Gospel of John Chapter 1

Karen and I have been thinking about all of you. We hope that you are well along on your first lesson. We hope, too, that you are enjoying the lesson as much as we did. On Tuesday we will discuss your answers to the questions. We look forward to seeing all of you at our next meeting.

 

If you have not started your lesson, remember to read the first chapter of the Gospel of John before you begin reading the commentary in the text. When you have read both the chapter in John and the commentary, then begin answering the questions. We know how tempting it is to think that we know the first chapter of John, as we have all heard parts of it many times through the years. But it really is important to read it again. God has so much goodness and beauty for us. It would be sad if we were to miss opening the gift He has prepared especially for us.

 

On page 11 of the commentary in your text book – the very last paragraph which begins with “The beginning of the public ministry of Jesus is described.” There is a question which Jesus asks those who are following Him. In the first chapter of John the individuals are Andrew and John, men who will become disciples of Jesus. Jesus asks the two men: “What do you seek?” Karen and I thought that question was for all of us, at all times and places, as we all wish to be disciples of Jesus. So as you go about the rest of your week, think about that question. What would you answer if Jesus were to knock on your door or call you on the phone and ask you that question? We will not ask you to give us your answer in class. The question is a personal one and a reminder that the words we read in the Bible are not just part of an interesting story that took place a long time ago. The words in the Bible are our story as well, for we, too, seek to follow the Lord and learn from Him.

 

Those of you who asked to be called, will be called by either Karen or me. We will begin making our calls this weekend or at the latest on Monday. This email which we are sending to all of you is just a way of keeping in touch, of sharing little thoughts that Karen and I had during and after we read the material and answered the questions. We hope to email you each week with more questions and/or interesting things which we have learned when working on our study. You may share any thought you had about the lesson with us as well. If you have any questions while doing your lesson, please call Karen or me, or email either of us. We are here to help you.

 

Since I have listed everyone’s email address on this email, I ask all of you to be courteous to each other. Unless someone gives you permission, please do not use anyone’s email address to send advertisements, political messages or those “chain letter” type emails.

Gospel of John Chapter 3

We  hope you are all enjoying the cooler weather. The mornings have been beautiful. Even the birds seem to be happier and more active with the cooler temperatures.This week our study is on Chapter 3, the Gospel of John, which gives us some understanding about the sacrament of Baptism. The chapter in John recounts Jesus relationship to two different individuals – Nicodemus, a Pharisee and learned man of the Jews, and John the Baptist, whom we have met in an earlier chapter. We know that the baptism by John was “of the flesh”, designed to help those newly baptized repent of their sins and be prepared for the coming of the Messiah. The baptism which Jesus speaks about with Nicodemus is of “water and the Spirit”. It is the baptism which gives us adoption into the family of God.

Four years ago my daughter began the lengthy process of adopting a small boy from Haiti. There were legal hurdles, lost paperwork, visits with U.S. government officials, social workers and judges, multiple trips to Haiti to visit with the Haitian government and the child, and of course, the four year worry that something would go wrong.  As a grandmother I experienced with my daughter the trials, the waiting and finally the joy which was involved in the process. At the beginning of June my daughter flew to Haiti for the final time and came home to Texas with Shamma James McDonald.

The Baptism, which each of us experienced whether as infants or later in life, brought us into the family of God and made us His adopted daughters. God waits patiently for each one of us to accept His invitation to join His family. God prepares for each of us a path for our journey to Him and provides us assistance whenever we have need of His help. As each one of us accepts God’s invitation and becomes part of His family, He rejoices, much as my own family rejoiced when the adoption process for Shamma was completed.

In the book “Life of the Beloved” by Henri Nouwen, a now deceased Catholic priest, we read: “From all eternity, long before you were born and became a part of history, you existed in God’s heart. Long before your parents admired you or your friends acknowledged your gifts, or your teachers, colleagues, and employers encouraged you, you were already “chosen”. The eyes of love had seen you as precious, as of infinite beauty, as of eternal value…Long before anyone heard us cry or laugh, we are heard by our God who is all ears for us. Long before any person spoke to us in this world, we are spoken to by the voice of eternal love…The truth…is that I am the chosen child of God, precious in God’s eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity, and held safe in an everlasting embrace…This truth is not simply an inner truth that emerges from our center. It is also a truth that is revealed to us by the One who has chosen us….”

