Tuesday, September 2, 2014

He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him


They answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone.  How can you say, 'You will be made free'?"  
Jesus answered them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.  And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.   Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.  I know that you are Abraham's descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you.  I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father."

They answered and said to Him, "Abraham is our father."  Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham.  But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God.  Abraham did not do this. You do the deeds of your father."  They said to Him, "We were not born of fornication; we have one Father -- God."  Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me.  Why do you not understand My speech?  Because you are not able to listen to My word.  You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.  But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.  Which of you convicts Me of sin?  And if I tell you the truth, why do you not believe Me?  He who is of God hears God's words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God."
- John 8:33-47

In yesterday's reading, Jesus continued His dialogue in the temple at Jerusalem.  He is at the Feast of Tabernacles, on the last and great day of this eight-day festival.  Then Jesus said to them again, "I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin.  Where I go you cannot come."  So the Jews said, "Will He kill Himself, because He says, 'Where I go you cannot come'?"  And He said to them, "You are from beneath; I am from above.  You are of this world; I am not of this world.  Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins."  Then they said to Him, "Who are You?"  And Jesus said to them, "Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning.  I have many things to say and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him."  They did not understand that He spoke to them of the Father.  Then Jesus said to them, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.  And He who sent Me is with Me.  The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him."  As He spoke these words, many believed in Him.  Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

They answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone.  How can you say, 'You will be made free'?"  Jesus answered them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.  And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.   Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.  I know that you are Abraham's descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you.  I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father."   As is so often the case, John's Gospel illustrates a point when the two parties speak, in some sense, at cross purposes.  The leadership is responding in a "mundane" kind of perspective, while Jesus speaks of the spiritual reality of faith at work within us.  My study bible says, "To be a child of Abraham, it is not enough to be simply related by blood; rather, Abraham's true children share his faith and virtue (Luke 3:8).  St. John Chrysostom teaches that our Lord wanted to detach the Jews from racial pride and to teach them no longer to place their hope of salvation in being of the race of Abraham's children by nature, but to come to faith by their own free will.  Their idea that being a descendant of Abraham was enough for salvation was the very thing that prevented them from coming to Christ."  Again, we remember that in this particular dialogue, Jesus is speaking with the members of the leadership who are hostile to Him (in John's Gospel, "the Jews" is almost always referring only to the religious leadership, not the people).  But just in the verses before, we find that there are many who are listening who believed in Him.

They answered and said to Him, "Abraham is our father."  Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham.  But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God.  Abraham did not do this. You do the deeds of your father."  They said to Him, "We were not born of fornication; we have one Father -- God."  Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me."  My study bible notes here that proceeded (in I proceeded forth) refers not to the Son coming eternally from the Father, but to Christ being sent from the Father to His Incarnation on earth. 

"Why do you not understand My speech?  Because you are not able to listen to My word.  You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.  But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.  Which of you convicts Me of sin?  And if I tell you the truth, why do you not believe Me?  He who is of God hears God's words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God."  My study bible says that "just as being a child of Abraham is based on sharing his attributes, likewise, those who reject Christ share the same attributes as the devil (in particular, a hatred for truth), and thus are rightly called the devil's children."  Love of the Father, and thereby an understanding of Christ, is the one thing to which Jesus keeps referring back.  Where is that love in these hostile authorities?  What are they fighting against in Jesus?  This love Jesus speaks of is always tied to truth, a love of truth, the spiritual reality of the Father.  Therefore its antagonism is tied to a rejection or hatred of that truth, and a rejection of that true spiritual freedom.  It is tied to lies and deception.

Jesus defends Himself by telling them (and us) the truth -- the truth about where He's from and who He is.  He always starts with the Father and most particularly with the love of the Father that defines who He is and what He is doing, and also those who can truly "hear" Him.  It's as if He's appealing to these men in the leadership to listen to their hearts and not their pride, and all the things that get in the way of that truth in the heart.  With these men, we know there is pride of place and position, of authority, that they are seeking to defend against this man, Jesus.  Even the temple police, who were sent to arrest Him, could not do so.  They came back to these leaders with the words, "No man ever spoke like this!"  Jesus also taught, in yesterday's reading, that those who wish to be His disciples must simply abide in His word.  There are many in this crowd who do believe, because of His word that He teaches.  So the Gospel presents us with a stark picture about truth, and about our own freedom ("If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." )   A love of truth begins with the love of the Father, the author of all reality, the God of love.  It takes that kind of loyalty to remain free.  And the enemy of this love is that which would deceive even by our own cares and worries and delusions.  In this case, these men fear what they will lose, their positions of authority.  John teaches elsewhere in the Gospel Jesus will be sought to put to death not for love of truth, but simply because of envy.  And so, there's a path cleared for us here, a kind of way to help us to understand whether we are living "on the level," so to speak, in truth, or in forms of self-deception.  God comes first, it's just that.  It's our loyalty and love in our hearts to something grander than we can imagine, but to which we can nevertheless relate -- as children.  John, the author of this Gospel, also writes that "God is love."  And that's how we know who our true parent is, the One who keeps us on the level, who asks us to put aside everything else we might want to cling to and move forward into deeper relationship, in love.  He's the one who will tell us the truth, when for all kinds of reasons there may be others who seek to deceive, even by flattery to our own sense of our perfection or importance.  Love acts to tell you the truth about what is truly for your good, for your best.  Even if we have no where else to turn for that kind of love, as Jesus has said, the Father is always with us.  We are never alone, and in that love is the whole of the Trinity, the great cloud of witnesses, and those who will share in that kind of love that is from the truth.  Let's remember where "home" really is, where the truth is for us.




