A scholarly attempt at an interpretation of Sunday's liturgical readings.

Archive for April, 2014

Is it really true?

Because of what is really out there in our world, we become aware that there are various challenges to our faith both in Jesus and in what he did.  Today’s Gospel, the second Sunday of Easter (John 20:19-31), offers us some suggestions of what we can do to encounter these challenges.

There are principally two themes that are particularly helpful:  (1)-The “resurrected” Jesus manifests himself to his disciples.  (2)-The case of the doubting Thomas.

First of all, the theme that the “resurrected” Jesus manifests himself to his disciples.  I emphasize the word “resurrected” because we clearly see that there was one Jesus before his death, and another one after his resurrection.  The time that Jesus was with his disciples, preaching and teaching and giving example of what the disciple should hope for, was a time of “promise.”  Jesus’ example of compassion, justice, forgiveness was what the disciples were to do to carry on his work.  Then Jesus was executed and the “promise” seems to have been totally dissapated.  There was great disappointment among the disciples.  What would happen now?

Having raised from the dead the son of the widow of Naim (Luke 7:11-16), the little girl (Mark 5:38-42), and Larazus (John 11: 38-44), Jesus showed that he had power over death.  So his own resurrection turned out to be another sign of this power.  BUT, along with the manifestation of the “resurrected” Jesus to his disciples, came the commitment given to the disciples.

As he manifested himself to his disciples in the locked room, he then entrusted his future ministry to them.  “AS the Father sent me, SO I also send you.”  And more to the point, “Recive the Holy Spirit.”  The Holy Spirit was not much more than the creative power of God enabling the disciples to carry on successfully the ministry of Jesus to the rest of the world. One has only to examine the biblical readings for Pentecost to see how it was done.

Secondly, regarding the theme of the doubting Thomas.  It turns out that Thomas needed proof in order to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead.  The next time Jesus manifested himself to his disciples in a room with locked doors, Thomas was with them.  One can almost visualize Jesus beckoning Thomas, with arched eyebrow and the “oncoming” wag of the finger saying, in effect, “Thomas, come here.”  He was told to put his finger in the hands that had been nailed, and his hand into the side which had benn opened by a sword.  The reality of the situation hit Thomas, which enabled him to say, “My Lord and my God.”  An act of faith. We often make that same act of faith at the elevation of the bread and wine during the Mass.  Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you come to believe in me because you have seen?  Blessed are those who have  not seen, and have believed.”  Conversion from doubt to faith.

It seems that we can learn something from this Gospel.  Regarding the first theme, the “resurrected” Jesus manifests himself to his disciples:  Though the “resurrected” Jesus manifests himself to us in many ways, it seems that the most significant way is through our BAPTISM.  It is at our Baptism that we are commissioned to continue the ministry of Jesus to the rest of the world, for example:  “As the Father has sent me, so I also send you.”  And then there is the gift of the Holy Spirit.  “Receive the Holy Spirit….”

Concerning the second theme, the doubting Thomas.  Thomas needed to see in order to believe.  He needed proof.  However, our FAITH helps us to understand who Jesus is and what he does, as long we pray for insight and study the biblical texts.  Our faith fulfills the promise made by the earthbound Jesus now through the “resurrected” Jesus by the nature of Baptism.

So the truth is that “Yes” it is certain that the resurrected Jesus is the same Jesus that travelled with his disciples before his execution.  At which time his example of justice, compassion, understanding and compassion is now commissioned to us, as we continue to manifest Jesus to others by nature of our Baptism and Faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Man Born Blind

Have you ever considered which of  the five senses would be for you the last to go?  I considered it for awhile, and finally decided that “sight” should be the one I would like to keep.  Perhaps it is because vision broadens one’s span for judgement.  Besides, I love looking at nature, watching movies/TV, and reading. “Vision” seems to bring  many of the senses together.

