Category Archives: Reflections on John

Jn 6:29: Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”

[Prologue: This is a continuation of the Meditations on John’s Gospel one verse at a time.  While there is much on which to meditate, these are the center around which all the others orbit.]

Why the double “answered and said”? Either answered or said alone would have been sufficient. Is there a reason behind the author’s use of a double verb? Perhaps it is similar to Jesus frequent use of “Amen, Amen,” a device to bring attention to the importance of the words? But in this instance, it is not Jesus who is doubling up his introduction to his statement. It is the author who is doubling the narrative words. But the author is under the influence of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. So, was it the intent of the Holy Spirit to draw attention to the answer? This seems to be the case. This combination is frequently used to bring attention to the pivotal statements which follow stated or implied questions:[2]

  • Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up. [Jn 2:19]
  • Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above. [Jn 3:3]
  • 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. [Jn 4:10]
  • What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later. [Jn 13:7]
  • I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. [Jn 14:6]

These are major teachings of Jesus on the resurrection, baptism into new life, living water, servant leadership, Himself as the Way to God, the Truth of God and the Life of God.

They are not only answers to questions. They are also statements of profound importance, not only as part of the narrative, not only to the specific individuals to who they were address when Jesus spoke them, but also, and perhaps equally, to all of us who hear them repeated years and centuries later.

This is the same here, Jesus defines the work of God that we are given: belief in Him. Here the crowd has just asked: “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”[Jn 6:28] This is an eternal question. This was not only this crowd’s question. It is also our question today.

Jesus responds clearly, simply, precisely:“This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” This is His response then and now.

To put this in context, what had the crowd then been told they had to do to accomplish the works of God…keep the 613 Mitzvot or Commandments plus all the other “man’s laws” the Pharisees have imposed.[See Mk 7:2-15; Mt 15:1-20] No wonder Paul ranted and raved against the law: all who depend on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not persevere in doing all the things written in the book of the law”[Gal 3:10]…for the law does not depend on faith; rather, “the one who does these things will live by them.”[Gal 3:12]

Not keeping the law means sinning; Paul goes do far as to say: I did not know sin except through the lawwhen the commandment came, sin became alive; then I died, and the commandment that was for life turned out to be death for me. [Rom 7:7.9-10]

Paul realized, he experienced the undeniable fact that it is virtually impossible for anyone to perfectly keep all 613 Mitzvot and all the man’s laws. We are frail, weak, one slip and we fail, we sin. And that is the Catch 22; you have to keep them perfectly or you are cursed and die, but you can’t keep them perfectly, so inevitably you are cursed and die. The point being that it is impossible for sin-prone man to correctly fulfill all the things written in the book of the law.” Living, not being cursed, is based on doing and doing perfectly, an impossibility for imperfect man. For God delivered all to disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all.[Rom 11:32]

But Jesus says: “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” With this one phrase, this one declaration, Jesus Christ ransomed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree.”[Gal 3:13] The work of God, He says, is not the perfect keeping of the law; the law is to help us experience our absolute need for faith, for mercy, for forgiveness, for love. What you must do is believe in the one he sent,” believe in Me, Jesus said. Indeed, this is the reason why we have all the eye-witness reports of His miracles, that we might believe in Him: Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. [Jn 14:11]

Why the one he sent? Why did not Jesus just refer back to himself as Me? This is the ultimate mystery of the relations of Jesus as the Son with His Father, a relationship based on obedience, grounded in humility, fueled by love. Jesus refers all glory, all power, all that He himself is able to accomplish to the Father.

As Jesus explained to Nicodemus: For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. [Jn 3:16-17] Here it is very clear: the work of God is the sending of the Son; my response is to believe in His Son that I might not perish but might have eternal life.

Belief in Jesus is our task on earth. No less, no more.[3]

  • It is a discerning task: See that you not be deceived; many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them! [Lk 21:8]
  • It is a difficult task: If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. [Lk 9:23]
  • It is a dangerous task: But beware of people, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. [Mt 10:17-18] The hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God.[Jn 16:2]
  • It is a deadly task: For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. [Lk 9:24]
  • It is a dedicated task: The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.[1Jn 3:16]
  • It is a glorious task: Everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life. [Mt 19:29]

So I have my marching orders, simple, clear, direct. The work of God is to believe in the one He sent, Jesus, as the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One. Such a message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…For since in the wisdom of God the world did not come to know God through wisdom, it was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation to save those who have faith…We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God….I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. [1Cor 1:18,21,23-24; 2:2] Everything else stems from that.


