Gospel: JN 7:40-53
Some in the crowd who heard these words of Jesus said,
“This is truly the Prophet.”
Others said, “This is the Christ.”
But others said, “The Christ will not come from Galilee, will he?
Does not Scripture say that the Christ will be of David’s family
and come from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?”
So a division occurred in the crowd because of him.
Some of them even wanted to arrest him,
but no one laid hands on him.
So the guards went to the chief priests and Pharisees,
who asked them, “Why did you not bring him?”
The guards answered, “Never before has anyone spoken like this man.”
So the Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived?
Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him?
But this crowd, which does not know the law, is accursed.”
Nicodemus, one of their members who had come to him earlier, said to them,
“Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him
and finds out what he is doing?”
They answered and said to him,
“You are not from Galilee also, are you?
Look and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”
Then each went to his own house.
Jesus’ message of love and salvation is powerful, but sometimes His message is overshadowed by what is going on in His life. In today’s Gospel, the people in the crowd get so caught up in who Jesus is and where He comes from that they do not really take the time to pay attention to His message. The people complaining that He can’t be who He says He is don’t have the correct information. For example, they say that the Messiah will be of David’s lineage and not from Galilee, but they are unaware that Jesus was, in fact, born in the very place where David comes from, Bethlehem. Because they have these facts wrong, they are now ready to have Jesus arrested and put into jail without any other evidence against him. Nicodemus steps up and says, “Does our law condemn a person before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?”
This is exactly what the crowd is doing and what I think we so often do today. We are quick to judge individuals based on their clothes, their friends, their favorite music, or other trivial characteristics that don’t really give insight into a person’s soul, heart or depth of feeling. Jesus is the model of a poorly treated person. He was judged for the wrong things. His message was one of peace and love; he wanted us to “turn the other cheek” and “do unto others.” Where He was born and the clothes He wore should have no effect on that message. How often do we comment on the way someone looks or the clothes that person wears before we get to know the person or come to know what he or she stands for? And isn’t that what is most important? Jesus tells us in Luke, Chapter 12, that we should not worry about what we wear and that we should store our treasures in heaven, where our hearts shall be. We need to follow our hearts when it comes to listening to the correct messages and words.
I find it easy to teach teenagers about Jesus. They understand and are drawn to His message. My students relate to being criticized or not accepted for the clothes they wear, or the music they listen to, but like Jesus, they know there is so much more to a person than what is merely on the surface.
Gospel: JN 7:1-2,10,25-30
Jesus moved about within Galilee;
he did not wish to travel in Judea,
because the Jews were trying to kill him.
But the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near.
But when his brothers had gone up to the feast,
he himself also went up, not openly but as it were in secret.
Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said,
“Is he not the one they are trying to kill?
And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him.
Could the authorities have realized that he is the Christ?
But we know where he is from.
When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.”
So Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said,
“You know me and also know where I am from.
Yet I did not come on my own,
but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true.
I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.”
So they tried to arrest him,
but no one laid a hand upon him,
because his hour had not yet come.
When I was praying with the scripture passage from John, the following line kept speaking to me: “But we know where he is from.” It made me reflect, unfortunately, on the times that I judge people because I know “where they are from.” How many times have I formed an opinion about someone because of the section of the city where someone grew up, the schools that someone attended or the family that a person is born into?
When I entered religious life in 1984, I asked if I could work at Hope House in the St. Thomas Housing Projects to teach GED as well as bookkeeping because I knew that I needed to grow in a way that I never had the opportunity to be stretched. I learned so very much from the people that I was teaching. When I find myself forming judgments about someone due to who they are, the schools they attended are where they live. I recall how I grew while ministering to the folks at Hope House.
Good and loving God, I ask for the graces not to judge folks by my preconceived ideas but to accept everyone as God accepts and loves me. I pray that all of us can welcome each individual into our life as God loves us. May we not be threatened but differences but welcome differences as an invitation to grow and encounter God. Amen!
Gospel: JN 5:31-47
Jesus said to the Jews:
“If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not true.
But there is another who testifies on my behalf,
and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true.