Given this as background, we can really sorry for the man born blind (John 9:1-41) who was never able to have seen any of the glories of nature.  However, in the Gospel account, the man born blind is given by Jesus not only physical sight but spiritual sight as well.  As we reflect on the Gospel reading, we notice that the principal theme is the standard antithesis, namely, “light vs darkness.”  Jesus called himself the “light of the world,” so it was his task to bring the light of undersanding into the darkness of ignorance.

First of all, there is physical vision.  When approached by the blind man, Jesus made some clay, put it on the man’s eyes and told him to wash in the waters of the pool at Siloam (saving water?).  There was a miracle!  However, the Pharisees were out to entrap Jesus.  They noticed that Jesus did the healing on the Sabbath which was not permitted.  So the Pharisees  stated that Jesus was not from God because he “broke the law.”  The healed individual praised Jesus because of what he had done, saying that Jesus could not have performed the miracle unless he was from God.  Once again, it was a quesiton of priorities.  Which is more important?  The law or the needs of the individual?  The lesson?  That we keep the same priorities that Jesus did, namely, the needs of a hurting person are more important than laws.

Secondly, we note in the Gospel reading a severe nod toward spiritual vision.  The healed person is asked by Jesus, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”  The answer was very much in the affirmative.  If one believes in Jesus, then one is committed to follow his example of compassion.  The lesson?  How is our spiritual vision in that we can “see” Jesus in others?  Perhaps it is the darkness of sin that blocks our spiritual vision.

Our Christian vision “sees” the importance of people over law, and also allows us to “see” Jesus in others, especially the marginal folk and the downtrodden.  Now, this is real inSIGHT which Lent can help us achieve.

 

 

The woman at the well

Back in the 1960s, when there was a folk music revival to deal with many world tensions, Peter, Paul, and Mary popularized a song about the woman at the well.  This, of course, was based on the biblical account (John 4:5-42).

I don’t remember the words exactly, but memory tells me that Jesus exemplified ways of dealing with tensions.  Some of these tensions were the fact that the Jews and the Samaritans did not get along, and it was not considered proper that men should initiate discussion with women.  A Jew chatting with a Samaritan woman?  What were the disciples to think?

However, we see evidence of Jesus testing the validity of these “traditions.” The Gospel is aware of the tensions which is manifested in the dialogue between Jesus and the woman at the well, and between Jesus and his disciples.  The first tension, that Jews and Samaritans weren’t supposed to get along, was challenged by Jesus at least a couple of times.  First, in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10: 28-37).  It is the Samaritan who shows compassion and undersanding to the man injured on the road, while the Jewish priest and Levite pass on by,not wanting to be bothered.  Also, when Jesus healed the ten lepers, the only one to come back and give thanks for the miracle was a Samaritan (Lk. 4:17-19).  So, even the Samaritans could be models of good behavior.

The second tension was that between law and people.  Which was the more important?  The woman at the well was a classic example.  Despite her past and present conditions, she was to become a fervent proclaimer of who Jesus was and what Jesus did.  But how did this happen?  First, Jesus takes the initiative by asking her for water.  Second, she is surprised by this “breaking of tradition.”  Thirdly, she cautiously enters the conversation.

The dialogue at the well was about “living water.”  Jesus said, “Whoever drinks the water that I shall give will never thirst.  The water I will give will lead to eternal life.”  Precisely what was the “living water” that Jesus would give leading to eternal life?  For water to be “living” it has to be flowing, that is “constantly on the move.”  Jesus was referring to his life and teaching, which were to be proclaimed constantly by his disciples–“constantly on the move.”

The woman, in spite of her rather lurid past, was open to listen to the voice of Jesus and thus became an effective disciple.  The lesson?  That we accept people whoever they are in spite of what they have done.  People are more important than laws.  Remember what Jesus said: “…The Sabbath was made for humankind and not humankind for the Sabbath.” (Mark  2:27)  This statement is based on a question of priorities.

Our “living water?”  First of all, it is our Baptism which makes us children of God and responsible siblings to one another.  Secondly, our responsibility is founded on the “living water” of Jesus’  life and teachings, namely, justice, compassion, forgiveness, and understanding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sehis responsibility is based on the “living water” of Jesus’ life and teaching

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