond to his act of love. Humans always have a choice when it comes to the gifts that God gives. They can accept them or reject them. Acceptance means life, rejection means death. There is no middle way.
Tuesday, 20 April 2021
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 8:1-8; Jn6:35-40
Today’s text begins with the last verse that was read yesterday in order to place what follows in context. Jesus has stated that he is the Bread of Life and he invites all who are willing to come to him to be fully satisfied. The words “seeing’ and “believing”, which appear at 6:36 and again at 6:40 form an inclusion. The crowd has seen and yet has not perceived. They have not seen rightly and thus, cannot come to faith. This lack of proper vision is surprising when one realizes that Jesus’ primary purpose is not to hide but to reveal. He will welcome all who come to him. They will not be driven away. The purpose of his coming down from heaven is for the sake of revelation. This is the Father’s will and Jesus will do only what the Father commissions him to do. The Father’s will is inclusive and no one is to be excluded unless they want to exclude themselves. If one sees rightly and thus believes, what is gained is eternal life and resurrection on the last day. This promise combines both the present and the future.
These verses bring out powerfully the balance between divine initiative and human response. God takes the first step and remains open to anyone who is willing to come and receive the gifts that he wants to pour out. However, there will not be any coercion or pressure on the part of God. Those who come to receive from him must come freely and without reservation. The gift is ever available and free. It is not for a select few but for all.
Monday, 19 April 2021
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 7:51-8:1; Jn6:30-35
The invitation that Jesus issues to the crowd, to believe in him who was sent by God, results in the crowd asking for a sign. This demand is a clear indication that they have not grasped the meaning of Jesus’ words. They have been fed at the miraculous feeding but were not able to see it for the sign that it was meant to be. The crowd goes further in this demand by looking back at what happened in the desert during the Exodus and how their ancestors were fed. This seems strange, and even absurd, because they have been fed even more abundantly than their ancestors. This also points to how ignorant and even closed the crowd is to the revelation that Jesus continues to make.
Jesus does not remind them that he had already given them bread, but first corrects their misunderstanding. It was not Moses who gave their ancestors bread but his Father. This bread is not merely bread that was given in the past but it continues to be given in the present. It, and not the manna, is the true bread from heaven. It is true bread because it gives life to all who eat it.
Like Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman before them, the crowd does not fully understand what Jesus is really offering and so, make a request for this bread. They are convinced that this bread is better than the bread their ancestors ate, but do not understand how or why. Jesus is available to them and yet, they cannot see. He gives the bread once for all and, in doing so, gives the bread always. This is why Jesus can assert that He is the bread of life. This is the first time in the Gospel of John that the “I am’ saying is followed by a predicate nominative “the bread of life”. John’s Gospel often uses this distinctive way of revealing who Jesus is. The symbols that are used by Jesus in these sayings come from human and Near Eastern religious experience. The use of these common, everyday symbols results in conveying to all who will hear that Jesus can satisfy both the base and higher needs of people everywhere. These symbols indicate that the mystery of Jesus cannot be captured by any one symbol and that Jesus cannot be put into a well defined category.
The saying also contains an invitation to come to him and be sated. Though, on the one hand, the invitation refers to a physical eating and drinking and so satisfying human hunger and thirst, on a deeper level, the invitation is to listen to Jesus’ teaching and see in him the revelation of God and so, the fulfillment of all human needs.
Bread is the staple of many people all over the world and is used to represent the basic needs of people. By use of this symbol, Jesus reveals that his mission is to be available to all and for all. He does not belong exclusively to any one group and no group can ever capture him fully. He is available to all who are open to the revelation that he continues to make. The primary form that this revelation will always take is the form of love.
Sunday, 18 April 2021
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 6:8-15; Jn6:22-29
The first three verses of today’s text, which appear immediately after the miracle of walking on the water, serve as transition verses for the dialogue with the people and the discourse on the bread of life that follow. They also serve to bring the crowd, which had eaten at the miraculous feeding of the five thousand, back into the story and so, link Jesus’ words that follow with the feeding miracle and the miracle of walking on the water.
