Tag Archives: Jesus

O Happy Fault[1]: Blessings in Peculiar Packages #1

God’s blessings sometimes come in very peculiar packages. In my works of charity, it is pride. How can I conceive of such a thing? Pride is a sin! Nonetheless I repeat that God uses this blight on my character as an avenue down which grace can flow.

By allowing me to preen and puff over the trifles I do, Jesus has handed me a branding iron and has me stamp “No Reward” all over each of my actions. Jesus compares me to the hypocrites He berates three times in succession in Matthew 6: first for blowing trumpets to win the praise of others [2][Mt 6:2a] when giving alms; second for showing off while praying so that others may see them [Mt 6:5a]; and finally for looking gloomy and disheveled so that they may appear to others to be fasting.[Mt 6:16a] In all three instances, Jesus denunciation and condemnation of such public show is the same: Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. [Mt 6:2b,5b,16b]

I may attempt to fool myself into thinking that I do not show off externally, thus gloating over my superiority over such hypocrites…an utter charade. I may pretend to “swallow my pride” and play at false humility, pride’s foulest ludicrous and pitiable mockery. I may simply pat myself on my proverbial back and present myself with pseudo-kudos for being “such a good boy” in helping others, when, in truth, I have used them by my actions, my charity sanctimonious lies. I may even play at such right here and now with a display of verbal dexterity.

And all for naught….For Jesus turns to me each time I pretend and says in no uncertain terms: Amen, I say to you,…[you] have received…[your] reward. And the insane aspect of it all is that I know in my heart of hearts that He judges me with this O, so cruel yet truth-filled condemnation every time…and yet I keep on doing it again and again and again, in never ceasing stupidity. I am just like my namesake, St. Paul: What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hateThe willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not. [Rom 7:15,18] I am truly insane, according to Albert Einstein, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.[3]Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body? [Rom 7:24]

And if you think this is an addiction, it is. Any sin that becomes a habit is probably addictive. Let’s face it: it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck, quacks like a duck, then, by Jove, it’s a duck! Fortunately, thanks to the grace God gave Bill W. and others, we have a program that fights addiction. Since my life is unmanageable and I have concluded that I am insane, I must join all the other addicts, in this case, sinners of the world, and come “to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity” and then make “a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”[4]

In case I think that if I get rid of pride, I have it made…think again. In this, Bill W echoes Jesus’ “No way!” Jesus says: 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.the law does not depend on faith; rather, “the one who does these things will live by them.” [Gal 3:10,12] Whoever keeps the whole law, but falls short in one particular, has become guilty in respect to all of it. [James 2:10] Therefore, any trip up, any slight deviation, any “venial” sinful act and I am cursed. If I try to follow the law, I will fall. And the law has no safety net…one fall, I am guilty, I am cursed. That no one is justified before God by the law is clear, for “the one who is righteous by faith will live.” [Gal 3:11]

Without Divine intervention, we are caught in a Catch 22, a vortex that inevitably leads to condemnation, death, and eternal punishment. For only God [Mark 2:7] and those to whom God has given the power [Jn 20:22-23] can forgive sin. But, thanks be to God, the Father, who for our sake…made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. [2 Cor 5:21] 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,”…so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.[Gal 3:13,14b]

I can be thankful for the fact that, though I am judged guilty of sin, God says to me, “I so loved the world that...[I] gave…[my] only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For…[I] did not send…[my] Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. [Jn 3:16-17] Believe in me, believe in my Son, believe that Jesus took your guilt for those sins of yours, your condemnation of Him, your blows as you scourged him, your taunting as you crowned Him with thorns, your betrayal as you denied him, your hatred as you screamed “Crucify Him, crucify Him”…He endured all these things for Your sake, took them with Him to the Cross and there forgave you for you did not know what you were doing. [Lk 23:34] For every time you sin, you in effect reenact the entire passion, re-betraying, re-arresting, re-judging, re-interrogating, re-scourging, re-crowning, re-condemning my Son. And each time, each and every time, He forgives you and asks Me to forgive you. And, since He forgives you, neither do I condemn you. And I say to you: Go, [and] from now on do not sin any more. [Jn 8:11] You are no longer forever guilty of your sin; everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin;..[but] if a son frees you, then you will truly be free. [Jn 8:34,36] My Son freed you and My mercy triumphs over judgment.” [James 2:13b]

Thank You, Father, for turning all things, including pride, to work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. [Rom 8:28] Amen. Alleluia!!!