Monday, September 1, 2014

As He spoke these words, many believed in Him


 Then Jesus said to them again, "I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin.  Where I go you cannot come."  So the Jews said, "Will He kill Himself, because He says, 'Where I go you cannot come'?"  And He said to them, "You are from beneath; I am from above.  You are of this world; I am not of this world.  Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins."  Then they said to Him, "Who are You?"  And Jesus said to them, "Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning.  I have many things to say and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him."  They did not understand that He spoke to them of the Father.  Then Jesus said to them, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.  And He who sent Me is with Me.  The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him."  As He spoke these words, many believed in Him.
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

- John 8:21-32

In Saturday's reading, Jesus was engaged in a dialogue with the Pharisees.  He spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world.  He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."  The Pharisees therefore said to Him, "You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true."  Jesus answered and said to them, "Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from and where I am going.  You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.  And yet if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me.  It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true. I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me."  They said to Him, "Where is Your Father?"  Jesus answered, "You know neither Me nor My Father.  If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also."  These words Jesus spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one laid hands on Him, for His hour had not yet come.

 Then Jesus said to them again, "I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin.  Where I go you cannot come."  So the Jews said, "Will He kill Himself, because He says, 'Where I go you cannot come'?"  Once again, Jesus is speaking about His death, Resurrection, and Ascension into heaven.  He repeats that He is "going away," but the Pharisees cannot understand Him.  Again we are reminded that in John's Gospel, the Jews most often refers to the religious leadership of that time, and not the whole of the Jewish people.

And He said to them, "You are from beneath; I am from above.  You are of this world; I am not of this world.  Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins."  Then they said to Him, "Who are You?"  And Jesus said to them, "Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning.  I have many things to say and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him."  They did not understand that He spoke to them of the Father.   Jesus gives us the words that teach that He's speaking about things they can't understand because they're not focused on the love of God.  His origin is divine; and yet they must accept who He is in order to follow Him, to go where He will be going.  His words are true because He is true to the Father; this is where His teaching is coming from.  But they can't understand what He's talking about.

Then Jesus said to them, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.  And He who sent Me is with Me.  The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him."  As He spoke these words, many believed in Him.  To lift up, my study bible reminds us, has the double meaning of both being nailed to the Cross and also being exalted by His Father on completion of Jesus' work.  That they are the ones who will "lift up" makes it clear He knows that He is speaking to those who will have Him crucified.  The light in the picture dawns here as we are given to understand that many believed in Him as He spoke.  There are many others in this crowd in the temple at Jerusalem, at the Feast of Tabernacles (Succoth), who "have ears to hear" with the love of God in their hearts.

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."   My study bible notes of these two verses first of all that "Jesus expects all who follow Him to be disciples, that is, learners.  Abiding in His word is the responsibility of all believers, not only of the clergy or of an elite class of zealots."  The truth, it says, "refers both to the virtue of truth and, more importantly, to Christ Himself (14:6).  Being free refers to the freedom from darkness, confusion, and lies, as well as the freedom from the bondage of sin and death."

