The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you for ever, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.

John 14:15-18

This gospel passage is taken again from the Last Supper discourse. Jesus is speaking with the 12 before His arrest and crucifixion. Jesus uses this discourse to encourage His Apostles. He promises them, that although He is leaving, the Spirit, who is sent by the Father, will never leave them. Not only will the Holy Spirit be with them, the Spirit will dwell within them. Jesus does not explain how this will occur, but He does make one thing clear. This Spirit, whom He calls “the Spirit of truth,” is rejected by the world.

Throughout John’s gospel the evangelist makes a contrast between “the world” and Jesus Christ. In the opening prologue John writes, “The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not…and his own people received him not.”(Jn 1:9-11). Later in the Last Supper discourse, John recounts Jesus saying,”If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”(Jn 15:18)

John is not speaking here of the world that God originally made and declared “good”(see Genesis 1). Rather, the evangelist is acknowledging that with the first sin, creation “fell” from grace, and ever since, humanity has been in rebellion against God. Jesus came to quash the rebellion and redeem humanity and all of creation. The forces of sin are strong and it was not easy mission, in fact, Jesus suffered terrible betrayal, torture and death to vanquish the enemy. The Resurrection is the sign of His victory. “The world” will come to an end, but He lives forever.

Reflection

“The world” which rejects Jesus and rejects the Spirit also rejects the followers of Jesus who are inspired by the Spirit. Though this might sound unsettling, Jesus exhorts us, “In the world you will have trouble, but have courage, I have over come the world” (John 16:33).

Activity

It is important to realize that being a Christian requires fortitude, which is strength, perseverance, and courage. This is a virtue that we can practice, and that God will help us to grow in. This week, read about a courageous Christian. There are many, but two you might enjoy reading about are Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Irena Sendler.

I am the way, the truth and the life…

“Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.”

Thomas said to Him, “Lord we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”

Jesus said to Him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me.”

John 14:1-7

Jesus came to restore all of creation into a rightly ordered relationship with God the Father. After God created, He pronounced all of creation to be good, and of course it was, for God can do no evil. All that He does is good, beautiful, true, life-giving. But then man sinned. When man, who was steward of creation, and God’s highest creature, sinned, all of creation fell, with man, into disorder. Jesus came to redeem creation, and restore order and goodness.

In this gospel passage, Jesus is speaking to the 12 at the Last Supper. Throughout John’s gospel, John demonstrates the divinity of Jesus, he does so here is well. Jesus uses the very specific construction “I am.” For the 12, and for all Jews, “I am” recalls the one, true God revealing Himself to Moses in order to liberate the Israelites from slavery. God revealed Himself as “I am, who am.” One way to think of this is I am “being:” everything that exists, all life, all that is.

Jesus, the God-man says, “I am the way, the truth, the life.” He is signaling His divinity. As Second Person of the Holy Trinity, He is the way to the Father, He is the truth of the Father, He is Life of the Father. There is no other way or path, no other truth or ideology, no other lifestyle or life-choice that will redeem the world or repair the destruction and disorder of sin.

Reflection

It’s very common for people to say- “Speak your truth,” or “You have your truth, I have mine.” Such ideas are opposed to Jesus. Any path, any belief, any lifestyle that does not align with Jesus, the complete revelation of God, will not heal the world nor will it bring us back to the goodness of the Father.

Activity

This week, listen to the ideas that are spread around you through conversations, music, tv shows, books etc. Do they acknowledge that God alone, revealed in Jesus Christ, is the source and fullness of truth and life?

I am the door

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

John 10:7-10

This gospel is from John chapter 10, which is sometimes called the “Good Shepherd Discourse.” In the lines that come after this excerpt, Jesus explicitly says “I am the Good Shepherd.” This self-proclamation would have been important to the Jews of Jesus’ time. For one thing, the people were very familiar with sheep and shepherds. Jesus was speaking to them with imagery that was relevant and made sense to them. More importantly, for the Israelites, there was connection between shepherding and leading God’s People. King David, the great Israelite king, was first a shepherd. The prophets had strong condemnations for shepherds who lead the people of God astray. The Old Testament foretold a a “good” shepherd who would lead the people back to God- protecting them, guiding them, providing for them.

But this in these lines from John’s gospel, Jesus does not call Himself “the Good Shepherd,” that comes later. Here, He calls himself the “door” or in other translations, the “gate.” How is Jesus a gate?

I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.

There is one mediator between God and man. That is Jesus Christ. There is one, and only one savior. That is Jesus Christ.

Take notice, He is not the “gate keeper” or “door opener.” To live fully and abundantly, it is not enough that He open the door. For He tells us, that we must enter into and through Him.