[1] From the Exultet, the Proclamation that is sung during the Easter Vigil Liturgy. http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/p-30-exultet.html

[2] 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. Hereafter, NABRE.

[3] Albert Einstein Quotes, Brainy quote, http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/ a/alberteins133991.html#yQWHIbTCt6MDpevx.99

[4] Steps One, Two and Three, The Twelve Steps Of Alcoholics Anonymous, Service Material from the General Service Office, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., http://www.aa.org/assets/en_US/smf-121_en.pdf

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Cana Update[1]

I am always brought up short by the strange encounter between Jesus and his mother at Cana. Jesus has already begun His public ministry, He’s been baptized, been to the desert, and is traveling around the country preaching with an entourage of His first disciples. He and his followers arrive at the wedding of friends and as the party is getting going, one of those “Opps” of life happens to the groom, the guests have imbibed all his wine. Mary gets wind of the embarrassment via the guest grape vine and informs Jesus.

Perhaps that all she intended to do, inform Him. Perhaps she hadn’t thought beyond that except that something needed to be done to help her friends. If this is the case, then Jesus enigmatic reply could be interpreted as an invitation to greater belief, to faith: “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come. [2] [Jn 2:4] In other words, “Does your concern about the embarrassing situation of our friends affect the Kingdom which I have come to establish? Does it pertain to the Father’s will? There is a time and a place Providence has assigned for all things. The hour of my revelation of myself as the Messiah is not now.”

The response He invites from Mary is one of complete faith in God and trust in His guidance of Her. Perhaps this is a Mother-Son moment when He is sincerely asking for Her guidance. Her lesson to Him is that this concern does actually affect Him, as Elizabeth’s need affected her and as the concerns of all affect each of us. She may realize, though perhaps only peripherally, that all concerns need to be His concerns, all needs His needs, not just on a human level, but on His Savior level, His Kingship level, His Divine level. Perhaps this is the “Ah-Ha” moment when she knows He must realize the full import of His being connected with every other human being by virtue of His very Incarnation. Perhaps this is what He later would formulate in His parable on the Last Judgment: whatever you…[do] for one of these least brothers of mine, you…[do] for me. [Mt 25:40] Perhaps He needed to grok the depth and the encompassing reality of the 2nd Great Commandment: Do to others as you would have them do to you, [Lk 6:31] and that this included Him on the Divine level as well as the human level.

Mary’s answer: “Yes, this does affect You both as my Son, a fellow human being, one who is truly empathetic to all the vagaries and vicissitudes of live, the manifestations of the effect of sin in the world, of which lack and need, deprivation, running out of things, is always a sign. Your Father so loved this crazy, mixed up world with all its foibles that He gave us You so that we might believe in You and not perish but have eternal life, [Jn 3:16] Of Him, You will tell us do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’… Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. [Mt 6:31-33] You and the Father are one. [Jn 10:30] Show us the Father’s love here and now. You will talk the talk later, now walk the walk.”

How does she join Him in bringing about His first miracle? This is same way every believer who has ever “preformed” a miracle joins Him. No human actually “performs” a miracle. God does the performing; humans only express their explicit faith and trust in God to do so and thus are instruments through which God chooses to work. Every miracle not performed directly by Jesus is performed through the faith and instrumentality of a person requesting Jesus intercession and believing absolutely that He will intercede. The human person gives him/herself up to God and invites God to work through him/her; she/he transforms her/his self into God’s instrument.

Mary is not trying to override His or the Father’s timing of His hour, but, as with the Finding so many years before, she has explicit faith that, given her explanation, Jesus will do “the right thing.” She doesn’t press Him. She doesn’t define what He is to do, but she has an explicit faith that He will know what to do. Thus, when she says to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you,”[Jn 2:5] she lets go and lets God. Her statement is another way of saying what she says with her whole life, in her dormition, her assumption and even as she is crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth: May it be done to me according to your word. [Lk 1:38]

Obedience, then, comes back to its root meaning, “to listen to.” It’s not so much doing as being, as listening, as following, as joining in the yolk next to Jesus. To hear and let it be done to me, to have faith and trust in God, in whatever His eternal Now brings for my next step. It is to pick up one’s cross daily and to follow the Word, strap on His burden, take on His yolk and walk the world’s roads to the Calvaries of today with Him. It is to listen and hear the Spirit’s whispers of guidance and inspiration, to follow the promptings of one’s true heart, to the love of God and our fellow man to which we are called by our very nature as familial members, not just of the human family but of the very familial Body of Christ. We would not be here if it were not for God’s creation and we would not be human without accepting our place in the family of humankind and thus our relationship to all others.