Being “chosen” by God to be part of His family is a gift of such graciousness, goodness and generosity. Will you join Karen and me this week in thanking the Lord that He has chosen us as His adopted daughters – “beloved and precious and of eternal value”?

May God bless you as you do your study. Enjoy your week. We look forward to seeing you all on Tuesday. Call us if you are having trouble with the lesson or just want to talk.

Gospel of John Chapter 5

Karen and I hope that your week is going well. How are you doing with your lesson? Have you run into any questions that have puzzled you? Remember, even if you are unable to answer all of the questions, we still want to see you next Tuesday. Someone in the class will have the answer to that puzzle, even if you couldn’t put all of the pieces together.
 
In this lesson we read of Jesus healing a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years. A slow reading of the story – and a little imagination as well – can have us seeing and smelling and hearing all the things that would have assailed that poor man for so long. As our commentary tells us, the pool of Bethzatha was near the Sheep Gate, where the animals to be slaughtered in the Temple were brought into the city. Each day for all of those 38 years the paralyzed man might have prayed for healing, and each day his prayer was not answered. But on one special day, Jesus, the very Lord of the Universe, comes through the Sheep Gate. He is the” Lamb of God”, the One who is destined to take away the sins of the world. On this particular day, known to the Lord from before time began, Jesus heals the paralyzed man. Does Jesus reach down with His hand and help the man up? Is the smile of Jesus and the joy in His eyes so appealing that the man complies when he is told to rise and take up his mat and walk? Those are all interesting questions to think about. Perhaps we can hear Jesus asking us: “Do you want to be healed?”. I find myself saying, “yes,Lord, please”. How about you?
 
Further on in Chapter 5 is a remark by Jesus about John the Baptist. “He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But I have a testimony greater than John’s.” John 5:35-36a. That statement really caught my attention. Both Jesus and John the Baptist were given a testimony that was entrusted to them alone. John the Baptist had the specific task of announcing that the time had arrived for the appearance of the Messiah and calling his listeners to repentance. John’s unique mission included pointing out Jesus as “the Lamb of God”.Perhaps like John the Baptist, we all have a testimony to deliver, a special one that is entrusted to each of us alone. Jesus saw John the Baptist as a burning and shining lamp. Does He see each of us as shining lights that point out the path of Life to others? What will it take for each of us to be that shining light? And when our lamp is at last extinguished, will we all hear those beautiful words from our loving Lord, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world“? I pray that it is so.
Enjoy the rest of your week. May God bless you abundantly.

Gospel of John Chapter 7

Chapter 7 Gospel of John

Have you ever visited St. Helen’s Church when no one else was there? Perhaps you quietly slipped in the back door and found your way to a pew, tiptoeing so as not to disturb anyone, even though you see no one else in the Church at this hour. As you begin to pray, you can sense in the falling dust motes and warm colored light streaming through the windows around you, the sights and sounds and smells of the many liturgies which have been celebrated in this sacred space. These sense impressions, you think to yourself, are a reminder of the Presence of God. Just a little beyond you, resting in the Tabernacle, is our Risen Lord. You realize, almost as though it is a surprise, that He has been waiting patiently for you, loving you, calling to you, although you don’t remember hearing His Voice. But you are here, in His Presence now, feeling His Peace and His Love. And you rejoice in the amazing blessing which has been given to you.

I wondered this week if the ancient Jews had these same feelings. Not on the days of the community celebrations when throngs of worshipers filled the Temple, but on those quiet days, perhaps even late in the evening, when someone visited the Temple alone, thinking of their God present with His people in the Holy of Holies just beyond the thick curtain. How then, we might ponder, did the ancient Jews miss that moment when their loving God was visibly present with them? Do we miss our God here with us when we come to Mass and absentmindedly find our way to a seat, greeting others along our way? Do we often forget that our Risen Lord is present at that very moment in the sacred space of our Church?