Reflection

The Church is the “Mystical Body of Christ.” To enjoy salvation, and the fruits of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, to have life and have it abundantly, we must enter into His Body- the Church, and then we may draw our life from Him.

Activity

Watch this video to learn more about shepherding

He saw and believed

Now on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. so she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved and said to them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Peter then came bout with the other disciple, …they both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first; and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came…and went into the tomb; he saw the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. The the other disciple who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not know the Scripture that he must rise from the dead.

John 20:1-10

“He saw and believed.” In this Gospel account, John sees the empty tomb and the discarded burial cloths, and believes.

Even before this takes place, John loved Jesus. He respected Him. He left his father and their family business of fishing to follow Him. And unlike the other disciples, he did not abandon Jesus as Jesus suffered on the cross. But in this story, John tells his readers that it is the empty tomb, the evidence that Jesus had arisen from the dead, that caused John to believe. Furthermore, John admits that neither he, nor the older Peter, even understood the Scripture until the Resurrection.

What does this mean? It means that these two disciples, so close to Our Lord, did not believe Jesus or understand all that the Scripture had foretold about Him.

Jesus had revealed to them who He was and that the Jewish Scripture were fulfilled in Him. Presumably Peter and John accepted this, because they continued to follow Him. Peter had confessed that Jesus was the Messiah, “the Son of the living God.”(Matt 16:16) So when John says that it was only on seeing the empty tomb that they came to understand and believe, what is he talking about?

What they had not believed and understood was that Jesus came to overturn the reign of sin and death. God is Lord of life and He never intended suffering or death. When Adam and Eve committed the first sin, they brought pain, suffering, and death into creation. The Son of God became man liberate man and all of creation from the power of sin and death and God’s Kingdom of life and love might flourish. The empty tomb was the evidence that He was victorious.

For Reflection

Do you believe that Jesus has power over sin and death? If so, ask for his help with any sin that you struggle with.

Activity

For a beautiful printable coloring page go to http://www.supercoloring.com/pages/empty-tomb

For a fun paper mache tomb activity go to https://birmingham.citymomsblog.com/holidays-and-seasons/easter-lessons-mom/

Hosanna to the Son of David

And when they drew near to Jerusalem…Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If any one says anything to you, you shall say, The Lord has need of them,’ and he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,

Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold, your king is coming to you, humble , and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed the…And most of the crowd spread their garments on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him, and that followed him shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who come in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the Highest!

Matt 21:1-11

All that Jesus has said and done on his path to Jerusalem has been designed to alert the Israelites that He is the Messiah, the new king sent by God to deliver God’s People.

Remember that the Israelites are God’s chosen people. A people whom God had formed, saved from slavery, spoken to, given the law to and provided for. They had once been a mighty kingdom. But for almost 1000 years, they were divided, overcome by more powerful kingdoms, driven into exile and ruled by foreigners. Still, many held on to the hope that God would never abandon them. They believed that He would send a Messiah who would deliver them.

Jerusalem had been the epicenter of the Israelite kingdom. The place of true worship and the city of its kings. Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem is an emphatic signal for the Jewish people that Jesus is the long awaited Hope of Israel. Just before this story in Matthew’s Gospel, Matthew tells of a woman who anoints Jesus’ head with costly oil. In the Jewish tradition, the king’s head was anointed with oil as a sign that this was the man chosen by God to rule the people. In this story, Matthew points out that by riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, Jesus is the king that had been promised by the prophets Isaiah and Zechariah. Even the crowd’s response reveals Jesus as the new king. They call Him Son of David, linking Him to the mighty King David. They greet Him with psalms of praise that had been prayed by the Israelites for a thousand years. They welcome Him in the same way that they had welcomed their kings of old, throwing their cloaks on the ground before Him and waving palms.

Let us watch throughout this Holy Week and see how He assumes His throne.

If you knew the gift of God…

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar,
near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
Jacob’s well was there.
Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well.
It was about noon.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water.
Jesus said to her,
“Give me a drink.”
His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.
The Samaritan woman said to him,
“How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”
—For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.—
Jesus answered and said to her,
“If you knew the gift of God
and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink, ‘
you would have asked him
and he would have given you living water.”

-John 4:4-10

It is a great mystery that God became man.

The Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Son, in an act of obedient love, gave up all the majesty, power, and glory of God to take on a human nature. He came into the world as a poor, tiny child, who would eventually be imprisoned, beaten, and crucified.

In this gospel reading from John, we are invited to contemplate, once again, the utter humility and giftedness of God the Son. Jesus is “tired from his journey.” God is tired and thirsty. The Word of God, through whom the seas and the entire universe was created, asks for a drink.