Jesus obeys, Mary obeys, we obey, I obey. Listen, listen, listen and allow it to be done onto me. This is our calling, this is our “vocation,” this is our purpose in life. Amen. Alleluia!!!


[1] As with all my writings, I explain things in the way they make sense to me. In doing so, I often blindly wander into minefields of explanation into which scholars, saints and angels wisely do not venture. Therefore, take all I write not just with a grain of salt but with a whole mine of it. Please, please, please consider that I am just me, one very finite, very myopic, often very confused and mistaken man. I am often wrong. However, God guarantees the infallibility of the Catholic Church. Thus, if anything that I write contradicts or in any way conflicts with what the One, Holy, Apostolic Catholic Church has stated or defined, I profoundly apologize to my readers for misleading them, to the Church for contradicting our infallible Faith, Scripture and Tradition, and I beg God to have mercy on me, forgive me and write straight the crooked lines your wayward servant has written. I beg the forgiveness of all and ask for your prayers that I might have the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit to see aright once again.

[2] 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. Hereafter, NABRE.

Lesson in Obedience

[A Caveat: As with all my writings, I explain things in the way they make sense to me. In doing so, I often blindly wander into minefields of explanation into which scholars, saints and angels wisely do not venture. Therefore, take all I write not just with a grain of salt but with a whole mine of it. Please, please, please consider that I am just me, one very finite, very myopic, often very confused and mistaken man. I am often wrong. However, God guarantees the infallibility of the Catholic Church. Thus, if anything that I write contradicts or in any way conflicts with what the One, Holy, Apostolic Catholic Church has stated or defined, I profoundly apologize to my readers for misleading them, to the Church for contradicting our infallible Faith, Scripture and Tradition, and I beg God to have mercy on me, forgive me and write straight the crooked lines your wayward servant has written. I beg the forgiveness of all and ask for your prayers that I might have the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit to see aright once again.]

It is encouraging to me to realize that even Jesus needed lessons in obedience. Not that He ever disobeyed God the Father. But that obedience came into conflict with obedience to his parents. He needed to grow in discernment and understanding, to mature just as we do, to be able to listen to the Father through His mother and step-father, or, as Luke puts it, He needed to go down to Nazareth and to be obedient to them in order to advance in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.[2] [Lk 2:52] Note that this obedience to His parents was necessary not just to advance in the opinion of men, but also, and perhaps especially, in the reality, the Truth that is God.

God had made it necessary for Jesus to be absorbed into, to become part of the fabric of his family, of the community at Nazareth, of the society around him. He could not hold himself aloof, to separate himself from the warp and woof of everyday life, to go off to study scripture with the priests in the temple, not even to go up to the mountain and pray alone, without realizing that His connection with the world, with His purpose, why He was there, with the Truth, the real reason why He went up to the mountain to pray…for His people back to Adam and forward to the end of time.

God speaks to us of this universal interrelationship through His creation, through the earth, through the everyday activities of earth. This is true of you, of me, even of the hermit and the cloistered. Their day and ours are strewn with ordinary routines, encounters with Him through our bodies, our activities, our emotions, our thoughts as we swim in the His Divine milieu of creation.

The lesson for me? As much as I may wish to be united to God and to the things of God here on earth, to go apart and have an eternal I-Thou love-in, God wants me to realize that He made me to praise, reverence and serve Him directly but also and continually through my every thought, word and action with which I interact with all around me; these repercuss in ever expanding waves washing over the whole world and over all around me.

[2] 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. Hereafter, NABRE.

The Ask

“The Ask” is a fundraising term meaning the moment when the fundraiser, gauging that the donor is sufficiently convinced in the efficacy and need of the cause that the donor is ready to actually make a financial commitment, makes the actual request for the person to make a contribution.