Since the crowd has not been privy to the miracle of Jesus walking on the water, they wonder how he got to the other side. Jesus does not answer their question but draws attention to their reason for seeking him. Though they have seen the sign that Jesus gave at the miraculous feeding, they were not able to perceive it because their attention was directed to the earthly and temporary, not to the heavenly and permanent. Even as they seek him for temporary food, Jesus invites them to a higher seeking. He asks them to seek for the food that only he can give, the food that endures forever. Jesus is competent to give this food because the Father himself has approved and set his seal on Jesus. In response to Jesus’ statement to not work for food that perishes, the crowd interprets the word “work” to mean certain actions that they must perform to acquire this food. Jesus corrects this misunderstanding by explaining what is meant by “work”. They must believe in Jesus who has been sent by God.
Believing in Jesus does not only mean a verbal profession of faith. In the Gospel of John, the term believing is, most often, used to describe faith that shows itself in action. This is why believing is akin to work. Jesus does not provide merely physical nourishment, but also nourishment of the mind, heart, and spirit. To know and believe in Jesus is to be sated in every aspect of life. It is to never lack or want anything, because all things are provided in him.
Saturday, 17 April 2021
The hands and side that Jesus showed his disciples are visible today in each of us who claim to be his disciples. These are shown to the world as “proof” not only of the fact that Jesus is alive, but that in his name, forgiveness is even now being preached.
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 3:13-15, 17-19;1 Jn 2:1-5; Lk 24:35-48
The last verse of today’s Gospel “You are witnesses of these things”, sets not only the theme for the readings of today, but also summarizes both the privilege and responsibility of being witnesses.
The question, however, is to what are the disciples to witness? To whom must they witness? They are called to witness clearly to the person of Christ – specifically to his death and resurrection and also to the fact that in his name forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed to all.
Jesus shows this to them in two ways. The first is in the manifestation of himself. Even as he stands in their midst, he greets them with the greeting of peace. This greeting coming from the risen Lord is more than merely a greeting. It is a gift, a surety, a tangible thing. It refers to wholeness and embraces every aspect of life. It is a gift that will sustain them in all their endeavors and encourage them in mission. After the gift of peace, Jesus responds to their shock and amazement by convincing them that he is not a spirit, but flesh and blood. He is the same Jesus who died and was buried who is now raised. The second way in which Jesus reveals the content of their witness is in the instructions he gives them concerning mission.
Their Mission is not different from his. It is at one with and continues the Mission that Jesus himself inaugurated. The disciples are called to proclaim not merely Jesus’ death and resurrection but also that precisely because of this Christ-event all people everywhere have been forgiven, accepted and loved. The disciples are called to proclaim that the name Jesus means that God saves from sin.
Peter understood this message clearly as is evident in his address to the people gathered in the Temple. Though Jesus was rejected, despised and killed for no fault of his, yet, the God who raised him forgives all those involved in their heinous act. Because they have received this unconditional forgiveness in Jesus’ name, they are called to a metanoia, a change of mind, heart and vision. The acceptance of God’s forgiveness must result in a transformation.
This idea is reiterated by John in the second reading of today in which he exhorts the community to realize that because Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, the response to such a death must be a life well lived. This is shown by obedience to the command that Jesus taught, that all love one another as brothers and sisters. This is how love for God and Jesus is shown.
“You are witnesses of these things”, is a declaration that Jesus continues to make even today. We who have experienced God’s unconditional love in Jesus are called to proclaim – like the first disciples – both the Christ event and that in Jesus’ name, God continues to forgive, accept and love. However, this forgiveness cannot be proclaimed if we have not first experienced it ourselves. It is strange but true that the only way we can experience forgiveness is, if we first forgive. The Lord’s Prayer which is one of the most common and well-known prayers makes the same point. We ask the Lord to forgive us only as we forgive. In other words, we will not be in a position to receive God’s forgiveness if our hearts are filled with unforgiveness. In the creed of the Catholic Church, belief in the forgiveness of sins stands besides belief in the Holy Catholic Church and the communion of saints which indicates how central this aspect is to being Christian.
