Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Reading 1 IS 49:8-15
Thus says the LORD:
In a time of favor I answer you,
on the day of salvation I help you;
and I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people,
To restore the land
and allot the desolate heritages,
Saying to the prisoners: Come out!
To those in darkness: Show yourselves!
Along the ways they shall find pasture,
on every bare height shall their pastures be.
They shall not hunger or thirst,
nor shall the scorching wind or the sun strike them;
For he who pities them leads them
and guides them beside springs of water.
I will cut a road through all my mountains,
and make my highways level.
See, some shall come from afar,
others from the north and the west,
and some from the land of Syene.
Sing out, O heavens, and rejoice, O earth,
break forth into song, you mountains.
For the LORD comforts his people
and shows mercy to his afflicted.
But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me.”
Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you.
Responsorial Psalm PS 145:8-9, 13CD-14, 17-18
R. (8a) The Lord is gracious and merciful.
The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.
R. The Lord is gracious and merciful.
The LORD is faithful in all his words
and holy in all his works.
The LORD lifts up all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.
R. The Lord is gracious and merciful.
The LORD is just in all his ways
and holy in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth.
R. The Lord is gracious and merciful.
Verse Before The Gospel JN 11:25A, 26
I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord;
whoever believes in me will never die.
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.”
First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom
The counterintuitive propositions of the Gospels.
Society tells us: be strong. Seek money. Show off your skills. Rise to the top.
Jesus tells us: be humble. Become totally dependent upon the father. Seek out and do service for the marginalized.
Embraces all his creatures.
Eat my body. Drink my blood.
Can we follow him? Can we imitate him? There is little in the way of reward here on earth…..
Do not be afraid…
The Gospels also say, “No matter what you encounter, be joyful. Your reward shall be in heaven.”
29 MARCH, 2017, Wednesday, 4th Week of Lent
THE FOUNDATION FOR DOING GOOD
Today, the liturgy continues with the theme of joy in expectation of the feast of the resurrection, albeit in the shadow of hostility and death. “Shout for joy, you heavens; earth, exult! Mountains, break into joyful cries! For Yahweh has consoled his people, is taking pity on his afflicted ones.” In the first reading, we read the consoling words of the Lord to the Israelites who felt forsaken and abandoned in their exile at Babylon, “Can a woman forget her baby at the breast; feel no pity for the child she has borne? Even if these were to forget, I shall not forget you.” On the day of salvation, the Lord would restore Israel. “Along the roadway they will graze, and any bare height will be their pasture. They will never hunger or thirst, scorching wind and sun will never plague them; for he who pities them will lead them, will guide them to springs of water. I shall turn all my mountains into a road and my highways will be raised aloft.”
This promise of the Lord of course was fulfilled in Jesus who is the Suffering Servant prophesied in the first reading. The words spoken to the Suffering Servant of Isaiah aptly applies to Jesus when God said, “I have formed you and have appointed you to be the covenant for a people, to restore the land, to return ravaged properties, to say to prisoners, ‘Come out,’ to those who are in darkness, ‘Show yourselves.’” In the last few days, the gospel narrated how Jesus manifested Himself as a life-giver. He told the story of the Prodigal Son and the mercy of His Father whom He sought to imitate. He said, “I tell you most solemnly, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees the Father doing: and whatever the Father does the Son does too.”
The works of Jesus was done in union with the Father. He said, “My father goes on working, and so do I.” So like the Father, Jesus gave life to the Court Official’s son who was on the brink of death. Yesterday, we read how Jesus healed the paralyzed man and forgave his sins. This is justified by the fact that “the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he does himself, and he will show him even greater things than these, works that will astonish you. Thus, as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son gives life to anyone he chooses.” The authority and powers of Jesus to heal, raise and forgive were given by the Father. Jesus saw Himself as acting on His behalf.
On this basis, Jesus claimed identification with the Father! And the Jews knew what He was implying. “That only made the Jews even more intent on killing him, because, not content with breaking the Sabbath, he spoke of God as his own Father, and so made himself God’s equal.” By healing on the Sabbath and giving the basis for doing good works of mercy on the Sabbath, in imitation of His Father, Jesus was making implicit claims that He was God. They were fully aware that Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah, the Son of Man mentioned in the Book of Daniel, chapter 7. The miracles He performed were messianic signs, especially the raising of the dead, curing the lame and giving sight to the blind. He was thus seen as making a blasphemous claim to be the Son of God.