When “the ask” is of God, I find things seem complicated. On the one hand, Jesus assures us that the Donor will give: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. [1] [Mt 7:7-8] Again, He says all we need is faith: whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive. [Mt 21:22] According to Jesus, in dealing with God, it is always good if you’re not just being selfish, if this need is a communal need: Again, [amen,] I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.[Mt 18:19][2]

With a non-profit here on earth, any donor wants to be certain, (a) that the cause is truly worthy of support, (b) that the need is great; (c) this organization is legit and actually does something to address this need, and (d) that the money will be used wisely and well for the purpose for which the donation is made, and not to pay exorbitant salaries or just to elicit more funds.

God is the same way. He (a) loves us unconditionally, (b) knows we need Him because He created us; (c) wants to be certain that we truly trust Him, and (d) that we show we believe in Him, and love Him by our actions: we have confidence in God and receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. [1Jn 3:21-22] And what pleases Him is that we love Him and show that love by loving everybody else: whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me. [Mt 25:40]

When dealing with God, we have an “in” with the Donor; we go through the Donor’s Son. Jesus does “the ask” of the Father. “Jesus…[is] the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men, especially sinners. He is ‘able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.’ [Heb 7:25]”[3]

Our own fear and bumbling cause us to make inappropriate “asks.” You do not possess because you do not ask. You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. [James 4:2-3] However, the Divine Factotum, the Specialist in Everything, Love and Truth Himself, the Holy Spirit, not only teaches us what to say but even makes “the ask” for us when we are dumbstruck before the majesty of God, or fixated on the wrong thing, or can’t figure out what we really need: In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. [Rom 8:26]  And the Donor knows “the ask” is legit: The one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will. [Rom 8:27]

As the deluge of continuous mail from the same organization asking for money even when I have had no contact with it for years attests, persistence is the name of the Donor game. If one “ask” does not do it, keep at it and wear down the Donor’s resistance. Jesus illustrated this explicitly in one of my favorite parables, a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. He said, “There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being. And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, ‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’ For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, ‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.’” The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. [Lk 18:1-8]

By my persistence, I show God I’m serious, I am truly in need, His people for whom I am praying are in need, we all need His help, His grace, His mercy. Our cause is just and worthy of His assistance.

But, like Job, I am fearful of the LORD: I put my hand over my mouth. I have spoken once, I will not reply; twice, but I will do so no more. [Job 40:4-5] I know that I do not know for what I should ask: Therefore I disown what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes. [Job 42:6] I am as fearful coming before God as Esther was coming before the King, but I desperately need God’s help: My Lord, you alone are our King. Help me, who am alone and have no help but you, for I am taking my life in my handdeliver me from my fear. [Esther Gk Version C: 14-30]

But, though His sacred word, God assures us of his love: But You, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in mercy and truth. [Ps 85:15, 103:8; 145:8; James 5:11] Therefore, we pray “Father, accept this offering from your whole family. Grant us your peace in this life, save us from final damnation, and count us among those you have chosen.” [4] and “we dare to say: Our Father….”[5]


[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. Hereafter, NABRE.

[2] God’s answer to the prayer of two or three envisages a different situation from one that involves the entire congregation. In addition, the object of this prayer is expressed in most general terms as anything for which they are to pray….For where two or three…midst of them: the presence of Jesus guarantees the efficacy of the prayer. This saying is similar to one attributed to a rabbi executed in A.D. 135 at the time of the second Jewish revolt: “…When two sit and there are between them the words of the Torah, the divine presence (Shekinah) rests upon them” (Pirqê ’Abôt 3:3). NABRE Notes on Mt 18:19-20

[3] CCC 2634

[4] Roman Missal, EP I (Roman Canon) 88. CCC 1037

[5] CCC, Pt. 4; Sect. 2, Art.2, I.

An Aside: On Meditating while “Saying the Rosary”

There are a myriad of ways to “say the rosary,” that is to say all the prayers while contemplating on the various mysteries. While on my own I may not be able to come up with a new way to approach today’s mystery for the umpteenth hundred time, if I start out asking the help of Mary and the Holy Spirit in offering my prayer to the Father for His glory, they pull out of their bag of tricks amazing insights each and every time.

For example, one such that they shared with me is an Allegory of the Sorrowful Mysteries. You need to pull way, way, way back to see this one, and go with the flow. And please realize that my description will not in any way do justice to the real contemplation. Nor does it plumb even the shallows of these mysteries, for that is what they are, not just human, but Divine Mysteries, played out on our human stage. Therefore, we shall never be able to grok them in their entirety.

