Weekday Gospel Reflection

Monday in the Fourth Week of Lent

John 4:43-54 - World English Bible

43 After the two days Jesus went out from there and went into Galilee. 44 For Jesus himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country. 45 So when he came into Galilee, the Galileans received him, having seen all the things that he did in Jerusalem at the feast, for they also went to the feast. 46 Jesus came therefore again to Cana of Galilee, where he made the water into wine. There was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to him, and begged him that he would come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 Jesus therefore said to him, "Unless you see signs and wonders, you will in no way believe."

49 The nobleman said to him, "Sir, come down before my child dies." 50 Jesus said to him, "Go your way. Your son lives." The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way. 51 As he was now going down, his servants met him and reported, saying "Your child lives!" 52 So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. They said therefore to him, "Yesterday at the seventh hour, the fever left him." 53 So the father knew that it was at that hour in which Jesus said to him, "Your son lives." He believed, as did his whole house. 54 This is again the second sign that Jesus did, having come out of Judea into Galilee.

Scholars divide the Gospel of John into the Book of Signs (1:1-12:50) and the Book of Glory (13:1-20:31); the passages above represent the second sign in the gospel. Notice the emphasis on "sign" instead of miracle or healing. Implicit in the term was its source. The populace insisted on a "sign" from God, an indication that the divine was at work in the world, otherwise they would not believe (4:48).

Jesus,did work signs that showed the source of his power, but not as great public displays; instead, he addressed them to individuals or small groups. John 4:45-46 detailed his first sign in Cana, but only his disciples and the wine steward realized the true nature of the event. Now, he healed the child of a royal official (a Gentile?) through the mere power of his word. He performed this second sign from a distance, commanding the demon causing the sickness to leave the boy (in the minds of the Lord's contemporaries). Yet, the sign was personal, between Jesus and the man. When, the official realized the time Jesus spoke to him was the same time the fever broke, he and his family became followers (4:53).

As a final note, John's gospel had a different geographic thrust that the Synoptics. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus began his work in Galilee, then traveled to Jerusalem as a climax to his ministry. In John's gospel, Jesus left the environs of Judea around Jerusalem because of scepticism (44:43-44) and set up his ministry in Galilee, since the people there were more receptive to his message and power (4:54b). Not only did John see the power of Jesus as an intimate sign from the Father, he saw the ministry of Jesus flowing from a base in Jerusalem towards Galilee, not the other way around.

Do you ask for signs of God in your life? Have you experienced such signs in an intimate way?

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Tuesday in the Fourth Week of Lent

John 5:1-16 - World English Bible

1 After these things, there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now in Jerusalem by the sheep gate, there is a pool, which is called in Hebrew, "Bethesda", having five porches. 3 In these lay a great multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, or paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water; 4 for an angel went down at certain times into the pool, and stirred up the water. Whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was healed of whatever disease he had. 5 A certain man was there, who had been sick for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had been sick for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to be made well?"

7 The sick man answered him, "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I'm coming, another steps down before me."

8 Jesus said to him, "Arise, take up your mat, and walk."

9 Immediately, the man was made well, and took up his mat and walked.

Now it was the Sabbath on that day. 10 So the Jews said to him who was cured, "It is the Sabbath. It is not lawful for you to carry the mat."

11 He answered them, "He who made me well, the same said to me, 'Take up your mat, and walk.'"

12 Then they asked him, "Who is the man who said to you, 'Take up your mat, and walk'?"

13 But he who was healed didn't know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a crowd being in the place.

14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, "Behold, you are made well. Sin no more, so that nothing worse happens to you."

15 The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16 For this cause the Jews persecuted Jesus, and sought to kill him, because he did these things on the Sabbath.

John's gospel picked up on theme from Mark's: a Sabbath controversy.

In John 5, Jesus entered a public pool compound called "Bethesda" (from Hebrew and Aramaic, "beth hedsa" meaning "house of mercy"); in the 19th century, a compound fitting the description in found in 5:2 (pool building with five porticoes, near to the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem). The purpose of the pool was unclear to scholars; was it a spa with claimed healing properties or was it pool within the city water system that the sick took over for their own?

In either case, the Lord healed a man on the Sabbath with the command, "Pick up your mat and walk" (5:8) Of course, this was an order to do work, antithetical to the spirit of the day as a time of rest. While scholars debated whether the words of Jesus actually broke either a edict in the Law or a judgment derived from the Law, they clearly saw Jesus connected an "unnecessary" task with the Sabbath as a means to heal (5:11). Later, when the Lord encountered the man in the Temple, his remark implicitly undercut the leaders' objection to the cure; if the Sabbath was the day of YHWH, then it was THE day of divine revelation through divine activity. His remark also implied the true nature of the Sabbath; the way to fulfill the day of rest (indeed, the entire Law) was repentance ("Sin no more..), otherwise all is for naught ("...so that nothing worse happens to you.").