While it may seem to us that there are those left out of Jesus' "everlasting life" -- to be with Him in that place where He is going, this is not really so.  A closer look at what is happening here will reveal to us that He is offering Himself, and what He has to give to the world, to everybody in this scene.  But there are those things that depend also upon our own hearts, what we want, what we desire.  Jesus has said earlier that a true desire to serve God -- to do God's will, to love God -- is the key to opening up this faith.  It opens the relationship to Christ.  As we can see, there are many in this crowd at the Feast who come to believe in Him.  Despite those members of the leadership parties who are fearful of Jesus because He seems to threaten their authority, there are many people who have come to the temple in Jerusalem to worship who "hear" what He is saying, and who come to believe.  There is no one left out.  It's important to understand the nature of God's mercy, and Jesus' kind of love.  He is the Judge, and we can't judge from this picture what is the final outcome of the lives and spiritual choices of these people.  We can see hardened hearts, with envy and ambition playing a role in this scene.  But we can't see the scene truly without the love of God and an understanding of the nature of that love.  Since God is love, we must equate the everlasting life which Jesus has on offer to all with the true nature of the love of God:  the boundless reality of that love.  When we pass that up, we are passing on a true Gift indeed.  We are taking on a role in which we reject knowledge and understanding of that love, instead of entering into relationship with it, and finding and knowing what it is for ourselves.  We also thereby miss being able to come to share it with others.  Jesus' promise regarding where He's going is always on offer.  So is the lesson here about what gets in the way of our truly knowing and understanding that love and its everlasting life on offer to us.








Saturday, August 30, 2014

I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life


 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world.  He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."  The Pharisees therefore said to Him, "You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true."  Jesus answered and said to them, "Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from and where I am going.  You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.  And yet if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me.  It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true. I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me."  They said to Him, "Where is Your Father?"  Jesus answered, "You know neither Me nor My Father.  If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also."  These words Jesus spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one laid hands on Him, for His hour had not yet come.

- John 8:12-20

In yesterday's reading, we were told that on the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."  But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.  Therefore many from the crowd, when they heard this saying, said, "Truly this is the Prophet."  Others said, "This is the Christ."  But some said, "Will the Christ come out of Galilee?  Has not the Scripture said that Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?"  So there was a division among the people because of Him.  Now some of them wanted to take Him, but no one laid hands on Him.  The officers answered, "No man ever spoke like this Man!"  Then the Pharisees answered them, "Are you also deceived?  Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him?  But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed."  Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, "Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?"  They answered and said to him, "Are you also from Galilee?  Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee."  And everyone went to his own house.

 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world.  He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."  We are still at the Feast of Tabernacles (or Succoth), an eight-day festival that commemorated the time that Israel lived in tents or tabernacles.  It is a feast of the coming Kingdom.  My study bible says that Jesus spoke these words (I am the light of the world) in the context of the great lamps being lit at the conclusion of the Feast of Tabernacles.  "Thus He declares Himself to be the fulfillment and the divine object of all celebrations of light.   In the Scriptures, God the Father Himself is light (1:4-9; 1 John 1:5), an attribute He bestows on His followers (Matthew 5:14; Philip 2:15).  Our Lord confirms His claim by performing the great sign of opening the eyes of a man born blind" (in the next chapter of John). 

The Pharisees therefore said to Him, "You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true."  Jesus answered and said to them, "Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from and where I am going.  You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.  And yet if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me.  It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true. I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me."  Once again, Jesus gives witnesses to His identity.  (See also How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?, in which Jesus gives four witnesses to His identity.)    These two witnesses here are Himself and the Father; but the Pharisees to whom He's speaking can know neither.  His judgment is true because it reflects the judgment of the One who sent Him, and this they cannot understand nor recognize either.

They said to Him, "Where is Your Father?"  Jesus answered, "You know neither Me nor My Father.  If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also."  These words Jesus spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one laid hands on Him, for His hour had not yet come.  My study bible explains, "Because the Son and the Father share the same divine nature, one cannot be known apart from the other (14:7-11)."

Jesus reaches over and over again during His speeches at this festival toward the Father, and toward an understanding of the Father by those who truly desire to know Him and to do His will.  He speaks, in some sense, of recognition.  They don't know the Father, although they are experts in the Scripture and in the Law, and therefore they can't recognize Him.  If they loved the Father, they would know Him.  And here, in my opinion, we come to a great crux in the journey of faith.  Do we create God in our own image, in some sense, or is it God to whom we are devoted?  The most important thing, perhaps, is to hold an understanding of God the Father as love, and yet also that which is beyond us, the One toward whom we reach in a return of that love.  God, as origin and source of love, remains ultimately the place toward which we need to travel.  And yet, because God is love, God's Son has been with us as Jesus Christ, reaching to us.  But we can't really "hear" Him and His words without a love of the Father in our hearts.  It is this spark or flame that begets everything else, that helps us to open our eyes and ears to Jesus' teaching, that gives us a way to return His love, that allows us to understand who Jesus is.  This flame in our hearts, so to speak, doesn't mean we need to grasp everything in its fullness -- that is something toward which we journey.  Like in every relationship, we grow into understanding of this Someone beyond ourselves.  That is a lifetime journey.  But the spark that draws us in love begins in us, so that Jesus' words, reflecting the Father who is the source of love, grasp our hearts, our loyalty, our love.  How can one really explain or understand the fullness of this mystery?  But we have Christ's words, testifying to the reality of the relationship of love within us to the Father, and that love that is shared with the Son.  What sets your heart aflame?  Is there something in these words that shares a light in you?  You may not understand it nor explain it, but you know it's there and it stirs you forward, toward its Source.  May we all be blessed to share that light and reflect it, through our love, into the world.  May we also let it illumine what is in us.  This love doesn't conform to our limited image; instead it teaches us what the fullness of God's love is.  It works to draw us toward His image of who we can be in that love, and the ways we can become "like Him."