The Agony in the Garden is just what it says, an individual’s “struggle for victory in the games”[1] of life. Jesus prayer and our prayer is to avert the inevitable in one form or another. It is for relief from this constant struggle and especially for the much more horrific ultimate struggles yet to come. If I follow Christ, if I take up my cross daily, then I, too, must end in ultimate obedience to the Father’s will, no matter where or to what it leads.

The Trial before the Jews[2] from an eschatological or end-time perspective, is the continuous avoidance and denunciation of God by the so-called righteous. They will not recognize who Jesus really is, the Anointed One of God, the Messiah, until ultimately He comes again in power and majesty, our Judge and our Savior, the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven. [Mk 14:62] This rejection, this mangling of the gift of revelation in an attempt to fit our meager understandings, our petty power schemes, will be reenacted over and over again until the ultimate revelation. And it will be amazing who will not get it, who will not truly believe, who will so distort the image of the true God as to make idols of their own imagination. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’” [Mt 7:21-23] Lord, help me not fall into that trap.

The Trial before the Gentiles, also from an eschatological perspective, is the continual lack of recognition and acceptance by society and in particular, by those political and social powers in society of the reality of God, the reality of Jesus as the King of Creation, of the Universe, of the Cosmos. Like Pilate, even understanding, though accompanied by a refusal and rejections of the implications thereof, will come in stages, first of Jesus, of God as a criminal without charge other than being what the Jews did not want, “What charge do you bring [against] this man?”…“If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” [Jn 18:29-30] Separation of Church and State has its good points, e.g. non-interference, the freedom to practice one’s religion, but it also has its bad points, e.g. by implication, separation of Morals and State, Conscience and State, Divinely instituted ethics and State, regardless of the fact that the demands of the law are written in their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even defend them. [Rom 2:15] The State and society also recognizes that the Church, by giving bread, hope and healing to the masses, he threatened their ability to rule, their status quo. Note the echo of Jesus first temptation in desert just after his Baptism before the beginning of his ministry . [Mt 4:3-4]

Then Pilate acknowledges Him as a King, but “My kingdom does not belong to this world,” [Jn 18:36] an echo of the third temptation. [Mt 4:8-10] Finally, the Jews tell Pilate: We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God, [Mt 19:7] the final echo of the second temptation.[3] [Mt 4:5-7] [4]

The Carrying of the Cross Here, Jesus has already invited us to join Him. If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. Following Jesus requires self-denial and the steadfastness in accepting life as God’s will unfolding one moment at a time, one joy, one sorrow at a time. This is the cross, the constant fluctuation, the control in God’s hands, the suffering, derision, rejection, being counted among the outcast, the marginalized. We will be called upon to witness to Christ, to testify with our actions, our words, our thoughts, our way of life that we follow Him. To be strong, resilient, faithful in His service is the life to which we are called.

But I cannot carry my cross alone. I will stumble, fall, sink beneath its weight, the weight of my sins, my sinfulness, the sinfulness of the world. Humanities realization of our own frailty may explain the addition of the three falls in the Stations of the Cross. Though not based on Scripture, these resonate with the reality of our own experience in carrying our crosses. We will need the help of our loved ones, our family, our friends, the Church, even strangers as in Jesus case. From Veronicas who wipe our face to Simons who help carry our cross, our journey up Calvary’s hill of life must be populated with caring strangers who lend us a hand on our way.

The Crucifixion The final scene of each life. The top of Calvary. Death come to us all. And no matter what form it may take, to the person involved, it is her or his Calvary. It is time to wrap up one’s life. It is time to forgive and be forgiven. It is time to come to terms with heaven and hell. It is time to hand over all to others. It is time to put loved ones for whom we have cared in the hands of God and of each other. It is time to confront God, ask Him where He is and demand He come. It is time to eat and drink one last time this side of eternity. It is time to place myself in the only hands that can lead me through the door of death into life eternal. It is a time of sadness, yes, but also joy. It is a time of faith. It is a time of hope. It is a time of love. It is time for time to become eternity. This is the Eternal Now.

[1] The original meaning in the Greek according to the online etymology dictionary: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php? term=agony

[2] I have substituted this and the “Trial before the Gentiles” in the second and third sorrowful mystery slots to give a more complete Scriptural recounting of all that went on in the passion, not just the particularly brutal Scourging and the sadistic Crowning which, though certainly worthy of contemplation on their own merit, are only parts of the event.