The moral of the passage is clear: Jesus heals us so we can live a life of repentance. In this way, we honor God's day and his Law.

How has God healed you? How has that event changed your life?

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Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Lent

John 5:17-30 - World English Bible

17 But Jesus answered the religious leaders, "My Father is still working, so I am working, too." 18 For this cause therefore the Jewish leaders sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath, but also called God his own Father, making himself equal with God. 19 Jesus therefore answered them, "Most certainly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father doing. For whatever things he does, these the Son also does likewise. 20 For the Father has affection for the Son, and shows him all things that he himself does. He will show him greater works than these, that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom he desires. 22 For the Father judges no one, but he has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who doesn't honor the Son doesn't honor the Father who sent him.

24 "Most certainly I tell you, he who hears my word, and believes him who sent me, has eternal life, and doesn't come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. 25 Most certainly, I tell you, the hour comes, and now is, when the dead will hear the Son of God's voice; and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, even so he gave to the Son also to have life in himself. 27 He also gave him authority to execute judgment, because he is a son of man. 28 Don't marvel at this, for the hour comes, in which all that are in the tombs will hear his voice, 29 and will come out; those who have done good, to the resurrection of life; and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment. 30 I can of myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is righteous; because I don't seek my own will, but the will of my Father who sent me."

In John 5:1-16, Jesus healed a paralytic on the Sabbath. To the leaders who objected to his activity on the holy day, he had an answer, "My Father is still working (on the Sabbath), so I am working, too." In one sense, divine activity never ceased on the "seventh day," for, without the will of God, creation would cease. So, as the Father acted, even on the Sabbath, the Son acted in the healing and redemption of humanity.

The leaders correctly concluded that Jesus equated himself with his Father and protested. He answered their objection with comments about his relationship with his Father in three ways: his dependence upon his Father, the revelation/power he received from the Father and his relationship with his followers. First, he depended upon the Father for his direction and power. Not only did he do what the Father did (5:19), the Father implicitly worked through him, fulfilling his will (5:30).

Secondly, because the Father revealed his affection for and his will to his Son, He empowered his Son to raise the dead to new life (5:21b, 26). Within that ability came the power to judge. In other words, resurrection itself was a sign of judgment. God would call all to life (5:28); those who heard his voice and did good would live, those who did not would be condemned (5:29). (Notice, Jesus equated hearing the call of the Father with doing good; they were one in the same.)

Third, those who honored the Son would be raised; their resurrection would honor the Father (5:23a, 24). Those who denied the Son and his power did not honor the Father and, implicitly, did not look forward to the Final Judgment (5:23b, 30).

Sometimes, wading through John's gospel can be difficult, but, if we unpack today's passage, we can see simple outlines. Jesus and the Father are one in power and purpose. As the Father creates, the Son saves. The Father will create anew when he calls all from the tombs; those who hear his call (by believing in the Son) will have eternal life. Indeed, he calls us now and, through his Son, gives us that everlasting life even in our present state.

Have you heard the call of God recently?

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Thursday in the Fourth Week of Lent

John 5:31-37 - World English Bible

Jesus said to the religious leaders:

31 "If I testify about myself, my witness is not valid. 32 It is another who testifies about me. I know that the testimony which he testifies about me is true. 33 You have sent to John, and he has testified to the truth. 34 But the testimony which I receive is not from man. However, I say these things that you may be saved. 35 He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36 But the testimony which I have is greater than that of John, for the works which the Father gave me to accomplish, the very works that I do, testify about me, that the Father has sent me. 37 The Father himself, who sent me, has testified about me. You have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his form."

After he proclaimed his mission as that of the Father (to raise the dead), Jesus shifted his monologue to the veracity of his claim. Truth of an assertion in Jewish courts required the testimony of two witnesses. What he claimed about himself was not enough. The Baptist testified about him, but there was even a greater testimony: what the Father said about him, expressed in the works he performed. None of his opponents had ever seen God or heard his voice, but the Father had been revealed through the mission of his Son.

We know God through our faith in his Son. We experience God today through the activity of the body of Christ, his Church, in worship and acts of social charity. Not only do we experience God in this way, we show others the Father, just as Jesus did two thousand years ago.

When was the last time you experience God? Was it at Mass or in the good others did for you?

