Weekday Gospel Reflection

Monday in the Second Week of Easter

John 3:1-8 - World English Bible

1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him."

3 Jesus answered him, "Most certainly, I tell you, unless one is born anew, he can't see God's Kingdom."

4 Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb, and be born?"

5 Jesus answered, "Most certainly I tell you, unless one is born of water and spirit, he can't enter into God's Kingdom! 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Don't marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born anew.' 8 The wind blows where it wants to, and you hear its sound, but don't know where it comes from and where it is going. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."

These verses began the encounter of Nicodemus with Jesus. According to John's gospel, the Pharisee held high office and, with it, high esteem among his peers. He came to the Lord with an opinion shared by many people; Jesus and his teaching came from God because of the signs he performed. The Lord shifted the conversation, however, from a statement of origin to one of destiny. Nicodemus may have believed Jesus came from God, due to his miracles but, now, the Jewish leader was confronted by the question of the Kingdom. If he wanted to experience God's reign ("see the Kingdom" in 3:3), he must, like the Lord, come from God (be "born anew").

How was this possible? Nicodemus answered with an absurd, almost rhetorical question. How can a grown man re-enter his mother's womb and experience birth again? Of course, Jesus answered, not in physical terms, but in terms of faith and lifestyle. A person was born anew when he entered the Christian community, when he was baptized in water and lived a life in the Spirit. Within the Church, the disciple led a new type of existence, preparing for the Kingdom. In typical Johannine language, the Lord drew a clear line of separation between the non-believers ("born in the flesh") and the believers ("born of the Spirit"). He ended by speaking of the disciple in metaphorical ways. People don't know the origin or destination of the wind (a word that could also be translated "Spirit"); those outside the community just didn't understand the mindset of the Christian, for the Spirit led the faithful in ways foreign to general culture.

How are you "different" from your non-believing family members, friends or co-workers?

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Tuesday in the Second Week of Easter

John 3:7-15 - World English Bible

7 Jesus said to Nicodemus, 'You must be born anew.' 8 The wind blows where it wants to, and you hear its sound, but don't know where it comes from and where it is going. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."

9 Nicodemus answered him, "How can these things be?"

10 Jesus answered him, "Are you the teacher of Israel, and don't understand these things? 11 Most certainly I tell you, we speak that which we know, and testify of that which we have seen, and you don't receive our witness. 12 If I told you earthly things and you don't believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven, but he who descended out of heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven. 14 As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life."

In John 3, Jesus continued his dialogue with Nicodemus. The evangelist used this scene to highlight the One from heaven (the Lord) from the one on earth (the Pharisee). The person born again (or, "from above") lived in the Spirit (or "wind" in 3:8); the earthly man did not understand origin or destiny of the Spirit-filled man (like the origin or destination of the wind).

Nicodemus asked Jesus about the nature of his comments; the Lord flipped the question back to the Pharisee. "With all your expertise, don't you understand what I am saying?" Of course, the question is rhetorical. How could anyone know the will of God, unless he had come from God (origin)? And, if he, the Son of Man, had come from God, how could he communicate the divine plans for humanity, unless he gave some indication of his return to God (destiny)? He had to be lifted up on the cross, like the bronze snake Moses lifted up in the desert (Numbers 21:9), to show the world God intended believers to have life eternal.

When you look at a crucifix, do you see your destiny with God?

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Wednesday in the Second Week of Easter

John 3:16-21 - World English Bible

Jesus said to Nicodemus,

16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God didn't send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through him. 18 He who believes in him is not judged. He who doesn't believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God. 19 This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does evil hates the light, and doesn't come to the light, lest his works would be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his works may be revealed, that they have been done in God."

In these few verses from John 3, Jesus finished his dialogue with Nicodemus. A review might be in order. The passage opened with the Pharisee seeking the Lord at night to profess his general faith in him; the Lord responded with assertion that the saved must be born again (from above), since salvation meant a life in the Spirit (3:1-8). Next, after inquiry by Nicodemus, Jesus asserted he (as the "Son of Man") came from God and would return to God when he was "lifted up" on the cross, like the bronze snake Moses lifted up (3:7-15). Now, the Lord addressed the nature of divine judgment.

In 3:16-17, God the Father gave his Son, Jesus, to the world out of love, not condemnation. The one who responded in faith would not be damned, but acquitted. In fact, the only judgment imposed was self-inflicted when sinners rejected revelation (3:19). Why do evil people turn away from God showing himself (the "light") to the world? Quite simply, revelation not only displays the divine, it also shows the acts and character of those in relation to the divine. To fully employ the metaphor, revelation, like light, has a source (God) and a target (men) it "shines" upon. The evil hid from revelation in shame, while the faithful ("doer of truth") displayed his actions, to use a phrase in the vernacular, "done in broad daylight." In other words, John 3 viewed salvation-damnation in terms of honor and shame, the virtue-vice of the ancient world.

Have your actions this day brought honor or shame on the name "Christian"?

