Ten Spiritual Reflections on the Johannine Writings in Sacred Scripture
(Rev.) David A. Fisher
“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.“ 1 John 1:5
As Christians we must turn away from the darkness and look towards “The Light” - Jesus Christ.
There is as John says in his first epistle in God no darkness at all, God is Light. God our Father never ceases to give us the light of salvation in His Son, and never ceases to give us the light of grace that strengthens our faith and turns our hearts and lives towards Him by the gift of His Holy Spirit.
Psalm 91 proclaims the we should never fear the terror of the night or the arrow that flies by day. God who is Light loves us, by the light of The Holy Cross we have Victory, there is nothing to fear.
Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” - John 1:49-51
Whereas in Eastern Orthodoxy seven archangels are named; in the Catholic Tradition three archangels are venerated. Michael whose name means, “he who is like God,” Raphael which translates as “God heals,” and Gabriel meaning, “ God is my strength.”
In this Gospel, Our Lord Jesus says to the Apostle Nathaniel; “hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” He is revealing to Nathaniel his glory from all eternity, which his apostles will not realize fully until they experience him as the Risen Lord, and are given the Holy Spirit of Wisdom and Truth at Pentecost.
In times such as we are living in now, we must remember the glory of Christ and like the angels worship him. We who are united to his Cross are united to his Resurrection. Each time we pray and sing, “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord” We unite our voices with the archangels and angels, and praise the eternal Son of the Father, Jesus who has saved us.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” - Gospel of John 14:1
Jesus in this reading from John’s Gospel is offering us the remedy for a troubled heart and that remedy is faith in Him.
Jesus Christ is the face of God. If we believe and have faith in God the Father, then we should have faith in the Eternal Son of the Father; the Word made Flesh, Jesus.
Scripture tells us, He became like us in all things but sin. Jesus knows our troubled heart, our fears; for he wept at the death of his friend Lazarus and at in the garden of Gethsemane, he asked the Father to take the cup of suffering from Him. However, he came to do the will of the Father, Jesus is the Lord of the living; He calls Lazarus out of the tomb and He goes from Gethsemane to his scourging and Cross, where he defeats the wages of sin, which is death, by His Resurrection.
As humans our hearts become troubled over the things we encounter that we cannot control, or make sense of. Yet our faith is in the one sent from the Father, who has defeated all the powers that seek to destroy us, especially death.
Christian faith is grounded in the Love of God poured out to us in Jesus Christ. God’s Love never fails, never shrinks, never dies, never ends. Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Through the prayers of the Holy Mother of God and All the Saints. May you have Peace.
"Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." John 6:68
As Americans we seldom stop to “smell the roses,” for ingrained in our collective psyche is the “puritan ethic” that work is the sign of a grace filled life.
However, the Christian life as handed down to us by the holy Fathers of the Church always involves an ascetical space in all our lives. Most of us are not called to be monks, hermits, or nuns; but all of us are called to set aside quiet time for the Lord, to hear his voice, to discover his path for us, for he alone has the words of eternal life. It is good to set aside our own “desert place” where we can daily offer our heartfelt prayers, our formal prayers, our silence, and to read the Holy Scriptures. How can we know our path if we do not listen to the words in Scripture of the Word of God, Jesus. How can we know Him if we do not read about how Moses spoke of Him, how the prophets spoke of Him, how the Gospel writers witness to his Cross and Resurrection, how Paul instructs his early Church and ours, and how John’s Revelation reveals the glorious triumph of the Church in God’s Kingdom.
In the midst of any crisis there are many voices; voices of despair, fear, uncertainty, and anxiety. Then there is the voice of the Lord, who says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Like the Apostles, who gave up all to follow Him, we too must say with them “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. - The Book of Revelation (Apocalypse of John), 14:12
“The Church is the living image of eternity in time.” - Fr. George Florovsky
“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” —C.S. Lewis
The Book of Revelation is thought by some biblical scholars to be the second volume, if you will, of John’s Gospel; in the same manner that the Acts of the Apostles is the second volume of Luke’s Gospel. In Revelation we see the universal and cosmic victory of Christ over every enemy of God and his Church, and the glorification of the saints or holy one’s of God, who represent the Church.
So often we identity the Church by earthly manifestations, rather than eternal qualities; that which is its true nature. The Church is the living sacrament of salvation, it is where poor, lost, sinful humanity, finds rest, finds light, finds Love. The Church is where we find Christ who says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
It seems at times that we spin our Christian wheels to save that which is brick and mortar, instead of learning together the path of Christ-like love that saves our soul. We soon forget the story of Martha and Mary; that Martha was busy about many things, but Mary had chosen the better path, to sit at the feet of the Lord and learn his ways.