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Friday in the Fourth Week of Lent

John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30 - World English Bible

1 After these things, Jesus was walking in Galilee, for he wouldn't walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill him. 2 Now the feast of the Jews, the Feast of Booths, was at hand.

10 But when his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly, but as it were in secret.

25 Therefore some of citizens of Jerusalem said, "Isn't this he whom they seek to kill? 26 Behold, he speaks openly, and they say nothing to him. Can it be that the rulers indeed know that this is truly the Christ? 27 However we know where this man comes from, but when the Christ comes, no one will know where he comes from."

28 Jesus therefore cried out in the temple, teaching and saying, "You both know me, and know where I am from. I have not come of myself, but he who sent me is true, whom you don't know. 29 I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me."

30 They sought therefore to take him; but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.

In John 7, Jesus arrived in Jerusalem for Sukkot, one of the three great feasts at the Temple (Passover and the Festival of Weeks were the other two pilgrimage celebrations). Originally, Sukkot honored the fall harvest, but evolved into a remembrance of the Exodus. For seven days, the faithful would erect and occupy temporary shelters ('booths") around Jerusalem, to remind themselves of the hardships their ancestors endured to follow YHWH in the desert. According to Zechariah 14:14-16, the Messiah would appear during the celebration in the Temple.

Even though Jesus arrived in secret, he soon made his presence known in Jerusalem. The inhabitants of the capital speculated that the rulers sought his death, but he defied their intentions. Did the rulers know he was the Christ? That was unlikely, simply because the city knew he came from Galilee. The Messiah, they believed, would suddenly appear from no where to save the people. Certainly, they thought, that couldn't be this Jesus?

Jesus turned this speculation from a question of origin (where was he born) to a question of source (where did he get his power). He might have been born and raised in Nazareth, but he came from the Father (based upon his preaching and the signs he performed). This shift was the root cause of the leaders' anger. He defied social expectations when he rose above his humble roots, but he also defied religious expectations by claiming a special status with God. He acted as the Father's representative and, so, claimed a unique relationship with God. Implicitly, he was the mediator between God and humanity.

As Christians, we assume Jesus is our mediator; that is an axiom of faith. But do we focus upon the Lord as the revelation of the Father? That thought is worth a lifetime of contemplation.

Look upon Jesus for a moment. Do you see the Father through him?

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Saturday in the Fourth Week of Lent

John 7:40-53 - World English Bible

40 Many of the multitude therefore, when they heard the words of Jesus, said, "This is truly the prophet." 41 Others said, "This is the Christ." But some said, "What, does the Christ come out of Galilee? 42 Hasn't the Scripture said that the Christ comes of the offspring of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was?" 43 So there arose a division in the multitude because of him. 44 Some of them would have arrested him, but no one laid hands on him. 45 The officers therefore came to the chief priests and Pharisees, and they said to them, "Why didn't you bring him?"

46 The officers answered, "No man ever spoke like this man!"

47 The Pharisees therefore answered them, "You aren't also led astray, are you? 48 Have any of the rulers believed in him, or of the Pharisees? 49 But this multitude that doesn't know the law is accursed."

50 Nicodemus (he who came to him by night, being one of them) said to them, 51 "Does our law judge a man, unless it first hears from him personally and knows what he does?"

52 They answered him, "Are you also from Galilee? Search, and see that no prophet has arisen out of Galilee."

53 Everyone went to his own house.

In John 7:28-29, Jesus implicitly made a distinction between physical origin and source of power. The populace reacted to his claims by confusing the distinction. "Where would the Messiah come from?" some wondered. "It couldn't be Galilee," many insisted After all, the Christ would be the son of David (2 Samuel 7:12), born in Bethlehem, the birth place of the great king (Micah 5:2). Yet, many believed.

The controversy froze the Temple guard (the de facto police of Jerusalem). Many among their ranks were spellbound by his words. The religious leaders rejected Jesus and his following, indeed, the people themselves; "This multitude that doesn't know the law is accursed." A Pharisee named Nicodemus tried to defend Jesus, but was rebuffed' "No prophet has arisen out of Galilee." (Of course, the leaders ignored Elijah and Elisha.)

When the leaders went home, the die was cast. Jesus had to be put to death.

Sometimes, controversies blow up over misunderstandings. Jesus stressed the source of his power, not his linage. Yet, the leaders didn't care for such details. Instead, they spun him as a charlatan and planned to kill him. Spin and the hype can confuse issues. If we are followers of Jesus, we must cut through both by keeping our focus on him.

Have you been tempted to make comments about the latest controversy? How do these fights distract you from your focus on the Lord?

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