There was a movie some years ago entitled “Jesus of Nazareth”. In one of the scenes soon after the beginning of the film, we see the young couple, Joseph and Mary with the infant Jesus in Mary’s arms, approach the Temple. It is a special, sacred day for this small family, for on this day they will present their infant son to God, as is prescribed in the Law. They are approached by a wizened old man whose name is Simeon. We read in Luke, Chapter 2,  verses 25 – 35: “Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him …… Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God, saying, “Lord, now let your servant go in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel”… then Simeon blessed Mary and Joseph and said to his mother Mary: “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against, so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed….”

In chapter 7 of the Gospel of John we begin to see the opposition to Jesus growing, the dissension that Jesus has brought, fulfilling Simeon’s prophesy of so many years ago. There are some, present in the Temple during this great feast of Booths, who wonder if Jesus is the prophet  who will come in the last days, or if he is the Messiah long promised. Some say that Jesus is possessed by demons; others say that Jesus’ teaching is too hard, that He is asking the people to do things forbidden under the Law. The people argue about where Jesus was born, or if prophets can come from Galilee. Many present know his parents – Joseph and Mary, while the Messiah is meant to have unknown parentage. The authorities of the Temple complain that Jesus heals on the Sabbath. They contend that Jesus makes Himself equal to God by calling God “His Father”. They wonder where He has gotten His knowledge, as He does not quote learned Rabbis of the past. So the Jerusalem Temple, a place once thought to be a holy and sacred space, has become a place of arguments and contention, just as old Simeon prophesied. Even among the leading scholars of the Temple are some who are coming to believe that this Jesus of Nazareth is the very One they have been waiting for, but their questions and comments are silenced by those scholars who disagree with them.

Unlike the ancient Jews, we do not have to question who Jesus is or where He was born, for we know those answers. The loving Lord of creation has come as He promised, and He is here, resting in the Tabernacle, waiting for us, to give us His very Self. While studying this lesson I have come to see myself a little differently, perhaps a little too argumentative, almost like the ancient Jews. So this week I resolve, when I attend Mass, to clear my mind of complaints about the music, or the children crying in the pews, or the lady seated next to me with strong perfume, or the people who leave early. I resolve only to rejoice in my Lord, who is present here with us. And I will remember and hold close to my heart that this space of worship is a sacred space, reserved for sacred and loving thoughts, and not a place of contention. For the Christ, the Holy One of God, has come and has brought salvation with Him. And He is loving me into life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gospel of John Chapter 9

What an amazing chapter this is! Like the Samaritan woman in chapter 4, we see an ordinary, simple person beset by the trials of life, who is found by Jesus, healed and brought to faith in Him. Karen and I both loved this lesson. We hope you do too.

I remember when I was a child, how my sisters and I would blindfold one another and lead each other around, trying to understand what it must be like to be blind. I remember how often we would trip over small stones along our path, or feel disoriented as we walked blindfolded. Remembering this simple play acting has led me to think a long time about this particular story in the Gospel of John.

Those of you who have been around infants know that babies are not born with an ability to see perfectly. When a child is born, she sees only black and white and shades of grey. Color comes later. Most of the baby’s vision is blurred. A baby learns to focus by studying the faces of those closest to her. Eventually, a baby will notice bright moving objects, and at about two to four months, follow the object by moving her eyes instead of her head. A baby must learn to use both eyes together, and her brain must learn to ”translate” the information sent by the eyes into usable information, which helps the child interact with and understand the world.

The miracle of Jesus with the man born blind becomes even more spectacular than we may first think, as we reflect on this information. It was not just a matter of the man’s eyelids being closed, or the man having cataracts. No matter why the man’s eyes did not work, the man’s brain was not functionally connected to his eyes. I am astounded when I think about this. Jesus opened the man’s eyes and connected all those neural pathways, so that when the man washed the mud from his face, he looked around and understood what he was seeing. At least, that is how I interpret the miracle.

Who was the blind man? What was his life like before he met Jesus? Using our imaginations we can visualize a little about him. He was poor and unable to work – we know this because he had to beg. He lived with his parents, for he could not take care of himself. He had probably never been inside the Temple, as he would be considered a sinner and unclean. Though his religious education was likely provided by his parents, when speaking with the Pharisees, he was sure of who God was and how He acted. He knew that sometimes prophets were given the grace and power to heal others. He says that God does not listen to sinners, but He listens to those who do His Will. The man born blind was likely dirty to look at, often knocked about by the crowds which milled around the Temple, pushed out of the way by those who considered beggars a nuisance. The man born blind was totally dependent on the good will of others.