Psychologists and doctors today tell us that the larger majority of our illnesses today are psychosomatic. This means that when the “inside” (psuchç) of a person is affected then the “outside” (sōma) will also be affected. One of the main reasons why the “inside” gets affected is because of lack of forgiveness and holding on to hurts and resentments.
The hands and side that Jesus showed his disciples are visible today in each of us who claim to be his disciples. These are shown to the world as “proof” not only of the fact that Jesus is alive, but that in his name, forgiveness is even now being preached. It is significant that the content of the preaching, even after the resurrection of Jesus, is to be forgiveness, because that is why Jesus came into the world; to save people from their sins. This forgiveness can be preached and made real only if we bear witness to it through our lives.
“Forgive”, I am fond of saying, “it is good for your health”.
Friday, 16 April 2021
Saturday, April 17, 2021 - When the road is steep and the going is difficult, will you continue to believe that God walks with you or will you give in to despair? When things do not go the way you want them to, do you believe that God comes to your aid?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 6:1-7; Jn 6:16-21
Luke is the only one of the four evangelists who does not narrate the story of Jesus walking on the water. In Matthew (14:22-32), and Mark (6:45-51), like in John, the miracle is narrated immediately after the feeding of the five thousand. John’s account of the miracle is the shortest of the three.
The story begins by portraying the disciples in a boat moving towards Capernaum. The statement that “it was now dark” indicates, on the surface level, the time of the day, but on the deeper level, the absence of Jesus. It is always “dark” for John when Jesus is absent. The rough sea and the strong wind make rowing difficult. Suddenly, the disciples see Jesus walking on the water, coming towards them. In the Old Testament, only God has the power to walk on the waters (Job 9:8; Isa 43:2), and so, this act on the part of Jesus, already reveals him as divine. John does not give us the reason why the disciples were terrified. Matthew (14:26) and Mark (6:49) explain the fear of the disciples by saying that they thought they saw a ghost.
As Jesus comes close to the boat, he identifies himself to the disciples with the divine name, “I Am”. This is the name that God gave to Moses when Moses asked God for the name that he must give to the Israelites when asked (Exod 3:14). In addition to identifying himself with the divine name, Jesus says to the disciples, “Do not be afraid”. These are words of comfort and consolation and, here also, function to allay the fears of the disciples who are in awe after witnessing a theophany. Even as the disciples want to take Jesus into the boat, they realize that they have reached their destination. The presence of Jesus assures them a safe passage through all the storms.
Thus, the point of the miracle is not so much to stress the miraculous powers of Jesus, but to reveal Jesus as God. The glory of God is revealed in Jesus and here, God is portrayed as a God who is for the disciples and with them in all their struggles and tribulations. He is a God who comes to the disciples’ aid when they need him and allays all their fears. He is a God who will provide a safe passage for them even in the midst of all the storms they encounter in life.
Life is composed of ups and downs. It is easy to see God’s hand and his working in our lives when everything goes as we plan. However, when the going gets tough and the road is difficult, God seems, to us, to hide himself. It is at times like these when suddenly, without our knowing how, Jesus comes walking on the water towards us, allaying our fears and telling us that HE IS. He is God with us and for us, God who walks with us and ahead of us. He is God who will never let the storms of our lives overwhelm us. We have only to open our eyes and see, and get rid of the fear that grips us, because we have a God who himself has gone through the storms of life. We have a God who, even in the most difficult moments of his life, continued to believe that the Father was with him. We have a God who has shown us the meaning of trust, confidence, and courage.