The woman balks at this idea, because “Jews used nothing in common with Samaritans.” This was because the Jews looked down on the Samaritans. Though they both traced their heritage back to Jacob, the Samaritans had intermarried with pagans and adopted some of the pagan traditions. Jesus responds, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you ‘give me a drink’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.

Jesus’ “living water” is his own life, poured out for us. He did this once and for all on the Cross. Each time the Church baptizes a person, Jesus’ living water is again poured out. It cleanses the soul and makes a new creation. The baptized is given a new life in Christ that he/she may enjoy for all eternity.

For Reflection

God will never force us to love him and serve him. It is our free will choice. He comes to us in humility and invites us into a relationship, just as he did with the Samaritan woman.

Activity

Look for an opportunity to cheerfully serve another person. This could be something as simple as getting a drink for a younger sibling who cannot reach the cups, or offering to help a parent do the dishes. Do one small activity of service this day, and offer it to Jesus.

This life is passing away

Luke 16:19-31

There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, rember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment. ‘ But Abraham said, ‘The have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.’ “

This world is temporary. Our lives here on this earth are short. We will die. All of us will die one day. All our riches and stuff, everything that we had, our clothes, our homes, our toys, our video games and i pods. They will be of no use. The only thing that will matter then will be how we lived, and most especially how we loved. Did we love God? Did we obey him and worship him? Did we see him in others? Did we love and care for him in others?

We must be realistic. We must look at ourselves and how we treat others. How do we treat the people whom we encounter each day? Be honest, because that is what matters in this life. Our life here on earth is passing away and it is so short compared to what awaits us after death. Choose to love God and others. Choose eternal happiness.

The Feast of the Chair of St. Peter

Matthew 16:13-19

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”: And Jesus answered him, “blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Jesus established a Church and He chose Peter to lead it. He says it quite explicitly here, “And I tell you, you are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church.” Today the Church, founded by Christ, celebrates the feast of the Chair of St. Peter.

A feast for a chair you say?

Yes! The Chair of St. Peter represents the authority of Peter. This authority of Peter to be Jesus Christ’s Vicar on earth is revealed most clearly in this passage,”I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Peter receives a share in Almighty God’s authority. Memorize this line: Matthew 16:18.

Jesus established the Church to continue His salvific work when he would take his place in Heaven at the right hand of His Father. His authority, his grace, his redemption comes to us today, over two thousand years later through his Church. Thank God for his Church! Enjoy the feast!

Sin speaks to the sinner…

Matt 5:21-24

“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother
will be liable to judgment,
and whoever says to his brother, Raqa,
will be answerable to the Sanhedrin,
and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.”

“Sin speaks to the sinner in the depths of his heart.” Psalm 36:1

Sin does not begin with our angry actions. By bearing a grudge, or harboring anger we have already committed sin. Jesus’s disciples knew that they must not kill. He wants them to understand that to follow him, it is not enough not to commit grave sin, our hearts must be pure. We must not think evil thoughts or use evil words or speak unkindness.

It is not easy to be a follower of Christ. We are accountable not only for our deeds, but for our thoughts and intentions as well. When we examine our consciences, we must look deeper than what we have done. We must look also at why we have done something. What are the inclinations of our heart. What are our deepest desires and thoughts, for these too must be pure, good and holy.

Could it be that we know better than God

Luke 5:4-8
After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon,
“Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”
Simon said in reply,
“Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing,
but at your command I will lower the nets.”
When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish
and their nets were tearing.
They signaled to their partners in the other boat
to come to help them.
They came and filled both boats
so that the boats were in danger of sinking.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said,
“Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him
and all those with him,
and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee,
who were partners of Simon.
After a night of hard work and catching nothing, Jesus tells Peter to go back out there and do it again.
Peter is skeptical, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing,”
But Peter obeys, “but at your command, I will lower the nets.”
You can almost see him shaking his head as he acquiesces. Peter is wise enough to know not to argue with Jesus, but his love is still immature. He doubts the word of the Word made Flesh.
In Peter, God mercifully gives us a most wonderful example.
Confronted with his folly, Peter drops down, before Jesus and begs, “Depart from me, Lord for I am a sinful man!”

How often do we do the same? We have worked, we have toiled, and yet God demands more, then we doubt God. Could it be that we know better? This is not mature faith and true love for God. We may know our own limitations, but we cannot fathom his majesty and power. God calls us to complete trust and dependence on him. We are not to question.  It is our part to simply, humbly obey and then be astonished by all that He does.