Did Jesus need to use mud to heal the man? No, of course not. As the Navarre Bible comments, “Jesus works through the medium of matter to produce effects which exceed anything matter can do. Like the Sacraments, Jesus confers on matter the power to spiritually regenerate man.”

Though the Pharisees question the blind man and others about him at length, this poor and simple man knows what has happened to him. He repeats his story over and over again – “I was blind, but now I see”. The man born blind knows that no one has ever cured someone like him. The man born blind will not deny the fact of his healing, even though the Pharisees banish him from the Temple. The man born blind will not deny the gift of God that has been given to him.

The man born blind has been found by Jesus – not once, but twice. His life will never be the same. He has been given freedom to be the man God created him to be. He has been given knowledge of the reality and love of the Son of God. The man born blind has made his choice – to believe in and worship the Son of God.

After the  extended investigation the Pharisees, too, are left with a choice – to see Jesus as He truly is, or to continue to be blind to the Glory which has come into their midst. And what about me? Can I see myself in the man born blind or even the Pharisees? Are there times when I have tried to hide the truth about myself or others?  Does this story shine light on my own spiritual journey? Who or what has God used to open my eyes to His incredible love? How can I allow the love of Christ to reach out and heal me? There was so much to be found and reflected on in this Gospel story.

“I will lead the blind on their journey; by paths unknown I will guide them. I will turn darkness into light before them, and make crooked ways straight. These things I do for them, and I will not forsake them.” Isaiah 42:16

Remember if you have any questions, call Karen or me. We welcome your calls. We look forward to seeing you on Tuesday.

May the study of this chapter bring you many blessings,

Gospel of John Chapter 11

raising of LazarusCan you believe it? We have a whole week off, during which we will all be so busy that there will be little time to think about our friends in Bible study. Karen and I hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving “hootenanny”. Remember that we do not have class on Tuesday November 25th. As much as Karen and I love being with all of you, we will not be at St. Rita’s on that Tuesday morning.
Since we are all so busy for the holiday, I just wanted to leave you with one idea to ponder on your own, while you stir a pot or wash a plate, and a little exercise – certainly not strenuous – to encourage you to relax and spend a moment with the Lord.Ponder this: Jesus tells His disciples that Lazarus is asleep, when Lazarus is really dead. In the first letter to the Thessalonians of St. Paul, we read of “brothers who have fallen asleep.” Is that how God thinks of our deaths – that we have just fallen asleep – until that glorious moment when He wakes us in heaven?

The little exercise: As I sat in the Adoration Chapel this afternoon reading Chapter 11 of John’s Gospel, the following verse caught my attention: “Now Jesus loved Martha….”. I have seen myself often, as we all have, in Martha, in her dedication to her home and the comfort of her guests, and in the way that she worried and fussed about everything. (Luke 10:38-41) I wondered if I could replace my name in that verse from John’s Gospel, so that it would read: “Now Jesus loved Franciene….”? Do I believe that Jesus loves me? I can readily reply when asked, “of course, He loves me”, and list all the reasons why I know this to be so. But do I really believe that He loves me?  Go ahead and ask yourself that question. Do you believe that Jesus loves you? Really believe it? Place your name in that statement from the Gospel of John and say with certainty, “yes, I know deep in my very heart and soul that Jesus loves me”.  We often sing the hymn in Church which begins “Lord, I know You are near, You are always at my side.” So some time this holiday week, after all the food is cooked and eaten, dishes washed and leftovers safely stored, go sit in a peaceful place by yourself, put your feet up, close your eyes, quiet your breathing and relax. Then ask the Lord, who is near and always at your side, “Do you love me?” and wait expectantly for His reply.
Karen and I look forward to seeing you once again on December 2nd. There are several questions in the workbook which are personal share questions. You will not be required to answer those in class, unless you want to do so. Don’t avoid answering these questions, as you may find them interesting and useful.  As always you may call us, if you have any questions or concerns.
May God bless you and your families during this special time. You are always in our prayers.
Lots of hugs and smiles,
Karen and Franciene

Gospel of John Chapter 13

Meditation for Chapter 13, Gospel of John

Jesus washes feet of disciples“Jesus the Servant of Love”

Karen and I hope that you are enjoying this lesson, the first chapter in what is called by the Apostle John, “The Book of Glory”. This particular chapter is so poignant, for it presents an image of our God that is mysterious and hauntingly beautiful. The all powerful, all knowing and almighty Creator of the Universe is humble. How can that be?