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Thursday in the Second Week of Easter

John 3:31-36 - World English Bible

The Baptist said to his followers about Jesus:

31 "He who comes from above is above all. He who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 What he has seen and heard, of that he testifies; and no one receives his witness. 33 He who has received his witness has set his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For he whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for God gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into his hand. 36 One who believes in the Son has eternal life, but one who disobeys the Son won't see life, but the wrath of God remains on him."

In John 3:22-25, the disciples of John the Baptist were concerned that the ministry of Jesus began to eclipse their own. The Baptist answered his followers in two ways: reaffirming his own identity and revealing the identity of the One he predicted. He denied he was the Christ; he was the one who prepared for the Promised Messiah (3:27-30). But, who was the Christ? He described the coming hero in Johannine terms: the One from above. Unlike natural men, this heavenly One testified to the word he heard from the Father (3:31-33). People would realize the identity of the Christ and the origin of his message through the power of God's Spirit, poured out on him and his followers (3:34). Then, the Baptist made a remarkable statement; the Father gave the Son everything (3:35). Implicitly, divine judgment shifted from adherence to the Law to allegiance to the Messiah. In other words, one was not saved through duty to the Torah alone, but by becoming a disciple of Jesus (3:36)

How have you taken the words of the Baptist to heart?

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Friday in the Second Week of Easter

John 6:1-15 - World English Bible

1 After these things, Jesus went away to the other side of the sea of Galilee, which is also called the Sea of Tiberias. 2 A great multitude followed him, because they saw his signs which he did on those who were sick. 3 Jesus went up into the mountain, and he sat there with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. 5 Jesus therefore lifting up his eyes, and seeing that a great multitude was coming to him, said to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread, that these may eat?" 6 This he said to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.

7 Philip answered him, "Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that everyone of them may receive a little."

8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, 9 "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these among so many?"

10 Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." Now there was much grass in that place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 Jesus took the loaves; and having given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to those who were sitting down; likewise also of the fish as much as they desired. 12 When they were filled, he said to his disciples, "Gather up the broken pieces which are left over, that nothing be lost." 13 So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with broken pieces from the five barley loaves, which were left over by those who had eaten. 14 When therefore the people saw the sign which Jesus did, they said, "This is truly the prophet who comes into the world." 15 Jesus therefore, perceiving that they were about to come and take him by force, to make him king, withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

The multiplication of the loaves and fishes from John 6 acted as an introduction to the Eucharistic discourse for the rest of the chapter. While the miracle was familiar, the importance of the scene and the body language of Jesus got overlooked. The Lord climbed the mountain, then sat (in a teaching position) with his disciples; the multitude who sought him (based upon his "signs") gathered further down the mountain. However, after the multiplication, the crowd wanted to declare him king, so he withdrew further up the mountain. The mountain, then, represented the place of teaching. like Moses did (Exodus 19), and a means of safety, like Elijah sought (1 Kings 19).

In the scene, Jesus taught his disciples faith by testing them with a simple question, "Where are we going to but enough food to feed all these people?" The task was not only daunting, it was impossible! Not even 200 days wages (1 denarius per day) could even begin to solve the problem; all they possessed was lunch for a family: five barley rolls and two small dried fish. Yet, that was more than enough, for twelve baskets (a number meaning "fullness") remained.

Many times we seek the Lord when life takes us "up hill", yet he escapes our expectations. In our anxiety and efforts, he tests our faith with the challenge of the impossible; in the end, he feed us with an abundance. Time and time again, he outstrips our desires with blessings greater than we can imagine.

How has the Lord exceeded your expectations?

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Saturday in the Second Week of Easter

John 6:16-21 - World English Bible

16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 and they entered into the boat, and were going over the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not come to them. 18 The sea was tossed by a great wind blowing. 19 When therefore they had rowed about twenty-five or thirty stadia (three to four miles), they saw Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing near to the boat; and they were afraid. 20 But he said to them, "I AM. Don't be afraid." 21 They were willing therefore to receive him into the boat. Immediately the boat was at the land where they were going.

After the multiplication of the loaves and fish in John 6, Jesus and his disciples went in different directions; Jesus escaped the crowd up the mountain (6:15), while the disciples returned to Capernaum by boat. A night storm arose on the lake. (Such squalls were not uncommon, as the warm, night air over the lake rose and sucked the cold air from the desert over the lake and upward.) The storm tossed the disciples about, as they furiously rowed towards safety. Suddenly, they saw Jesus walking on the water and were afraid. (The image echoed Job 9:8: God alone stretches out the heavens, and treads on the waves of the sea.) Then he announced "I AM. Do not be afraid." This statement proclaimed the divinity of the Lord, along with his most employed command; in other words, God is here, be at peace. When he climbed aboard, they reached their destination.

The miracle of Walking on the Water appeared in three gospels: Matthew 14:22-33, Mark 6:45-52 and John 6:16-21. While differing in detail, each mentioned the storm, Jesus' place on the water, his declaration of divinity ("I AM") and his command ("don't be afraid" or "have courage"), his entering the boat. Scholars have debated the historical and symbolic nature of this passage for centuries, but, thematically, the story related crisis (storm on the lake), epiphany (appearance and identity of the Lord) and union with the divine (his entry onto the boat).

Don't our lives sometimes follow the same pattern?

Have you had a time of crisis, followed by the peace of God's presence? What happened?

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