You sent emissaries to John, and he testified to the truth.
I do not accept human testimony,
but I say this so that you may be saved.
He was a burning and shining lamp,
and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light.
But I have testimony greater than John’s.
The works that the Father gave me to accomplish,
these works that I perform testify on my behalf
that the Father has sent me.
Moreover, the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf.
But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form,
and you do not have his word remaining in you,
because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent.
You search the Scriptures,
because you think you have eternal life through them;
even they testify on my behalf.
But you do not want to come to me to have life.
“I do not accept human praise;
moreover, I know that you do not have the love of God in you.
I came in the name of my Father,
but you do not accept me;
yet if another comes in his own name,
you will accept him.
How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another
and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God?
Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father:
the one who will accuse you is Moses,
in whom you have placed your hope.
For if you had believed Moses,
you would have believed me,
because he wrote about me.
But if you do not believe his writings,
how will you believe my words?”
What are Your Credentials?
To better understand John 5:31-47, it helps to know the passages that come before it. John 5:31 follows one of Jesus’ healing miracles, which He performed on the Sabbath. Because of it, the religious authorities challenged his credentials.
Jesus knows that the message He brings – that He is God incarnated– is a hard one to believe. He needs to be believable – so He gives them His credentials. He points to John the Baptist as a witness and references Holy Scripture as proof, but He also knows that it will be His actions even more than His words that will move people. His actions – His miracles – His love - are His credentials.
What are my credentials? Who do I claim to be? Do my actions match my words? Who will testify to my Christianity? These are questions I asked myself as I read John 5:31-47. I pray that my actions speak to my Christianity. I pray that those who speak of my credentials are able to speak words of faith, hope, and love. I pray that in my ministry I will always remember the words of St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all times and, when necessary use words.” Or, in more secular language, that I “walk the talk” in my life as a Catholic schoolteacher.
Gospel: JN 5:17-30
Jesus answered the Jews:
“My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.”
For this reason they tried all the more to kill him,
because he not only broke the sabbath
but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God.
Jesus answered and said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you, the Son cannot do anything on his own,
but only what he sees the Father doing;
for what he does, the Son will do also.
For the Father loves the Son
and shows him everything that he himself does,
and he will show him greater works than these,
so that you may be amazed.
For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life,
so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes.
Nor does the Father judge anyone,
but he has given all judgment to the Son,
so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.
Whoever does not honor the Son
does not honor the Father who sent him.
Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word
and believes in the one who sent me
has eternal life and will not come to condemnation,
but has passed from death to life.
Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here
when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God,
and those who hear will live.
For just as the Father has life in himself,
so also he gave to the Son the possession of life in himself.
And he gave him power to exercise judgment,
because he is the Son of Man.
Do not be amazed at this,
because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs
will hear his voice and will come out,
those who have done good deeds
to the resurrection of life,
but those who have done wicked deeds
to the resurrection of condemnation.
“I cannot do anything on my own;
I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just,
because I do not seek my own will
but the will of the one who sent me.”
How Quickly We Become Aimless Wanderers
I will never forget what seemed to be the most dramatic night of my life, when my older brother, Arthur, at age 7, decided to run away from home. Most of us have been there before, mom and dad punish us for not eating all our dinner and we think our lives are completely OVER. So Arthur did what every 7 year old boy who is running away would do, packed his Ninja Turtles backpack with his favorite action figures, hot wheels cars, and a change of underwear. He didn’t get far before stopping at the corner and sitting under the street light, only 2 houses away. We assumed what my dad was going to do was force him to come back, but instead he met him out there to have a “man to man” talk. “So Buddy, here’s a quarter so you can call us when you get where you are going, that way we can tell Santa where to send your Christmas presents. And here’s a couple of peanut butter crackers and granola bars incase you can’t find food for the next few days. Well, I wish you weren’t running away, but we love you so much and I hope you change your mind at some point.” And shortly after, my dad came back to the house. We all sat inside, worried, crying, and begging my dad to go after him! “Trust me”, he reassured us, although in the moment we were all convinced my dad was the meanest! It didn’t take longer than 20 minutes for Arthur to come walking back through the front door. “Hey Buddy! Did you forget something?!” my dad asked, pretending to be concerned. “Uhh, well…I think I might need to wait until I can get a job and get more money before I run away, and maybe you can come with me next time…” With a quick wink from my mom and dad to us, my dad responded, “Glad you’re home Arthur. We love you so much.”