[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[2] Matthew also uses this device [Mt 17:11; 24:4].

[3] While “no less” is the task of a lifetime, “no more” is a very bold statement. It means that such a belief in the one he sent is active, not passive. It subsumes within itself all that Jesus taught, all that He lived, all that He suffered and died for, all that He rose for, all that is the message of Jesus, the message of the Kingdom, all that Jesus meant when he said: Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. [Mt 28: 19-20a] It requires a total response, a commitment, a life. This “no more” reminds one of Augustine’s audacious statement: “Love and do what you will.” [Homily 7 on 1 John 4:4-12, Sect 8. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/170207.htm%5D

Learning from Judas…and Jesus…

Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you twelve? Yet is not one of you a devil?” He was referring to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot; it was he who would betray him, one of the Twelve.[1] [Jn 6:70-71] What must it have been like for Jesus to know throughout His entire ministry that Judas, one of the Twelve, would betray Him? What was it like when Jesus first met Judas, perhaps a young idealist who dreamed of the restoration of Israel to its former glory, of freedom from the tyranny of all the oppressors who had taken away their freedom, from Rome, the last and subtlest, whose iron fist in a velvet glove type of rule by proxy through pseudo-Jewish puppets who lulled the masses into somnambulant acquiescence or at least compliance. Jesus read his heart; He did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well. [Jn 2:25] He knew from the beginning that His attempt to enable Judas to see what type of Messiah He intended to be, what type of Savior His Father sent Him to be, was for the whole of humanity, not just Israel, would be futile. Though He would enter Jerusalem hailed as the Messiah, he came, humble, and riding on a donkey, [Zach 9:9] Judas wanted a conquering hero on a rampant, defiant, charging war horse.

But Jesus took a chance. He chose him as an Apostle anyway. He knew Judas was a bad apple, his misguided fanaticism might infect the others. But that was exactly what Jesus came to repair, to call His followers to resist, to draw them away from eating the serpent’s apple. And maybe, just maybe, but continually nurturing him, welcoming him, befriending him, keeping him close, maybe Judas might change.

Why did Jesus keep Him on? Why did He promote him to the inner circle? Why did He trust Judas with the group’s funds [Jn 13:29] even though Judas was known to be a thief, [Jn 12:6] at least by some? Perhaps because Jesus shared His Father’s unconditional Love and eternal optimism, the Father who loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life [Jn 3:16]…And His Son agreed to go! Maybe it was because His Father did not send…[Jesus] into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. [Jn 3:17] And that world included Judas…and everybody who was like Judas. Though Judas might condemn himself by his choices, Jesus was there to save him, not condemn him.

At the Last Supper, Jesus made numerous attempts to get Judas to change his mind. Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me, [Jn 13:21] was certainly heard loud and clear by Judas as pointing to himself. Even when Judas tries to cover up his thoughts and plans and asks Jesus in turn: “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” He answered, “You have said so.” [Mt 26:25] So Judas knows without a doubt that Jesus knows his plan. Even then, Jesus is implying, “Change your mind, repent, come back to Me,” to transform the subterfuge, Surely, it is not I into a declaration of fidelity.

Even when Peter speaks for all there is again a direct reference to Satan wanting to have his way with all the disciples. Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.[2][Lk 22:31-32] Was this the difference between Peter’s betrayal and Judas’?

In a direct way, Jesus prays for Judas. If prayer is dialogue, a conversation, between God and man, certainly Jesus, the God-Man had much self-initiated dialogue with Judas. So he dipped the morsel and [took it and] handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot.[Jn 13:26] How closely this action parodies Communion, Jesus giving a morsel of bread. But it is the horrible parody of Communion. This is not Jesus Body and Blood but an identification of a betrayer. Jesus reaches out, feeding Judas, symbolically urging him to come back from the brink, to eat His true body and drink His true blood and be saved, [Jn 6:53]. But after Judas took the morsel, he has not received Jesus, but Satan entered him.[Jn 13: 27] Evil and hatred, not goodness and love are the outcome.

But even in Jesus final words during the Last Supper to Judas, “What you are going to do, do quickly,” [Jn 13: 27] with Satan standing there at the door of choice, Jesus forces it to be left open. A “halfhearted commitment to the faith is nauseating to Christ;”[3] indeed, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. [Rev 3:16] Judas still has a sliver of a chance, either ask Jesus for forgiveness and help or go and betray him. Here Jesus is saying, “Time is preciously short. Make a choice. Whatever you are going to do, do it now!”