Friday, August 29, 2014

If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water


 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."  But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Therefore many from the crowd, when they heard this saying, said, "Truly this is the Prophet."  Others said, "This is the Christ."  But some said, "Will the Christ come out of Galilee?  Has not the Scripture said that Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?"  So there was a division among the people because of Him.  Now some of them wanted to take Him, but no one laid hands on Him.

The officers answered, "No man ever spoke like this Man!"  Then the Pharisees answered them, "Are you also deceived?  Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him?  But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed."  Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, "Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?"  They answered and said to him, "Are you also from Galilee?  Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee."  And everyone went to his own house.

- John 7:37-52

 Yesterday, we read that about the middle of the feast of Tabernacles, Jesus went up into the temple and taught.  And the Jews marveled, saying, "How does this Man know letters, having never studied?"  Jesus answered them and said, "My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.  If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.  He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.  Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law?  Why do you seek to kill Me?"  The people answered and said, "You have seen a demon.  Who is seeking to kill You?"  Jesus answered and said to them, "I did one work, and you all marvel.  Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath.  If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath?  Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."  Now some of them from Jerusalem said, "Is this not He whom they seek to kill?  But look!  He speaks boldly, and they say nothing to Him.  Do the rulers know indeed that this is truly the Christ?  However, we know where this Man is from; but when the Christ comes, no one knows where He is from."  Then Jesus cried out, as He taught in the temple, saying, "You both know Me, and you know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know.  But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He sent Me."  Therefore they sought to take Him; but no one laid a hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come.  And many of the people believed in Him, and said, "When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this man has done?"  The Pharisees heard the crowd murmuring these things concerning Him, and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take Him.  Then Jesus said to them, "I shall be with you a little while longer, and then I go to Him who sent Me.  You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come."  Then the Jews said among themselves, "Where does He intend to go that we shall not find Him?  Does He intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks?  What is this thing that He said, 'You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come'?"

 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."  But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.  The last day, that great day of the feast was the eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles, says my study bible.  "The ceremony of the drawing of water provides the context for the Lord's words, 'If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.'  The living water is the gift of the Holy Spirit and the new life that accompanies this gift."

Therefore many from the crowd, when they heard this saying, said, "Truly this is the Prophet."  Others said, "This is the Christ."  But some said, "Will the Christ come out of Galilee?  Has not the Scripture said that Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?"  So there was a division among the people because of Him.  Now some of them wanted to take Him, but no one laid hands on Him.  The Prophet refers to the expected Messiah, the Savior that Moses foretold would come -- see Deuteronomy 18:15-19The Christ was expected to come from Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).

The officers answered, "No man ever spoke like this Man!"  Then the Pharisees answered them, "Are you also deceived?  Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him?  But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed."  My study bible says, "The chief priests had sent officers of the temple to arrest Jesus in the middle of the Feast [see v. 32, in yesterday's reading].  By the time the last day had arrived, no arrest had been made, because these officers had been converted by the Lord's teaching.  The Pharisees and the scribes who had 'witnessed the miracles and read the Scriptures derived no benefit' from either.  These officers, on the other hand, even though they could claim none of this learning, were 'captivated by a single sermon.'  When the mind is open, 'there is no need for long speeches.  Truth is like that' (St. John Chrysostom)."

Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, "Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?"  They answered and said to him, "Are you also from Galilee?  Search and look, for no prophet has arisen out of Galilee."  And everyone went to his own house.  A note tells us, "Nicodemus had spoken with Jesus [see For God so loved the world].  Yet his defense of Christ was still based on our law and was not yet a public profession of (Exodus 23:1; Deuteronomy 1:15-17).  No Prophet has arisen out of Galilee:  The Pharisees show their blind hatred and their ignorance of the Scriptures, for the prophet Jonah came from Galilee, from the town of Gath Hepher, which was only three miles from Nazareth (2 Kings 14:25)."