[3] Luke concludes his version of the temptations in the desert with the teaser: When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time. [Lk 4:13] Luke reminds us of this in the Garden: this is your hour, the time for the power of darkness. [Lk 22:53]

[4] The abrupt ending of this decade without satisfactory closure is both realistic and a lesson in prayer. The underlying prayers come to an end and, according to them, I am to move on to consider the next mystery. It is rather like a museum tour where the guide rushes you through from exhibit to exhibit, but you paid for the tour so you feel compelled to keep up. But, in reality, there is no hurry. It is best to take Ignatius’ recommendation to heart: “I will remain quietly meditating upon the point in which I have found what I desire, without any eagerness to go on till I have been satisfied.”
Ignatius of Loyola. The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius: Based on Studies in the Language of the Autograph (Kindle Locations 341-342). Kindle Edition.

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

Patience: Constrained Obedience

A time between the Finding in the Temple and the Baptism of Jesus demonstrates the amazing importance God puts on Patience. We are given the Finding as a Divine hint [some hints need to be a lot more heavy handed than others or we don’t seem to get the point] that Jesus was well aware of his mission way back when He was twelve. But to the Father, awareness and readiness were not the same thing. After his confrontation with his parents, Jesus gets the message. This is not what His Father wants Him to do at this time. At this time, he is to be subject to his earthly father and mother. He is under the supervision of guardians and administrators until the date set by his father. [1] [Gal 4:2]

So he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.[Lk 2:51] This was to be his boot camp in obedience. It may not have seemed that way, but think about it. If you knew you were the Son of God and were sent here to do one thing and one thing only, save humankind, don’t you think you would be chafing at the bit to get to it. Ok, maybe not when you’re a teen, but at least when you’re 20. How slowly those hidden years would have seemed to drag by. And His boot camp training wasn’t just a couple of weeks or months. It wasn’t even a couple of years. Think 18 years in the backwaters of Galilee.

And given his propensity for knowing exactly what was going to happen to him at the end and his constant references to His “Hour,” Jesus understanding of His ultimate mission was not limited by His human perception nor even by time itself. Consider what you would be like if you were literally, not just figuratively, “waiting an eternity” for something to happen. They have to put me in a padded room before the first week was up. While we are wont to compare good patience to that of Job, it was a grain of sand when compared with what Jesus had to endure.

This was ultimate Obedience, Jesus total giving of control of his life over to His Father, total subordination of His will to that of His Father. And not to His Father directly. That would have been much easier. When one in confronted with the Almighty, the LORD Jehovah, the Creator of the Universe, even Jesus, now the God-Man would be able to humanly rationalize the efficacy of letting His Father run the show. But remember, this was obedience to His human parents, to creatures of His Father, if considered from a scientific perspective, so vastly inferior to Jesus that only on the human level could there be any comparison whatsoever, and even there, major inequalities. However, this is precisely the point. This obedience to Joseph and Mary is a true demonstration of His obedience to His Father.

Think of it, 18 years out of the only earthly life of the God-Man he’ll ever have. We are tempted to think of it as such a waste; would not more years in the public ministry been a better use of Jesus time, Jesus talents, than spending them schlepping boards and bricks for His father, building houses and repairing furniture in the backwater, hick town of Nazareth, helping his mother around the house?

For the majority of Jesus life, we have no record of what He did, Salvation History gone blank…or is it? We are told that, like his cousin, John, and his ancestor, Samuel [See 1Sam 2:26], Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man. [Lk 2:51-52] Good wine needs time to age. Good people do also. We know He was not yet truly wise at twelve; though He was listening to them and asking them questions and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers, [Lk 2:46-47] the teachers thought they had a prodigy, not a Messiah, on their hands. Knowledge, even understanding and wisdom are not the same thing. With wisdom comes empathy, tact, insight not immediately evident in the facts and figures of knowledge. He may have been a Bar Mitzvah, a “Son of the Commandments,” a “man” in the Jewish community, but, in their eyes, the eyes of his family and the world, He was also still a boy, and his learning, his knowledge, needed the seasoning of life to become wisdom.