So he took the morsel and left at once. And it was night. [Jn 13: 30] The word translated here as so can also be translated as “wherefore, consequently, accordingly, these things being so.”[4] In other words, the choice having been set before him, Judas chose to refuse the morsel of repentance and take the morsel of betrayal and leave.

Without commentary, we might think that Jesus did not grasp to its essence the enormity of the betrayal; on the contrary, he understands that non-existence would have been better. The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.[Mt 26:24] But, in spite of it all, He still loved him.

The real kicker in this scenario is that all the Apostles would have their faith shaken for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be dispersed.” [Mt 26:31; Zech 13:7] And, when push comes to shove: all the disciples left him and fled.[Mt 26:56]

Even after Judas left, Jesus does not condemn him. When Judas betrayed him with a kiss, Jesus once more reaches out to him and calls him “Friend…” [Mt 26:50] Had he repented, if he had wept bitterly [Lk 22:62] like Peter, even then when it was too late to save Jesus from persecution and death, Jesus would have told Him: “Your sins are forgiven you.”[Lk 5:20; 7:48; Mt 9:2] He would have prayed to the Father: “Forgive…[him] for…[he knows] not what…[he is] doing.”[Lk 23:34] Jesus would even have told the others, just as He says to me, reminding us of our betrayal: Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone. [Jn 8:7] And finally, He would have turned to Judas and said: “Neither do I condemn you. Go, [and] from now on do not sin any more.” [Jn 8:11]

It is speculated that Judas was frustrated that Jesus had not become the conquering Messiah of his expectations, throwing off the yoke of Rome and returning Israel to its heyday. Judas thought that by having Jesus arrested, he would back Jesus into a corner and force him to finally show His might and power.

Judas was not alone in this hope. When Peter was ready to fight and drew his sword and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot call upon my Father and he will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels? The way of unbelievable might and power is available to Jesus; if one angel of death can slaughter all the firstborn of Egypt in a single night, what overwhelming odds would 60,000 such heavenly warriors provide. All He has to do is ask. But as Jesus is keenly aware, then how would the scriptures be fulfilled which say that it must come to pass in this way?” How would His Father’s will be fulfilled; how would His perfect obedience make up for the disobedience of Adam, Eve and all of us, their offspring; how would infinite mercy and forgiveness show up vengeance and violence for the evil and distortion they truly are?

Even after the Resurrection, when Jesus had been with the Apostles for forty days and they were now convinced of His reality, the true implications of the crucifixion had not yet penetrated their understanding. They were back to their old way of thinking: Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel? [Acts 1:6] They hadn’t quite got the real, the true picture yet. Jesus, however, knows that they do not yet get it and that it will take the Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—…[to] teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you. [Jn 14:26] Concerning their question He replies: It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. [Acts 1:7]

Judas’ plan is underway. He keeps tabs as it evolves. However, things don’t go the way his thought they would. The Sanhedrin condemns Jesus and Judas sees that Jesus does nothing, absolutely nothing. Worse than nothing, He makes things worse by spouting off about His Heavenly coming: The high priest said to him, “I order you to tell us under oath before the living God whether you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “You have said so. But I tell you: From now on you will see ‘the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power’ and ‘coming on the clouds of heaven.’” [Mt 26:63-64] That was the kicker; that put that last nail in the coffin. Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! What further need have we of witnesses? You have now heard the blasphemy; what is your opinion?” They said in reply, “He deserves to die!” [Mt 26:65-66]

This is not the way according to Judas that it was suppose to work out. Jesus was suppose to triumph, bursting forth as the military Messiah Judas craved, wielding a flaming sword, striking down the blind Sanhedrin, terrorizing and demolishing the imperious Romans.

Finally realizing that Jesus was not going to rise up a conquering hero, that he was not even going to defend himself, that he was a totally different type of Messiah, a innocent Messiah, a just Messiah, an obedient Messiah, Judas deeply regretted what he had done. He returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood. They said, “What is that to us? Look to it yourself.” Flinging the money into the temple, he departed and went off [Mt 27:3-5a][5] But Pandora’s box could not be closed; history could not be rewritten. Judas’ betrayal scene was over, the Sanhedrin’s condemnation had begun. Try as he might, Judas could not put Satan’s evil genii back in the bottle. The fate of Jesus was out of his hands.