Divisions and divisions and divisions make our story today in our reading.  There are so many different opinions here about Jesus.  One follows a certain understanding of the law, another follows an understanding of Scripture, a third cites prophecy.  None really understand Jesus completely; even the citing that no prophet has arisen from Galilee is mistaken.  No one understands that He is born in Bethlehem.  But His words incite something in people; they are stirred by what He says.  The temple police, sent to arrest Jesus, are simply unable to do so, because they are struck by His words -- and they tell the leaders:  "No man ever spoke like this!"  Jesus teaches, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."  John tells us that Jesus is speaking of the Holy Spirit, which has not yet been given because Christ has not yet been glorified.  But we note the people whose hearts burn with the fire that is in His words, the words of everlasting life.  Whether Jesus speaks of rivers of living water, or Peter notes the "words of eternal life," we are speaking of life itself, life that doesn't ever die, everlasting, eternal.  This Spirit is to be implanted in us.  And whether or not one completely understands how it works, what it will do, and how one is and will be affected by this, the words stir the heart, set the heart aflame with something that calls us to its mystery.  And that is where we start the journey.  So we read the divisions in this scene, with each going back to his own house.  And we can think about ministry, about the seeds planted by the Sower, and how they are at work in this crowd in the temple at the Feast of Tabernacles.  If we take a good, closer look at the Parable of the Sower, we can see the types of reception and their diversity and division that Jesus expects.  But the key is to follow the flame felt in the heart at His words, to endure, to continue.  The rivers of living water He speaks about are what give us the strength and inspiration and insight to do so.  They are inexhaustible, and give us life each day.  The Kingdom begins here, with His words and how we hear them in the heart, and paying attention; the rivers of living water take us into our faith, and this Kingdom, more deeply, with a supply for each and every day.




Thursday, August 28, 2014

Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment


 Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught.  And the Jews marveled, saying, "How does this Man know letters, having never studied?"  Jesus answered them and said, "My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.  If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.  He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.  Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law?  Why do you seek to kill Me?"  The people answered and said, "You have seen a demon.  Who is seeking to kill You?"  Jesus answered and said to them, "I did one work, and you all marvel.  Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath.  If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath?  Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."

Now some of them from Jerusalem said, "Is this not He whom they seek to kill?  But look!  He speaks boldly, and they say nothing to Him.  Do the rulers know indeed that this is truly the Christ?  However, we know where this Man is from; but when the Christ comes, no one knows where He is from."  Then Jesus cried out, as He taught in the temple, saying, "You both know Me, and you know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know.  But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He sent Me."  Therefore they sought to take Him; but no one laid a hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come.  And many of the people believed in Him, and said, "When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this man has done?"

The Pharisees heard the crowd murmuring these things concerning Him, and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take Him.  Then Jesus said to them, "I shall be with you a little while longer, and then I go to Him who sent Me.  You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come."  Then the Jews said among themselves, "Where does He intend to go that we shall not find Him?  Does He intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks?  What is this thing that He said, 'You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come'?"

- John 7:14-36

Yesterday, we read that Jesus kept His ministry in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him.  Now the Jews' Feast of Tabernacles was at hand.  His brothers therefore said to Him, "Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing.  For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly.  If You do these things, show Yourself to the world."  For even His brothers did not believe in Him.  Then Jesus said to them, "My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready.  The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.  You go up to this feast.  I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come."  When He had said these things to them, He remained in Galilee.  But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.  Then the Jews sought Him at the feast, and said, "Where is He?"  And there was much complaining among the people concerning Him.  Some said, "He is good"; others said, "No, on the contrary, He deceives the people."  However, no one spoke openly of Him for fear of the Jews.

Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught.  And the Jews marveled, saying, "How does this Man know letters, having never studied?"  Jesus answered them and said, "My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.  If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority."   Here my study bible has a long note regarding Jesus' concept of authority:  "The simple desire to know and follow God's will is the key to understanding it.  Spiritual blindness comes from unwillingness to know God or to recognize His authority.  St. John Chrysostom paraphrases Christ in this way:  'Rid yourselves of wickedness:  the anger, the envy, and the hatred which have arisen in your hearts, without provocation, against Me.  Then you will have no difficulty in realizing that My words are actually those of God.  As it is, these passions darken your understanding and distort sound judgment.  If you remove these passions, you will no longer be afflicted in this way.'" 

  "He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.  Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law?  Why do you seek to kill Me?"  The people answered and said, "You have seen a demon.  Who is seeking to kill You?"  Jesus answered and said to them, "I did one work, and you all marvel.  Moses therefore gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath.  If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath?  Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."   Jesus links good judgment with loyalty to God.  It's obviously not found in the minutiae of the law, twisted to fit the purposes of power and position, and the malice and envy provoked by a perceived threat to their own authority.  Where is their desire to please God?