The Sacred Scriptures refers to the Church as a holy people, a royal priesthood, the bride of Christ, and the ark of salvation. These and many other titles in Scripture refer to “us”, the people of God. We who are called to be saints who love the Lord our God with all our hearts, with all our soul, and with all our mind, and who love our neighbor as ourselves (cf. Matthew 22:37-39).
In times such as we now find ourselves it is our responsibility as saints, as the holy people of God, to show the world that no matter how difficult and challenging the destruction of this pandemic may be, it cannot defeat us. It can never keep us from the love of God; it is not the final word, for Christ is the final Word, and the final Word is from the Father, and his Word is Life, his Word is Love, his Word is eternal Peace.
“Then Jesus approached and said to them (and says to us), “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. - John 15:9-12
If we slowly read these words from John’s Gospel, we shall come to realize that they are some of the most comforting words in Sacred Scripture. The words of Jesus direct our hearts and minds to a greater reality; not the reality of this fragile, passing world, but the truth for which we were created. The truth that is found only in abiding in God, remaining in “His Love.”
Jesus tells us that he loves us as the Father loves him. How does the Father love him? The answer we find in the Creed, that he is “the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father.” He is eternally loved by the Father and in the same way he loves us and invites us to remain in his love. How do we remain in his love, by keeping his commandments, as he has kept the Father’s commandments; in this we will find joy, complete joy. The joy Jesus gives us is not fleeting joy, not temporary joy, but an eternal joy. But to live in his joy we must keep his commandment, and his commandment is “love one another as I love you.”
The words of Jesus to us mirror the words of Deuteronomy: “I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, obeying his voice, and holding fast to him. For that will mean life for you, (Deuteronomy 30:19-20). But unlike the many commandments and laws given to the Israelites to follow; that had been given to them to show their love and obedience to God, Jesus gives us one commandment; to love one another.
I recently spoke with someone who is terminally ill with pancreatic cancer. We talked about his wife and three children who are still at home. He told me how while he was in remission he was able to take his oldest son to Calabria in Italy where his own parents had come from before moving to the United States. We spoke about prayer, and his devotion to the Virgin Mary, and lastly he told me how he had supported the missions in Haiti. That he had been blessed in this life with financial success and wanted to end his life by building a home for a family in Haiti. After our conversation I thought to myself, he understands, all will be well, for love conquers death.
May we all remain in the love of Christ, and love one another.
Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him. Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. - John 12:1-3
“For God and before God, the human being is always unique and unrepeatable, somebody thought of and chosen from eternity, someone called and identified by his own name.” - Pope Saint John Paul II
God calls each of us by name, just as he called Lazarus by name from his tomb. He knows us better than we know ourselves. God created us in love, sustains our life in love, and broke the chains of death so that we might live in the love of his eternal Kingdom.
It has been said of our present age that we have “everything and nothing.” Meaning of course that we have material goods and comfort that the generations before us never could have imagined having. Yet, unlike the generations before us have lost our sense of peace. In our reading from John’s Gospel of the dinner at the home of Lazarus, it is Mary who realizes that true peace has come to their house, and she anoints his feet, a symbol of her faith and appreciation for his coming victory over death. Mary therefore is a symbol of the Church, the people of God who in faith realize his Victorious Cross and offer to him in thanksgiving (Eucharist) their lives in gratitude for his oil, his anointing of salvation.
Jesus says to us, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27). I remember many years ago when I was teaching in Ohio, a student in my philosophy course was expecting her first child. She was Catholic and a good student. One night after midnight I received a call from a hospital that she had delivered her son prematurely and the baby had not survived, and she wanted me to come to the hospital. When I arrived her joy and peace had turned to hurt and confusion. The hospital staff had dressed the baby and placed it in her arms and told her they would take it from her when she was ready. In the midst of our conversation I asked her what she wanted to do for a funeral. She said, the hospital said they would take the baby. I said, this is your son, you are Catholic, your parish even has its own cemetery, we will have a funeral, she agreed. The day of the funeral her peace had retuned to her, why, because Our Christ, is the Lord of the Living. Through the Liturgy of the Church, and the support of the people of God, my student realized her son was in the arms of our loving God.