Secondly, He claimed to speak the Word of God. He said, “I tell you most solemnly, whoever listens to my words, and believes in the one who sent me, has eternal life; I tell you most solemnly, the hour will come – in fact it is here already – when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and all who hear it will live.” He is the Word of God in person. If He were to speak God’s words, then it means that one has to believe in Him and all that He said. It means that we need to accept Him as the Way, the Truth and the Life. Only by accepting Jesus, can we find life, not just life after death but life on this earth. In following the path that Jesus set out for us, the way of love and humble service, in obedience to the Father’s will, in everything, we will live the fullness of life. Hence, for such a person, “without being brought to judgement he has passed from death to life.”
Thirdly, Jesus claimed to be the Judge as well, a position reserved for the Father. He said, “For the Father, who is the source of life, has made the Son the source of life; and, because he is the Son of Man, has appointed him supreme judge. Do not be surprised at this, for the hour is coming when the dead will leave their graces at the sound of his voice: those who did good will rise again to life; and those who did evil, to condemnation. I can do nothing by myself: I can only judge as I am told to judge, and my judging is just.” Jesus could judge only because He is holy and perfect like the Father. Because He is the Word of God, He could judge with full knowledge and understanding. He judges with love and compassion, as the psalmist says. “The Lord is kind and full of compassion, slow to anger, abounding in love. How good is the Lord to all, compassionate to all his creatures.” So the judgement of Jesus is founded on truth, love and compassion. In speaking of Himself as the judge, He takes the place of God.
How could Jesus dare to make such claims of divinity and authority to act on behalf of the Father? How could He be so confident and courageous to make such claims at the risk of courting death? How is it that He was not afraid of being misunderstood, condemned or opposed? How do we explain the confidence in Jesus if not because of His intimate relationship with the Father?
This identity with the Father is based on a mutual union between the Father and the Son. This union with the Father must be seen as a union of mind and heart. Jesus performed everything in union with the Father, based on the union of mind and will. Jesus would not do anything except in alignment with the Father’s will. He reiterated, “I can do nothing by myself: I can only judge as I am told to judge, and my judging is just, because my aim is to do not my own will, but the will of him who sent me.” Jesus’ obedience to the Father was not a reluctant obedience or simply a submission of will. Rather, His obedience was the consequence of a union of will and love. As Jesus said to the disciples, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.” (Jn 4:34) Jesus loved His Father because of His Father’s love for Him. He lived and died for His Father. He said, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.” (Jn 10:17f)
What about us? What is the basis for our good works? What is the basis for living a life of love and truth? Is it based on purely humanitarian reasons, simply because we feel the sufferings of our fellowmen or because of moral obligation to contribute to society because we have been beneficiaries? In truth, many of us do good out of guilt, or at most out of responsibility because of our conscience. Of course, some do out of love for their fellowmen but many help because of fear of condemnation or at least to gain respect and honour from the world.
In the case of Jesus, His good works came from His identification with the compassion and love of His Father. His union with the Father was the cause of His mission to humanity. As the psalmist says, “The Lord is faithful in all his words and loving in all his deeds. The Lord supports all who fall and raises all who are bowed down. The Lord is just in all his ways and loving in all his deeds. He is close to all who call him, who call on him from their hearts.” So it was out of the love of the Father in Him that He went about doing good so that the Father could be seen through Him. This too must also be the source of our strength in doing good. We must not be like the pagans. “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:46-48)
So today, we need to return to the ancient times when Catechumens were instructed more intensely during this time. At this mass, salt would be placed in their mouths so that they would receive the Word of God and be the salt of the earth. They too would be given the creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the Four Gospels so that they will become more identified with the Lord in how they live their lives. For those of us who are baptized, let us renew our appreciation for the love of God in Christ as we contemplate on His passion. We must come to know the identity of Jesus more and more so that we can truly be identified with Him in mind and in heart as Jesus is with the Father.
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)
and grant us peace in our day.
In your mercy keep us free from sin
and protect us from all anxiety
as we wait in joyful hope
for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
To build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help
of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!
Commentary on John 5:17-30 From Living Space
Let us not be afraid or cast down; God is on his way in the person of Jesus
Today’s Gospel follows immediately on yesterday’s story of the healing of the crippled man by the pool. That passage had ended with the words: “The Jews began to persecute Jesus because he did this [i.e. the healing] on a sabbath.” We might point out, as with some other sabbath healings, that there was absolutely no urgency to do the healing on a sabbath for someone who had waited 38 years. It is just another indication of the divine authority with which Jesus works.
So Jesus’ reply is direct and unapologetic: “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.” Because Genesis speaks of God resting on the seventh day (the origin of the Jewish sabbath), it was disputed whether God was in any way active on the sabbath. Some believed that the creating and conserving work of his creation went on and others that he continued to pass judgement on that day. In any case, Jesus is claiming here the same authority to work on the sabbath as his Father and has the same powers over life and death.
The Jewish leaders are enraged that Jesus speaks of God as his own Father. They want to kill him. They understand by his words that Jesus is making himself God’s equal. Jesus, far from denying the accusation, only confirms it.