Unlike Peter, he did not weep for his sins, did not realize the love bond he had with Jesus was still there from Jesus side, did not accept the mercy of the Father even then, but he seems to have despaired of being forgiven and hanged himself.” [Mt 27:5b][6] I say “seems” because no one knows what demons, literal and figurative, drove him to do what he did. And no one on earth has plumed the depths of the love and mercy of God who is patient with…[us] , not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. [2Pet 3:9]

What can I learn from Judas? What can I learn from Jesus? First, I can learn to love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. [Mt 5:44] Jesus was serious about this with Judas as with the chief priests with the scribes and elders who mocked him [Mt 27:41] on the cross, I must echo Jesus plea: Father, forgive them, they know not what they do. [Lk 23: 34] If I really want to follow Jesus, if I am totally committed to patterning my life after His, if I am given the strength and the courage to pick up my cross day after day after day, then I have to reach out in love to the Judases in my life, not just those who are overtly hostile to me, but to those who are betrayers among my friends and family, then I can and must do this. Then, like Jesus, I need to continually offer love and forgiveness, even though the traitor be my other self, my comrade and friend, you, whose company I enjoyed, at whose side I walked in the house of God. [Ps 55:14-15] Only then will I be a child of my heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. [Mt 5:45]

Second, when I face the depths of despair like Judas, no matter what I have done, no matter what evil I have committed, Jesus is always there, reaching out, giving me another chance to grab onto Him, to accept His love, to recognize Him as the only one who can restore me to sanity, to look at Him and see the face of the mercy of God. I have the same choice as Judas, falling headlong [Acts 1:18] into despair and killing myself, spiritually if not physically, or looking up and crying out: “Lord, save me!” If I do, I know in my heart of hearts, that each and every time, without fail immediately Jesus [will stretch] out his hand and catch me. [Mt 14:30b-31a] Amen. Alleluia!!!


[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[2] Robert J. Karris, OFM, commented on this passage in TNJBC, p. 716: “31: Satan…Luke contrasts the effects of Satan’s attacks have on Judas and Peter. Jesus’ efficacious prayer saves Peter from the fate of Judas (see Acts 1:15-19). you all: The Greek here is pl. whereas in v 32 it is sg. Peter is representative of Satan’s sifting (see Amos 9:9) of all. 32. The implicit Christology is deep, and the church is consoled that its Lord can save it too from the power of Satan. turned back, converted: The Gk espitrepsas does not mean locomotion, but moral conversion (see 17:4; Acts 3:19; 9:35; etc.). your fellow Christians As Acts 15:23,32, show, this is the translation of aldelphous, I lit., “brethren.” Examples of Peter’s strengthening of the church can readily be seen in Acts 1-11,15.

[3] NABRE note on Rev. 3:15-16.

[4] Lexicon :: Strong’s G3767 – oun; Blue Letter Bible, http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/ lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3767

[5] According to Benedict Vivlano, O.P., commentator on Matthew in TNJBC, the story about Judas’ death “probably began as an etiological legend to explain how the potter’s field came to be called ‘the field of blood.’” P. 671.

[6] According to Benedict Vivlano, O.P., commentator on Matthew in TNJBC, the story about Judas’ death “probably began as an etiological legend to explain how the potter’s field came to be called ‘the field of blood.’” P. 671.

The “river of life” (Revelation 22:1-2)

Holy Spirit, besides being described as “the wind [which] blows where it wills [Jn 3:8],[1] You are also described as “flowing water” and as “a spring inside you”. (John 4:10-14) Life seems to flow that way, from one thing and another, all seemingly jumbled together, without rhyme or reason, texting to toileting to eating to driving to meeting to playing sports, without a seeming link, a common thread, except that I am involved in each. I neglect to notice that You are involved in each also.

Your Will is like that wind, that river, which encompasses all my actions, all my thoughts, all of me, all of everybody and everything in its flow. It is an intelligent, kind, loving river that knows exactly where it is going. I may want to resist, go my way, get caught in an eddy of addiction here, a backwater of sin there, but You have taken that into account. You move me on in spite of myself. Chaucer said “Time and tide wait for no man.” Time ticks down to the moment of my death and the tide of events, individual and international, moves on, foreseen and guided by Your unfathomably loving hand. Providence moves inexorably on toward the Parousia, carrying all along in its wake.

I cannot see how disasters, death and destruction fit into Your Love, but I believe and trust that they do, because I believe and trust in You. I am told[2] that if I am able to hold a certain degree of uncertainty, ambiguity, and tension, like not knowing where bad things fit into love, paradoxically, this will lead to a much more calm and content way of “being in control”! That control is resting in trust and faith.