 Now some of them from Jerusalem said, "Is this not He whom they seek to kill?  But look!  He speaks boldly, and they say nothing to Him.  Do the rulers know indeed that this is truly the Christ?  However, we know where this Man is from; but when the Christ comes, no one knows where He is from."   My study bible says that the crowds are mistaken -- in both an earthly sense and a divine sense.  They understand Jesus as a man from Nazareth of Galilee.  They're not aware that He was actually born in Bethlehem.  Beyond that, they can't understand that He's come from the Father in Heaven, eternally begotten before all ages, and thus His divine "origin" remains unknown to them as well.  But Jesus' word and teachings tell a great deal to a heart that hears; the day before yesterday we read Peter's confession of faith:  "Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life."

  Then Jesus cried out, as He taught in the temple, saying, "You both know Me, and you know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know.  But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He sent Me."  Therefore they sought to take Him; but no one laid a hand on Him, because His hour had not yet come.  And many of the people believed in Him, and said, "When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this man has done?"   Jesus' hour is the time of suffering and death, His Passion and Crucifixion.  My study bibles says that Jesus Christ is the Lord over time, an authority that is possessed only by God.  Therefore He comes to the Cross of His own free will and in His time, not according to the plots of men.  But time - like everything else - is linked in to the relationship He has to the Father; the ultimate authority decides all. 

The Pharisees heard the crowd murmuring these things concerning Him, and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take Him.  Then Jesus said to them, "I shall be with you a little while longer, and then I go to Him who sent Me.  You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come."  Jesus is of course referring to His death, Resurrection, and Ascension to heaven.  As happens most effectively (and repeatedly) in John's Gospel, Jesus' words point to something beyond only an "earthly" meaning.

Then the Jews said among themselves, "Where does He intend to go that we shall not find Him?  Does He intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks?  What is this thing that He said, 'You will seek Me and not find Me, and where I am you cannot come'?"  Since Greek was the universal language of the time of Christ, what the leadership refers to here are Greek-speaking peoples; that is, among the Gentiles.  Ironically, their words certainly do have truth in them:  after His Ascension Christ's name will be preached to the Gentiles by the apostles.

Words hidden in words, hidden in plain sight -- but available to those who "have ears to hear."  Jesus' words having meanings to those of us who are His followers; that is, those who have been led to understand His mission and taught by the Church to find meanings in these words.  But Christ speaks plainly in some sense; the truth is there.  His words will also be twisted to accuse Him later on at His trial.  Repeatedly in Scripture, both in Old Testament and New, we are given the sense that it is important -- really, essential -- to our spiritual well-being that we "have ears to hear."  In other words, this quality is the ability to hear what is in the words from God is within the hearer, the receiver.  My study bible explains that "it is the simple desire to know and follow God's will" that brings out this capacity to receive within us.  It's not that we understand things all at once or all at the same time, but those who are drawn to Christ's "words of eternal life" (as St. Peter put it) understand the draw of a kind of loyalty, an allegiance.  It is the Father drawing through Christ those who come to Him.  And that begins with a "simple desire" within us.  In the end, Jesus' words about love and loyalty are the framework of the whole of the enterprise of spiritual ascendancy, being "with Him" into the age to come.  It boils down to a question of love and loyalty, that mysterious thing in our hearts that opens the door to greater faith, and personal transformation in His image.  We don't have to understand it all at once, we just need to know that "our hearts are aflame" when we hear His words (see Luke 24:32).  Over and over again, Scripture speaks of the heart as the center of what makes a human being, the importance of a "circumcised heart" and the hearing and sight of the heart.  Let us remember the love of God, and the loyalty of Christ expressed in today's words.  We are all encircled in that great ribbon of love, and its ties are rooted in our hearts.  Do we have ears to hear?  That is the beginning of true judgment.



Wednesday, August 27, 2014

My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready. The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil


After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him.  Now the Jews' Feast of Tabernacles was at hand.  His brothers therefore said to Him, "Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing.  For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly.  If You do these things, show Yourself to the world."  For even His brothers did not believe in Him.  Then Jesus said to them, "My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready.  The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.  You go up to this feast.  I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come."  When He had said these things to them, He remained in Galilee.

But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.  Then the Jews sought Him at the feast, and said, "Where is He?"  And there was much complaining among the people concerning Him.  Some said, "He is good"; others said, "No, on the contrary, He deceives the people."  However, no one spoke openly of Him for fear of the Jews.

- John 7:1-13

Yesterday, we read that many of His disciples, when they heard Jesus speak about His Body and Blood, said, "This is a hard saying; who can understand it?"  When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, "Does this offend you?  What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before?  It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.  The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.  But there are some of you who do not believe."  For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.   And He said, "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father."  From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.  Then Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?"  But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."  Jesus answered them, "Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?"  He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve.