That’s where the the advancing in age, the blessing of time, the revelation of experience comes into play. Being fully man as well as God, like every other person who ever lived, only with maturation through the practical, everyday experience of family and community life, of business encounters and festival gatherings, in the drudgery of the day-to-day routine of work and life and play and prayer and friendships and love and heartaches and death and anger and sadness and acceptance and carrying on in spite of it all would wisdom and maturity be achieved.

Why favor before God and men. As his encounter with his parents in the Temple demonstrates, Jesus needed the maturity of adulthood to hone of his people skills from the abrasiveness of adolescence to the tact, temperance and perceptiveness of manhood. Only through the experience of living would He gain the human empathy and understanding needed to know them all, and…not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well. [Jn 2:24-25]

By using this knowledge as His Father directed Him, He did His Father’s will…always and everywhere in His “hidden life” until the day of his manifestation to Israel. [Lk 1:80]

Although we call it the “hidden life,” all that means is it didn’t rate minute by minute tweets, photo ops, headlines. He was not holding press conferences, nor issuing releases. He had no paparazzi, no followers. He was just the local carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon…and…his sisters. [Mk 6:3] His cloak of anonymity was so complete, His hidden identity so engrained in His neighbors, that when He later revealed His preaching and His power, He lacked so much credibility in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house,… he was not able to perform any mighty deed. [Mk 6:4-5]

But finally, His patience was rewarded: “In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.” Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. [Is 49:8; 2Cor 6:2] And, just as the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert [Lk 3:2], when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son [Gal 4:4] to be baptized. It was there His patience was rewarded. It was there the Father and Holy Spirit manifested their love of Him and their recognition and commendation of the perfect humble obedience He had shown throughout His hidden life: the heavens…[were] torn open and the Spirit, like a dove,….[descended] upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” [Mk 1:10-11] The Spirit pins on the medal while the Father gives the speech.

Even then, They knew He was not quite ready. He needed his own personalized Camp Lejeune combat readiness training for the upcoming battles, and so at once the Spirit drove him out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. [Mk 1:12-13]

Much of the rest of His life would be filled with this constant tension. On the one hand, He would cry out in frustration: I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! [Lk 12:49-50] On the other, even to His mother who, of all people, knew Him best, He would try to thwart her request for pity on the wedding party: “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” [Jn 2:4] Of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. [Mk 13:32]

This tension between wanting it over and waiting for His Father’s Hour haunts Him throughout his public ministry. Finally, on the occasion when Greek believers wish to speak to Jesus, He finally says: The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified…though he immediately clarifies that He recognizes that this glorification will have the appearance of exactly the opposite of what the world expects: unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit….Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” [Jn 12:23-25, 27-28a] The glorification would be of His Father, for He would demonstrate with His life that love of and obedience to His Father are the most important things in the universe, more important than life itself.[2]

There are more than one “hour” occurring simultaneously, Jesus Hour of His Father’s Glory and the hour, the time for the power of darkness. [Lk 22:53] These converge and culminate as Jesus hangs on the cross between heaven and earth. It is only, after gifting His own mother to John and to us and knowing that…from that hour the disciple took her into his home.[Jn 19:27]…, only then, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst.” [Jn 19:28] For what did Jesus thirst: “the fourth cup which for all practical purposes is the climax of the Passover.”[3] He needed to conclude the Passover Meal, for he said: I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God. Now was the Kingdom of God established on earth for all eternity….When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished. And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.” [Jn 19:30]

The patience obedience had been completed, His Father’s will had been fulfilled, His Father was glorified by His ultimate sacrifice of Jesus of Himself, His life, of everything as testimony to His Father as His God, His all, His Everything.

Et tu, Brute? And what of me? To what part of this magnificent panorama of divinely human patience can I aspire to, hope to emulate. Me, in my timidity, my weakness, my humanness, my drive to control, my intolerance of expectation, my demand for immediacy, my today-and-now impatience. On the contrary, I am the poster child of impatient disobedience. Can I change? Indeed, I am the most pitiable…of all. [1 Cor 15:19] ““Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them [and me and you] and said, “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” [Mt 19:25-26]

Patience! We’ll get there, with God’s help. 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] A truth revalidated again and again over the centuries by the blood of martyrs, the life long vows of religious, the lives of the saints.

[3] Scott Hahn, The Fourth Cup, The Sacrament of the Eucharist, http://zuserver2.star.ucl.ac.uk/~vgg/rc/aplgtc/hahn/m4/4cp.html