Help me today to rest in that trust and faith. Amen. Alleluia!!!

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[2] by Richard Rohr, OFM, Daily Mediations, modified.

“What can we do?”

Jn 6:28 So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” [1]

Faced with the world falling apart around me, I am bewildered, frozen, totally without any idea of how to answer this question in today’s world.

You have just told the crowd who came seeking You because You fed them bread and fish: Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. [Jn 6:27a]. Their question, and my question, is “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?

There are two ways I ask this: (a) one is of the overwhelming helplessness at my inadequacy to accomplish what God lays out for me to do; and (b) the other is the “playing dumb” posture of pretending that I don’t already know what God wants of me.

The first position, the answer of which could leave me with great humility and awe and comfort that God does work out my greatest happiness even though I am not able to do so, instead usually leads me to frustration and anger at the impossible task and goal God has given, aka dumped, on me! I mean, how can I be expected to “accomplish the works of GOD,” for heaven’s sake [literally]?

The second, the answer of which could fill me with joy and relief that God has placed in my heart how I am to serve him, instead usually has me saying: “Forget that!” and wandering off the reservation, seeking to do everything “my way,” without paying any attention to what God wants nor what you, my “supposed” brothers and sisters, are due and need.

Both exhibit a supreme lack of trust and faith. Both raise the same specter of pride and control, the first from the position of inadequacy and desire for control, the second of self-reliance, self-salvation, the flaunting of “control.” Both are viewing Your creation, the universe, the world, as orbiting around my ego; in the first, I’m on the pity-pot, in the second, on a pedestal.

You have made it extremely simple and blatantly clear what You expect in the next verse: Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”[Jn 6:29] Granted, the crowd was having a bit of difficulty identifying Jesus as “the one He sent,” i.e. their Messiah, the Son of God Himself. But from the perspective of 2000 years of pondering “these things in her heart,” [Lk 2:29] the Church, following Mary’s example, has had a great deal of time to come to understand and accept You, Jesus, for what You are, the Christ, the Son of God.

Indeed, even having been put so simply, so succinctly, when I think about it, true faith, deep, abiding faith, faith to move mountains, is totally beyond me. I wish I were Thomas, uttering “My Lord and My God.” [Jn 20:28]

Instead, I am one of your disciples who am unable to drive out the mute spirit from the boy. You are truly justified, Jesus, when you berate me: O faithless generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you? I throw myself with the boy’s father at Your feet: if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us, explicitly expressing the doubting “if.” You call me on it: ‘If you can!’ Everything is possible to one who has faith. With the father, I cry out: I do believe, help my unbelief! [Mk 9:19-24]

What a Miserable one I am![Rom 7:24] I cannot achieve the very faith for which You chastise me for not having. I am between a rock and a hard place…a no-win situation!

You gently remind me to be humble, for human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God. [Mk 10:27; Lk 18:27; Mt 19:26]. As the NABRE note says: “Achievement of salvation is beyond human capability and depends solely on the goodness of God who offers it as a gift.”

What am I to do in the meantime? How am I to survive this total meltdown? How do I face the next father with a possessed son, aka a dying spouse, no job, ebola, undocumented, living in poverty, hooked on coke? Your solution, here and always: start with prayer and move on from there! [see Mk 9:29]

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Lao-tzu

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Why Work?

Jn 6:27a Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.[1]

The motivation for work. When I think of work, I think of employment, a job that earns money, food that perishes. But You tell me to work for the food that endures for eternal life. Does this mean I stop earning money to feed my family?

This is another both/and. “Work” is the focus of both phrases; work remains, but the motive is different, the focus is changed; the goal becomes eternal life. “Food that perishes” is left in the dust, that same dust to which I will return [Gen 3:19] but which now is the dust which I will shake from my shoes if others don’t accept Your teaching. [Mt 10:14] Physical food is no longer an end, but a means to enable me to take in the Food, the Word in Scripture and in His Body and Blood, which endures for eternal life. This is what the Son of Man will give, all I need to enable me to work for the Kingdom, to go and bring peace [Mt 10:12] and make disciples, baptize and teach all to observe all that You have commanded me. [Mt 28:20]

Again, it’s the will of God in the here and now, in the workplace of the world, in the corner office, the coffee boutique, the assembly line, the milking barn, the halls of congress, the courtroom, the 16-wheeler, a humvee, a cockpit, the subway station, the classroom, the kitchen, the computer lab, the repair shop. Wherever I am, whatever I am doing, God’s will rises in front of me, a great banner in the sky, a Divine ad trying to get my attention, leading me on, encouraging me to choose His Way in this decision, this choice, this moment, this meeting, this memo, this email, this tweet, this conversation, this confrontation, this research, this brief, this contract, this burger, this glance, this judgment, this thought, this action. Do I further the Kingdom or pound a nail into a God I reject? God help me!..the choice is mine.