 After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him.  The section that follows (through several chapters in John) tells about Jesus' visit to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles.  The entire section covers eight days -- the length of the festival.  My study bible says, "At this festival during the last year of His earthly life, Jesus taught in the temple and attracted a great deal of public attention."  As we will read, some thought Him to be mad, others believed Him to be the Messiah, and still others (notably the temple leadership parties of Sadducees and Pharisees) considered Him to be a threat.  The Jews who sought to kill Him refers to the religious leadership and not the people in general.  Indeed, all the people in this text are Jews: followers, disciples, Apostles, and Jesus Himself -- and their families.  That includes the author of the Gospel.

Now the Jews' Feast of Tabernacles was at hand.  My study bible explains:  "The Feast of Tabernacles (Heb. succoth) is an eight-day autumn harvest festival commemorating the time when Israel wandered in the wilderness of Sinai and the people lived in tents, or tabernacles.  Along with Passover and Pentecost, this was one of the three most important festivals of the ancient Jews; it included numerous sacrifices and celebrations (Leviticus 23:33-43).  In later times, the final day of this feast also included drawing water from the pool of Siloam to be mixed with wine and poured at the foot of the altar, both as a purification and in remembrance of the water flowing from the rock that Moses struck (Exodus 17:1-7).  It further included the lighting of the great lamps in the outer court of the temple."  See also 2 Maccabees 10:5-9.

His brothers therefore said to Him, "Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing.  For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly.  If You do these things, show Yourself to the world."  For even His brothers did not believe in Him.  Then Jesus said to them, "My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready.  The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.  You go up to this feast.  I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come."  When He had said these things to them, He remained in Galilee.    Jesus "brothers" are extended family.  Commentators have maintained throughout Church history that they are either step-brothers from an earlier marriage of Joseph (who was a much older man at the time he and Mary were betrothed), or they are cousins.  Today in the Middle East, it is still common to call extended family (such as cousins) "brothers."

 But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret.  Then the Jews sought Him at the feast, and said, "Where is He?"  And there was much complaining among the people concerning Him.  Some said, "He is good"'; others said, "No, on the contrary, He deceives the people."  However, no one spoke openly of Him for fear of the Jews. My study bible explains that "not openly" means not with a great public entrance such as will happen on Palm Sunday (12:12-16).  We remember that at the period this Gospel was written, members of the early Church had first come to call themselves Christians, and their persecution fierce in the synagogues and elsewhere.  The "Jews" here refers to leadership -- and is meant to be used in political terms, not national or ethnic.  Before that time, followers of Christ had been considered to be a sect of Judaism, often referred to as "Nazarenes" - as is still common today by non-Christians.

Persecution can come in many forms, but it's not something that Christians haven't had to accept throughout the history of the Church.  Here in John's Gospel, we get the first indication of Jesus' disfavor with the leadership; they seek to kill Him.  Later on in John's Gospel, Jesus will teach His disciples that "a servant is not greater than his master."  As Christians, we are told to follow our Master, and given great lessons by Him that, "if they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept My saying, they will keep yours also."  What we understand from this teaching is that we must face adversity also through our faith.  In other words, we turn to Him in prayer, we look to His teachings, we turn over to God not just the beautiful things of life, but also the harsh things of life -- even if we face difficulties because of our faith.  This is a most important thing to understand, that the difficulties we have in life, no matter what they are, aren't excuses for us to quit our faith nor to catch ourselves "off the mark" so to speak.  When we hear about something called "spiritual battle" -- it's just that, the interior battle within ourselves to resist temptation to fall "off the mark" and to lose our faith in what we've been given.  Every adversity, no matter why it's there or how it comes to us, in this point of view, becomes a test or a challenge to us.  Can we meet it with Him, or are we going to deal with it "on our own," so to speak, and forgetting about the Master who has already gone through it all?  If we look at the early life of Jesus as an infant and a child, we see the struggles of His parents, Mary and Joseph, and what they went through to protect Him.  They were His chosen caretakers, and they understood how precious He was.  I think we also have to consider the nature of His identity, the announcement of Gabriel that Mary kept in her heart, and the understanding that protection also includes that the full public revelation of His identity must be kept secret until it was the appropriate time.  This, also, Jesus exemplifies through His ministry.  Everything He does is with purpose and mission in mind; there are no miracles to "prove" who He is on demand, it all depends on faith.  Woven throughout this story is the understanding that correct choices and protection, facing difficulties in the ways that God has given, are all based on faith, trust, and love.  And that's the balanced place we try to remain, on that mark we've been given.  Life may throw us constant curves, fears, trepidations, outrage, injustice, and all kinds of things we can't predict and may be thoroughly unprepared to deal with.  But the point of faith is just that, even when we don't feel our confidence, we turn to the confidence we can have in Him and the whole host of those who can help, even the entirety of the Church as it lives in Him, for help, for a way.  We call on the Holy Spirit who works in all things.  We may have to endure, to develop the "long-suffering" or patience we read about in the Bible, and of which there are so many examples in the fullness of all the Scriptures.  But we begin with Him, right here, where even His own brothers scoff and dare Him to come openly and prove Himself.  Let us remember His guidance is for every day, in all circumstances, rejoicing or otherwise.  To be wise as serpents and simple as doves is always where He wants us.










Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life


Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, "This is a hard saying; who can understand it?"  When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, "Does this offend you?  What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before?  It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.  The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.  But there are some of you who do not believe."  For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.   And He said, "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father."

From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.  Then Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?"  But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."  Jesus answered them, "Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?"  He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve.

- John 6:60-71

 Yesterday, we read that the leadership in the temple at Capernaum quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?"  Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.  For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.  He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.  As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.  This is the bread which came down from heaven -- not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead.  He who eats this bread will live forever."  These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.

 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, "This is a hard saying; who can understand it?"  When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, "Does this offend you?  What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before?  It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.  The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.  But there are some of you who do not believe."  For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.   And He said, "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father."    My study bible points out that even Jesus' disciples took His teaching on His Body and Blood as a hard saying.  Verse 66 tells us that many of His disciples, when they heard this saying, walked with Him no more.  It is a great mystery, not easily to be explained, says my study bible, by  precise rational detail or as mere symbolic metaphor.  It is a sacramental teaching, just as the divine infuses the flesh of Jesus Christ, and that mystery can't be contained by our limited understanding.  The witness of Scripture and the teaching of the Church throughout history tell us about sacrament.  Here, Jesus' words are so powerful as to teach that those who cannot accept His saying are not those given to Him by the Father.

From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.  Then Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?"  But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."  Jesus answered them, "Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?"  He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve.   Here is Peter's confession of Christ as written in John's gospel.  There is a falling away, and there is also a deepening of faith, a confession and an allegiance in others.  Peter's faith isn't a rational declaration with debated principles, it is a product of His experience with Christ:  "You have the words of eternal life."  Those who remain with Him "have come to know and believe that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God."  At the same time that we read of this conviction on behalf of all of the disciples who remain with Him, there is another strong flavor of what is to come: betrayal and death.  Jesus is preparing them even now for the future.

Accepting Christ's words can happen on many levels.  Understanding may dawn slowly, or it may simply reveal a deeper faith through testing, through experience, and through the energies of God, the work of the Holy Spirit.  Christ's mysteries revealed particularly through this Gospel exist as things to be grasped through faith, through time, through prayer.  It seems to me that faith deepens and grows by following the glimmers do that we have, and trusting from there.  The faith that works in the heart is a strong leading and teaching, even as Jesus tells us and the apostles that no one can come to Him except as granted by the Father.  In Saturday's reading He taught, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.  It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.'"  The depth of the reality of Incarnation reveals itself to us through our faith and its working in our lives, through Scripture, through the whole history of the Church.  It would seem to me that the very understanding of the word "sacrament" teaches us about the life Jesus keeps teaching us about.  It is a life in the Father, and in Christ, and at work in the Holy Spirit. It infuses all that is in our world, and what we consider to be "worldly" can become sacrament.  For baptism, water is infused with this life so that it becomes conferred on us.  Through the Eucharist, bread and wine are mystically body and blood.  St. Paul teaches that we must understand ourselves to be temples of God.  What God has given us is meant also to be glorified by God, by this energy of Christ, the bread of heaven, given to us for an everlasting life, till the age to come in which all our world is to be transfigured in this spirit shown us in the image of the Burning Bush which was given to Moses.  Our entire world, all our lives and every aspect of them, are meant to be infused with this life, just as Jesus' body was also the body of Christ, God become flesh.  And this is sacrament; this is the mystery of what our world -- God's creation -- is meant for.   It's what we are meant for.  But it happens via the faith in our hearts placed there by God, and when we start to follow that, we come on a long journey of understanding and experience, each through our own capacity and with the help of our friends, the great cloud of witnesses, all who live in Christ.  Let us remember how faith works and needs nurturing.  Let us remember what we are meant for, what the whole understanding of God as human is meant to do for us.  It is a sacramental life we are to know; our faith returning us to the God who gave us life from the first.