Christians are always at war; at war against the darkness and confusion that wants us to be lost, to give up, to despair; but we celebrate the victory over darkness and despair, over death its very self by Our Christ, who is our hope, our light, our life.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more”. Revelation 21.1
The Church is called to be the herald and foretaste of the new earth and new heaven to come. It realizes this calling only to the extent that its members mirror that holiness to which they are called, as sons and daughters of Christ. Yet, while our hearts may be turned toward the Kingdom that we are taught to yearn for; in our natural existence in this world, our feet are often buried deep in the mud of the earth. This is indeed, a constant challenge to the Church and her children. How to be authentically Christian in a world that has become ever more hostile to the truth of Christ.
In the Gospel of Luke between when our Lord tells his disciples that to those who much is given much will be required, and that because of his word there will be division so great that father will be against son and son against father, Jesus said: “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” (Luke 12:49) The Word of God is like fire, it is the fire of truth that will consume the old earth and the old heaven, so that the new earth and the new heaven may come in their fullness.
The truth is always radical because it will never accept that which is false, that which is from below and not from above. To be a Christian today is be radical, it means not always fitting in, it means to love while others hate, it means to forgive when others cannot, it means poverty in the sense of not being fulfilled in what the world has to offer us as fulfilling, and ultimately it means the Cross, as Saint Paul reminds us, “For the message about the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1Corinthians 1:18)
The Christian faith is not a religion in the sense of a remedy for the trials and tribulations of living in the natural world. It does not make us rich in the eyes of the world, it makes us rich in grace, it does not keep us from natural death, it destroys eternal death, it will not alleviate all earthly suffering, it will unite us to the salvific sufferings of the Cross of Jesus.
The Church is a living organism, where sinners are called to be saints, to be holy and find new life in Christ. Life in the Church is a challenge to let go of the false notions of freedom, of the false understandings of individualism, of what the world judges as success; letting go of attempts to rule what we cant rule, which is the natural world and all its pitfalls. In the Church, especially in the celebration of the Eucharist, we discover the other as brother and sister, not as threat or enemy. In the celebration of the Eucharist we discover that the natural must give way to the divine, the created to the uncreated, death to eternal life.
We are called to be holy, like the Divine Master, which means to lay down our lives for our friends, to be of love. For only those who love shall someday see clearly what we now only see dimly, a new heaven and a new earth.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. - (John 1:1)
What Genesis and John’s Gospel reveals to us is that the Word of the Father, the Word who is God was present from the moment of our creation, in fact we are created in his image. So when from the Holy Cross, Jesus says, “It is finished” (John 19:30) we must ponder what is finished? What is finished in this sacrifice, in this act of redemption, this victory of love over hate, this act of freedom from the bondage of ignorance and sin? What is finished is the act of creation, for now through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can truly enter the path of transformation, of being formed in the image and likeness of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.
Jesus on the Holy Cross reveals to us the God who is love. That from the Holy Cross the veil that has veiled the truth of God has been lifted. Now with eyes that see in the light we see that God has never left us alone, that he calls us to be formed into the image of the Son, which means we too must take up our crosses and follow him, to learn, imitate, and become the children of God; images of the God, beings of love.
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, - John 11:25
“Thus also the body that was laid in the earth is that which shall rise again.” - Aphrahat, Demonstrations 8
Our common profession of faith ends with, “we look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come, Amen.”
The Old Testament has many references that support substantial, personal life beyond the grave. For example, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and on the last day I will rise out of the earth. And I will be enveloped again with my skin, and in my flesh I will see my God” (Job 19:25-26). 2 Maccabees 7:9 states, “But the King of the world will raise us up, in eternal life at the resurrection, for we die on behalf of his laws.” Also, in Ecclesiastes 12:7 we see,“the dust returns to its earth, from which it was, and the spirit returns to God, who granted it.” These and other verses show that within the history of ancient Israel there came to be diverse opinions on what happens after death.
In the New Testament the Resurrection of Christ gives meaning to the totality of the Gospel, indeed the Good News is Our Lord’s Resurrection; he is the first-born, and our hope and promise of eternal life. St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians addresses the question of the resurrection of the body: “But someone will ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what body will they come?’ …The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable,…it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. …I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” (1Corinthians 15:35,42,44,50)
The understanding of this great mystery is not open to our reason, or any human imagining, but to the hearts and eyes of faith. It is rooted in our celebration of the Holy Mysteries, the Sacraments of the Church, especially the Holy Eucharist. In the celebration of the Eucharist we discover and realize the true nature of “the Church,” and our own humanity; as a foretaste of the eternal communion with the Blessed Trinity, which we call the Kingdom of God.
All Scripture quotes are from the New American Bible Revised Edition