Thursday, 15 April 2021
Many of us are still searching for meaning in life. The hunger that some of us experience is not only a physical hunger, but a hunger of mind and heart. We keep looking to satisfy this hunger and at times, try to do so by using means that can only satisfy temporarily. No matter what questions we may have, Jesus continues to be the answer.
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 5:34-42; Jn6:1-15
The miracle of the feeding of the five thousand ,with five loaves and two fish, after which 12 baskets are gathered, is the only miracle of Jesus that is narrated by all the four Gospels (Mt 14:13-21; Mk 6:30-44; Lk 9:10-17). Yet, there are significant differences in the narrative in the Gospel of John when compared with the Synoptic Gospels. Only in John are we told that the Passover was near at hand and that it was a boy from whom the barley loaves were acquired for the feeding. In John Jesus “gives thanks” over the bread and distributes it to the people himself. This lends a distinctive Eucharistic touch to the miracle. In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus says the “blessing” and gives the bread to the disciples who distribute it among the people.
When Jesus sees the large crowd, it is he who initiates the miracle by asking Philip the question about the possibility of feeding such a large crowd. This question, however, is asked as a test, which Philip fails. His answer sets limits on what God can do, much like Nicodemus had done. He asserts the impossibility of the situation. Andrew seems not as unbelieving as Philip, yet he, too, thinks that it is impossible to feed so many with the meager ration that is at their disposal.
John does not explain how the miracle occurred, but states succinctly that the crowd was ordered to sit down and, after Jesus had given thanks over the bread, there was enough and more for the five thousand. By stating that Jesus gave the bread to the people himself, John asserts that the gift of food comes from Jesus, who alone is the bread of life.
Jesus’ words in 6:12, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost”, are unique to the Johannine version of the miracle and make an important connection between this story and the manna story of Exodus 16. In Exod 16:19, Moses asked that the people not leave any extra manna around, but the people disobeyed Moses and the leftover manna “bred worms and became foul” (Exod 16:20). Jesus’ words, in 6:12, seem to caution against a repetition of Exodus 16.
The people who are fed respond to the miracle only at a surface level. They are taken up with the sign and base their faith on it. This sign results in their wanting to make Jesus king. However, Jesus will not trust himself to those who base their faith in him only in the signs that he works.
To ask the question - “How did five loaves and two fish suffice to feed five thousand people? - would be to miss the point. The “how” question cannot be answered, because none of the evangelists narrate “how” it happened. The concentration seems to be on Jesus as the bread of life, able to sate the hunger of all who come to him. The question to Philip, Andrew’s intervention, Jesus ordering that the people sit down, his “giving thanks” and distributing the bread to the people himself, are all indications that John focuses on the preparation for the miracle more than on the miracle itself. The fact that all five thousand people are satisfied and twelve baskets can be gathered after they have eaten their fill, points to the abundance of the miracle and Jesus’ free gift of bread and himself. God, in Jesus, will satisfy every kind of hunger of the people. The hungry and thirsty need not look elsewhere for bread. They have it in abundance in Jesus.
Many of us are still searching for meaning in life. The hunger that some of us experience is not only a physical hunger, but a hunger of mind and heart. We keep looking to satisfy this hunger and at times, try to do so by using means that can only satisfy temporarily. No matter what questions we may have, Jesus continues to be the answer.
Wednesday, 14 April 2021
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 5:27-33; Jn 3:31-36
These verses contain what some think is John’s final witness to Jesus. Others see them as the words of Jesus or the Evangelist. If the words are regarded as that of John, then the “one from above” refers to Jesus and “the one from the earth”, to John. If they are interpreted as the words of Jesus, then the same refer to Jesus and the Jewish leaders. In either case, it is clear that Jesus is the one from above. The testimony of both John and Jesus was rejected by some to whom it was made. To accept the testimony of John and Jesus is to trust God, since it is God himself who sent both. While John was sent to bear witness to the light, Jesus was the light to whom John bore witness. Jesus, having been sent by the Father, speaks what he has been commanded to by the Father. He has received the gift of the Spirit and so is able to gift the Spirit to others. The relationship between the Father and the Son is one of unconditional love. This love results in the Father handing over all things to the Son. Thus, to believe in the Son means to have life, to reject the Son means to call death on oneself.