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

I give you a new commandment

I have always wondered what is “new” about this commandment: I give you a new commandment: love one another. [1] [Jn 13:34] Even the note in the NABRE states: “The commandment itself is not new,” and goes on to cite: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.[Lev 19:18]

I wonder whether the “new” aspect of this is two-fold: (a) by stating it is new, Jesus iterates his identification with the God of Sinai; and (b) by paralleling I am the LORD and As I have loved you, Jesus takes the focus off the solely peer criterion of human to human and raises the stakes by expanding our model to include the implicit criterion of God’s love for each of us to my love for each person I meet. This takes the rather dicey touchstone of how I love myself, which can vary from total affection to total disgust, and stabilizes that mercurial standard of self by adding the unwavering, unchanging, ever present love of God. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Rom 8:38-39]

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Derailing Providence

Jn 6:23-24 Other boats came from Tiberias near the place where they had eaten the bread when the Lord gave thanks. When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. [1]

How does God direct Providence if He has made manipulating the will of humankind off limits? After all, I am able to choose whether or not I wish to go along with His plan right here, right now…If I choose not to obey, why doesn’t that derail Providence.

I’ve been a little blind…a little, try totally! It has been staring me in the face all the time, but I wasn’t paying attention, or perhaps I wasn’t ready to see it to believe it. Whatever the cause, I now see that God uses all the things, all thoughts, all impressions, all senses, everything around me to encourage, reason, persuade, push, admonish, and otherwise tell us to carry out His will, that it is the best choice for me, that it will lead me to my greatest happiness.

But that final step, that ultimate choice He leaves totally, solely up to me. I can choose to go along with His will or I can, and sorrowfully often do, choose to think that I know better and, instead of seeing the apple for what it is, a temptation against which He lovingly, Fatherly, Motherly warned us…the burner on the stove that I can’t seem to appreciate will burn me until I get burned, I crunch down, know good and evil, and toddle on after the evil Piper.

The evidence was when Abraham sadly trudged to Moriah to sacrifice Isaac, it was there in the plagues that Pharaoh chose to ignore, it was there when Job, stripped of every one and every thing, including even his health, chose God, it was there when Mary took on the consequences of being an unwed mother, it was there in the Garden when Jesus ultimately accepted the cup of the Father, and it is right here, right now, in this room at this time…the outward contingencies of life, of providence, of God, calling to me, beckoning me, encouraging me to make the next choice, to choose God, not myself.

These choices come fast and furious: say this, do that, go here, look there…the soul’s GPS [God’s Providential System], my conscience, tries to direct me to where I am suppose to go, to what is truly home, to the eternal happiness God destined me before the foundation of the world [Eph 1:4] to achieve, if I don’t ignore it and head off for destinations conjured up by my own lust for power, honor, wealth, control, sex, drugs, revenge, whatever is my current opiate of the day.

Very interesting, a small choice for “my way or the highway” right at this moment may be destined to bring me to another crossroads where a slightly more impactful temptation looms and must be dealt with, for or against, and so on to the next and the next and the next.

No wonder Paul almost despaired: I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body? [Rom 7:23-24]

All three of the Synoptics were reminded by the Spirit to include Jesus’ encouraging answer to escaping this vortex of sin: For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible. [Mt 19:26; Mk 10:27; Lk 18:27] I suspect Spirit really wanted to make sure I got the message. Duh!

When is this ongoing dilemma, this constant barrage, this incessant stream of choices ever going to stop? I think that’s why I thank God for death, when He puts an end to all this and says, “Let’s see how you did.”

In the meantime, I can give thanks to God through Jesus Christ our Lord [Rom 7:24a], Paul’s answer and mine to this wretchedness, this mortal conflict. Only through faith in You, Jesus, can I hope to come out of this labyrinthian way[2] alive forever.

In the meantime, I, like Paul, continue to labor under the two minds, the burden of the tares and the wheat of life: with my mind, serve the law of God but, with my flesh, the law of sin. [Rom 7:24b].

I bet you wondered what this has to do with the other boats…..T’was their choice: they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[2] See the magnificent poem, “The Hound of Heaven” by Francis Thompson