“A son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will also do.” This saying is taken from the model of an apprentice in a trade. The apprentice son does exactly what his father does. Jesus’ relation to his Father is similar. “For the Father loves his Son and shows him everything that he himself does, so that you may be amazed.” And “just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes” – and whenever he wishes. And such giving of life is something that belongs only to God. As does the right to judge, which Jesus says has been delegated to him.
Jesus is the perfect mirror of the Father. The Father is acting in him and through him. He is the Word of God – God speaks and acts directly through him. God’s Word is a creative Word. Jesus, like the Father, is life-giving, a source of life.
The right to judge has been delegated by the Father to the Son. And to refuse to honour the Son is to refuse the same honour to the Father. In everything Jesus acts only according to the will of his Father and does what his Father wants.
Jesus, then, is the Way, the Way through whom we go to God. For us, there is no other Way. He is God’s Word to us and for us.
I cannot fathom what it must have been like for You Lord. Most of our hearts cried out for salvation while others could not, having been bound and gagged by Sin.
Your love for us was so great that You promised to come save us, prepared us for Your coming and then fulfilled Your promise to us. What did we do? How did we welcome You? We turned our backs on You, We mocked You, plotted to kill You and eventually did.
Knowing all this You still came seeking out Your lost sheep. You brought light into our darkness, living water to quench our thirst, bread from heaven to nourish bodies and souls. With Your precious blood You washed us so that we can stand spotless before our heavenly Father. How great is our God!
Our lives are nothing without You and without You there is no relationship with our heavenly Father. All love, peace and joy comes from You for in You is life eternal. May we always seek to do our Father’s Will. Amen
• The Gospel of John is different from the other three. It reveals a more profound dimension which only faith is able to perceive in the words and gestures of Jesus. The Fathers of the Church would say that the Gospel of John is “spiritual”, it reveals what the Spirit makes one discover in the words of Jesus (cf. Jn 16, 12-13). A beautiful example of this spiritual dimension of the Gospel of John is the passage which we are going to meditate on today.
• John 5, 17-18: Jesus explains the profound meaning of the healing of the paralytic. Criticized by the Jews for having cured on Saturday, Jesus answers: “My Father still goes on working, and I am at work too!” The Jews taught that no work could be done on Saturday, because even God had rested and had not worked on the seventh day of creation (Ex 20, 8-11). Jesus affirms the contrary. He says that the Father has always worked even until now. And for this reason, Jesus also works, and even on Saturday. He imitates his Father! For Jesus the work of creation is not finished as yet. God continues to work, unceasingly, day and night, holding up the Universe and all of us. Jesus collaborates with the Father continuing the work of creation in such a way that one day all may be able to enter into the eternal rest that has been promised. The reaction of the Jews was violent. They wanted to kill him for two reasons: because he denied the sense of Saturday and for saying he was equal to God.
• John 5, 19-21: It is love which allows the creative action of God to shine and be visible. These verses reveal something of the relationship between Jesus and the Father. Jesus, the Son, lives permanently attentive before the Father. What he sees the Father do, he does it also. Jesus is the reflection of the Father. He is the face of the Father! This total attention of the Son to the Father makes it possible for the love of the Father to enter totally into the Son and through the Son, carry out his action in the world. The great concern of the Father is that of overcoming death and to give life. It is a way of continuing the creative work of the Father.
• John 5, 22-23: The Father judges no one; he has entrusted all judgment to the Son. What is decisive in life is the way in which we place ourselves before the Creator, because it radically depends on him. Now the Creator becomes present for us in Jesus. The plenitude of the divinity dwells in Jesus (cf. Col 1, 19). And therefore, according to the way in which we are before Jesus, we express our position before God, the Creator. What the Father wants is that we know him and honour him in the revelation which he makes of himself in Jesus.
• John 5, 24: The life of God in us through Jesus. God is life, he is creating force. Wherever he is present, there is life. He becomes present in the Word of Jesus. The one who listens to the word of Jesus as a word that comes from God has already risen. He has already received the vivifying touch which leads him beyond death. Jesus passed from death to life. The proof of this is in the healing of the paralytic.
• John 5, 25-29: The resurrection is already taking place. All of us are the dead who still have not opened ourselves to the voice of Jesus which comes from the Father. But “the hour will come” and it is now, in which the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who will listen, will live”. With the Word of Jesus which comes from the Father, the new creation begins; it is already on the way. The creative word of Jesus will reach all, even those who have already died. They will hear and will live.
• John 5, 30: Jesus is the reflection of the Father. “By myself I can do nothing; I can judge only as I am told to judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me”. This last phrase is the summary of all that has been said before. This was the idea that the community of the time of John had and diffused regarding Jesus.