Whether we regard the words as those of Jesus or of John, what is striking is that each witness to the one he has been called to witness to. John was called to witness to Jesus, and he does this perfectly. Jesus was called to witness to the Father, and he does this like no one before him could ever do. The lives of both John and Jesus resulted in many being drawn to Jesus and to his Father.
Tuesday, 13 April 2021
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 5:17-26; Jn3:16-21
The first verse of today’s text is one of the most well known verses in the entire Bible. It speaks of the unconditional love of God which was made visible and tangible in sending his Son into the world. This was a free gift of God which was accepted by some but rejected by others. The sending of the Son was so that all may have eternal life. The primary purpose of sending the Son was not to condemn, but to save. Yet, every person is free to decide whether he/she wants this free gift. Acceptance of the gift of the Son of God results in salvation, rejection means that one condemns oneself.
Though the light has come, and people should normally have opted for it, some preferred the dark. The reason why they did is because they did not want either their deeds or their person to be exposed. Fear ruled their hearts. Those who opted for the light opted for freedom and love.
It is unthinkable that God would choose the manner of salvation that he did when he sent his Son to save. God could have, like he did in the past, sent yet another messenger or even a message. Yet, he opted for the most extreme of measures when he sent a part of himself. It is even more stunning that this son was sent, not to judge, but to draw people to God through love and forgiveness. The primary task of Jesus, as his name suggests, was to be salvation to all. The all inclusive nature of this salvation, and its availability to the whole human race, is something that is possible only for God.
Monday, 12 April 2021
Tuesday, April 13, 2021 - Have you been tempted to give up or give in when things do not go the way you want them to go? Will you see in the cross you are carrying your own exaltation?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 4:32-37; Jn3:7-15
The text of today repeats the last two verses of yesterday in order to situate the question that Nicodemus asks in the following verse. To Jesus’ statement that it is necessary for a person to be born of water and the spirit, or from above, and that this birth, like the wind/spirit is a mystery that cannot be fully grasped, Nicodemus responds with amazement. His question once again begins with “How”. This indicates the limits that Nicodemus sets even before any revelation can be made to him. This is the last time that Nicodemus will speak. He begins with “How” and ends with “How”. He does not seem to have been able to go to the deeper meaning and mystery to which Jesus was taking him. Though he is a teacher himself, he has refused to learn and so, cannot understand.
Through the monologue that follows, Jesus renews the offer of new birth through his death, resurrection, and ascension. The “we” of Jesus, in the Gospel context, stands for Jesus, John the Baptist, and the disciples of John, who followed Jesus and witnessed to him. These witnesses speak from their own experience; what they know, they say. If Nicodemus is not able to understand the simple things, like being born from above and with water and the spirit, how will he able to understand even greater mysteries than this? Jesus alone has the authority to make the revelation of heavenly things since he has come from heaven. He has the power on earth to reveal things of heaven. In 3:14, for the first time, we come across what may be regarded as a passion, resurrection, and ascension prediction in the Gospel of John. Jesus will be lifted up/exalted, just as Moses lifted up/exalted the bronze serpent in the wilderness. The word “hupsoo’ can mean “lift up” or exalt”. Thus, while the word might indicate the physical act of “lifting up” the cross beam at the time of his crucifixion, it can also mean his “exaltation”. Thus, in his crucifixion, Jesus will also be exalted, yet there is no exaltation apart from the crucifixion. The consequence of believing in Jesus lifted up/exalted is eternal life, which here means a life lived in the constant presence of God.