This idea of wandering without guidance can create instability, anxiety, and naturally, fear within us. But that is anything but what God is trying to communicate to us in both readings today. Instead, He is promising us HOPE and LIFE. God refuses to allow us to become an aimless wanderer! God is making Himself and His ways known to us, without holding anything back. He promises us things like “They shall not hunger or thirst…has eternal life and will not come to condemnation…”. How quickly we forget that this life was not meant to live alone or even by our own accord, and how quickly we doubt He Who has reminded us from the beginning He will never leave us! We have all attempted to take life into our own hands and “run away” from our Father who continues to offer us what we need to never become aimless wanderers in this beautiful journey of life. God makes Himself known to us as He is constantly “at work” manifesting His love for us in so many ways in our lives. No matter how far we run, how much we push Him away, shut Him out, and even deny Him, He is continuously whispering in our hearts “I will never forget you”. Even when the pressures of the world seems to scream louder with responsibilities, expectations, and even empty promises, God is always whispering in the depths of our hearts “I will never forget you”. Especially during this Year of Mercy, let us strive to not seek ultimate happiness and comfort in our own strengths or what the world offers, but let us never fail to seek our Father who is constantly “at work”— the work of His mercy and LOVING YOU!
“It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life…”- Pope Saint John Paul II "Lord, increase my love for you and unite my heart and will with yours, that I may only seek what is pleasing to you".
Gospel: JN 5: 1-16
There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate
a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes.
In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled.
One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.
When Jesus saw him lying there
and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him,
“Do you want to be well?”
The sick man answered him,
“Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool
when the water is stirred up;
while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.”
Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.”
Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.
Now that day was a sabbath.
So the Jews said to the man who was cured,
“It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat.”
He answered them, “The man who made me well told me,
‘Take up your mat and walk.’“
They asked him,
“Who is the man who told you, ‘Take it up and walk’?”
The man who was healed did not know who it was,
for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd there.
After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him,
“Look, you are well; do not sin any more,
so that nothing worse may happen to you.”
The man went and told the Jews
that Jesus was the one who had made him well.
Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus
because he did this on a sabbath.
So often, I find myself coming to Jesus with a laundry list of problems—virtues I need to work on, prayers for healthier relationships, or dilemmas that I would like resolved. I find myself rattling off problems, then sitting back to allow Jesus to work His magic in my life so that I can finally check my problems off the list. In this gospel passage, Jesus approaches a sick man, a man who had his list of problems for thirty-eight years. Jesus’ question to him is simple: “Do you want to be well?”
As I reflected on this passage, I asked myself, when I come to Jesus with my list, “Do I want to be well?” Yes, it would be wonderful to instantly be the kindest and most humble person in the world, and it would be great for every conversation to go exactly as I had hoped. However, I find that I am often unwilling to put in the work that bettering myself requires; I sit back and hope that He will solve my problems for me. But Jesus, who could and does work such miracles, calls us to work with Him.
He stands ready to love us and to nurture us into the people He calls us to be, but prayer is more than simply asking Him for what we need and passively waiting for it to happen. Instead, He wants us to give us the opportunities to exercise that virtue or inspire the ideas that make us more successful. It is through these opportunities that we grow in our faith; just as muscles need to be worked, so does our holiness. Just like the man in the passage, we might often feel like some people, or maybe even Jesus, are passing us up and that the things we want in this world are unreachable. When it seems like we are at a stalemate, it might be worth asking if we are willing to put in the work to make our lives and ourselves better. Do we, when we turn ourselves to Jesus in prayer, try our best to grow in holiness or do we continue to live our lives as we did before? Essentially, “Do you really want to be well?”
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