It is significant that for the Gospel of John, the very act of the crucifixion is also seen as the act of the resurrection and ascension. Jesus dies, but only to be raised to life and ascend to the Father. This insight is extremely important for our lives as well, because it means that, if we accept it, our lives will never be the same again.
It says to us that, even when we are in extremely difficult situations and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel, God continues to be there with us. It says to us that, at moments when we think all is lost and we have no hope, we must not give up or give in. It says to us that, even at those times when we cannot fully understand why things happen the way they do and we are tempted to throw in the towel, God continues to offer hope and consolation.
Sunday, 11 April 2021
Monday, April 12, 2021 - Have you, like Nicodemus, set limits on what God can and cannot do? Will you open yourself to “mystery” today? How will you show through three actions today that you are born from above?
To read the texts read the texts: Acts 4:23-31; Jn3:1-8
The first twenty one verses of Chapter 3 contain the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus and a discourse of Jesus. The text of today contains the dialogue.
The first verse introduces Nicodemus as a Pharisee and leader of the Jews. While on the one hand, Nicodemus comes to Jesus and indicates a desire to seek and find, on the other hand, he comes at night. Night, in the Gospel of John, is used in opposition to light and represents separation from the presence of God.
Nicodemus begins the dialogue by making a statement about Jesus’ identity. In addressing Jesus as “Rabbi” (Teacher) he acknowledges Jesus right to teach. He goes even further in acknowledging that Jesus is God’s emissary. However, this affirmation is based on the signs that he has witnessed and Jesus does not entrust himself to those whose faith is based on signs. Nicodemus does not realize that what he has says about the origins of Jesus has a much deeper meaning than the one he means. Jesus is not merely an emissary of God, but has his origin in God. The “we’ of Nicodemus is to indicate that he does not speak for himself alone, but for the community that he represents.
Jesus does not respond directly to Nicodemus’s acknowledgement of him, but challenges him with a teaching of depth. Jesus’ used of the Greek word “anothen” is a classic case of double meaning with which the Gospel of John abounds. In this technique, Jesus uses a word which can have two meanings. The listener always picks the base or literal meaning while Jesus means the deeper meaning. “Anothen” can mean “from above” or “again”. By use of this word, Jesus challenges Nicodemus to move from the base or surface meaning to the deeper meaning and understanding. Nicodemus does not make this move and interprets the word at its surface level. Thus, he sets limits on what is and is not possible. He questions the possibility of a person entering his/her mother’s womb since he interprets “to be born anothen” to mean “to be born again”. Jesus, however, speaks of a radical new birth from above.
To explain further what he means, Jesus uses another set of images; “water and the spirit”. This is an indication that, while on the one hand, entry into the kingdom will require physical birth, through water, it will also require more. It will require a spiritual birth, by the spirit. Entry into the kingdom will require being born from above or by water and the spirit. Like the wind/spirit which blows where it wills and can be felt and heard but not seen, so is birth by the spirit a mystery that cannot be comprehended fully by finite minds.
There are two related points that this text invites us to reflect on. The first of these is the attitude of Nicodemus when he comes to Jesus. His opening “We know” is already an indication that he has come with preconceived notions and not with openness. It also indicates that he is of the opinion that he does not need to learn anything. This is a dangerous attitude for one to have. Learning never ends. While books, experiences, and the like teach us a number of things, there are many things that we still do not know. We need to realize this and, with this realization, must come an openness and desire to learn.
The second and related point is the questions that Nicodemus asks. His closed attitude prompts him to set limits on what God can and cannot do and his “we know’ soon takes the form of “How can”. He is unwillingly to let God be God. His categories are all well defined and no amount of explanation will break through them. Sadly, he starts with “How can’ and ends with the same words.
Saturday, 10 April 2021
The verses which make up the Gospel text for today may be seen to be divided into four parts, all of which are interconnected. The first of these is the appearance of the Risen Christ to his disciples, and this is followed by his commission to them. The third is the appearance of the Risen Christ to the disciples when Thomas is present. The final part is the comments made by the evangelist.
The disciples did not believe the word of Mary Magdalene that the Lord had appeared to her and so, they are behind closed doors. However, even closed doors do not pose a hindrance to Jesus. He comes into their midst. His first words to the disciples are his gift of peace. This is not merely a wish, but a gift, since it is with his peace that they will be sent out into the world. This gift enables them to substitute fearlessness for their fear, courage for their cowardice, and joy for their sorrow. The manifestation of his hands and side is to indicate to them that there is continuity. It is not a different Jesus who appears to them, but the same Jesus, who was crucified, died, buried, and raised from the dead. He is now, also, the Risen Christ. This manifestation enables the disciples to see and recognise him. This is the reason for their joy.
However, the manifestation serves another purpose as well, which is to send the disciples on mission. The disciples are sent by Jesus, the Risen Christ, just as Jesus was sent by the Father. In other words, they are to continue the mission that Jesus began. As he received the gift of the Spirit before his ministry, so too, the disciples receive the gift of the Spirit from Jesus. The breath of Jesus on the disciples makes them a new creation and readies them for their mission that is to forgive and retain sin.
While this has been understood as a basis for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, it seems, from the text, that the mission is much deeper. The Commission is to “the disciples”, which, in the Gospel of John, is a much larger group than the eleven or twelve. It involves the entire faith community. It is the whole community that is called to continue the mission of Jesus. This mission is not merely the forgiveness or retention of sins that individuals commit. It is more than that. In the Gospel of John, sin is, more often than not, a theological failing. It is the refusal to believe that Jesus is the manifestation of the Father. It is the refusal to believe that Jesus reveals God as no other does. Thus, when the disciples are commissioned to forgive and retain sin, what they are really commissioned to do is reveal God to the world as Jesus did. They will reveal God to the world by the love they have for one another, and by the love they show to others. They will make others see that God is, indeed, love. They will, through their actions, invite others to share in this unconditional love. Those to whom this manifestation is made are free to accept or to reject it. It is in this acceptance or rejection that sins are forgiven or retained. Acceptance means forgiveness. Rejection means that sins are retained.
This interpretation is confirmed when we realise that one reason why Thomas did not believe the disciples when they told him that they had seen the Lord, was because he was not able to see in their words and actions a manifestation of the love of Jesus. They were as they had been before the revelation that Jesus made to them. There did not seem to be any marked change in their behaviour. They were not able to convince him that the Lord had, indeed, appeared to them. However, Jesus will use, for Thomas, that way which will bring him to faith. In this, Thomas is as “doubting” as the disciples and no more so. Thus, in this scene, the focus of attention is not Thomas, but Jesus. The focus is on the generous offer of himself that Jesus makes to Thomas, an offer that Jesus made to so many others, so often in his life time. After his resurrection, Jesus continues to give. Thomas responds with the most powerful, complete and the highest acclamation for Jesus found in the Gospels: “My Lord and my God!” Jesus is, indeed, Lord and God. The words of Jesus to Thomas after the acclamation include future generations of believers. It is not necessary to have external sight to come to faith. It is not necessary to touch and to feel to come to faith. It is not necessary to have tangible evidence to come to faith. We, who believe without having seen, are invited, like Thomas and the other disciples, not merely to believe in the resurrection, but to believe in the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God. We are invited to believe in his unique relationship with God. We now have life in abundance because Jesus has completed his work on earth and returned to the Father.
He is, as the second reading of today informs us, the one who has been raised by the father. He who was dead is alive forever and it is he who holds the keys of the kingdom. It is the same Lord who gave Peter and the first disciples the power to heal and make whole. It is the same Lord who gave Peter and the disciples the power to reach out in love. It is the same Lord who gave Peter and the disciples the power to make him manifest in their every word and action so that others will be brought to believe.
It is the same Lord who gives us this power today. What will we do with it?