During our lifetimes we have each seen hundreds of movies where every scene is carefully composed. Everything in the film is designed to help us visualize the times in which the action of the film takes place, so that we can understand the characters and the story. Unlike the movie makers, the Evangelists, who wrote the Gospels, leave it to us to fill out the details of each scene.

Can we imagine for ourselves what is missing from John’s description of this last supper which Jesus has with His disciples? We can assume that Jesus and the Apostles are in Jerusalem,  for in the previous chapter, the people of Jerusalem were welcoming Jesus as the true king of Israel with palm branches and loud hosannas just before the Feast of the Passover. The Synoptic Evangelists speak of this meal as the Last Supper and describe the events in detail. John does not need to repeat the events of the institution of the Eucharist, since the Eucharist is, during John’s lifetime, already the primary focus of the worship the Christian community offers to God.

Jesus and the Apostles have gathered in someone’s home for dinner. The meal has been prepared for them. But whose house is this? Who has prepared the meal? We are not told the details, but we can assume that the home is large enough to host a meal for at least the twelve Apostles and Jesus. The room, where they are eating, is large enough that all can recline next to the table. The host or hostess is likely a follower of Jesus, as there is no questioning or testing of Jesus by the Pharisees during this meal. This is an intimate setting, a special meal between Jesus and those who were closest to Him.

Jewish custom would have provided either a washing place for the guests’ feet, or more appropriately, a servant to clean the guests’ feet before they entered the dining area. So it is all the more curious that Jesus performs this task as well. The Apostles feet would have already been cleaned. So what is the purpose of the washing? As with all of Jesus’ actions, there is a important meaning behind the event, one that the Apostles will only recognize after Jesus has been glorified.

Who is present at the dinner? We are told disciples, but are there any women, particularly those who supported and followed Jesus? Is Mary, the Mother of Jesus there? Is the owner of the home present? What about servants? What are the Apostles talking about as they eat this special meal? Try imagining the answers to these questions, even imagine yourself present there, as a follower of Jesus.

Suddenly Jesus rises from His place at the table and begins to wash His disciples feet. Everyone at dinner must be shocked by Jesus actions – the guest of honor who takes the place of a servant. Does anyone offer to help, to do the task instead of Jesus? Perhaps those present wonder why Jesus is doing this, as their feet have already been cleaned? Which disciple is first to have his feet washed? Is Peter the only one to object? Is everyone else stunned to silence? Or do they whisper among themselves and look at one another in horror at their Master’s actions? Even John, the beloved disciple, does not offer to help. What about Judas? After the reception Jesus received on His entry into Jerusalem, is Judas offended that the One he thought would be king of Israel is now humbling Himself before His friends? Is Judas ashamed or even disgusted when Jesus washes his feet? Is this the final disappointment for Judas, the moment when he firmly commits himself to handing over Jesus to the Sanhedrin?

Jesus kneels in front of you now. Are you ashamed, or do you object when Jesus prepares to wash your feet? Do you recognize in this tender moment how great Jesus love for you must be, if He is willing to humble Himself before you?

As the textbook tells us, “Christian love is measured not by man’s heart, but by the heart of Christ.” What must we be willing to do for one another if our God, the Creator of all that is, is willing to be our Servant? What must I do to truly love the One who loves me so very much?

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If you have any questions or concerns about this lesson, call Karen or me. Our phone numbers are written in your textbook. We welcome your comments and questions. We look forward to seeing you on Tuesday for our last class before Christmas break.

May the love of Christ fill your hearts,

Karen and Franciene

Gospel of John Chapter 15

Hi ladies,

I am sorry that I could not be with you last Tuesday.  I am hoping and praying that we can all be back together next week. Make sure you bundle up this weekend, as it will be bitterly cold.

While Chapter 15 of the Gospel of John is a short chapter, there is so much to see here. In the very first verse Jesus tells us that His Father is the vine grower, or vine dresser in some translations. As our textbook tells us, Israel was the vine which God had planted in the promised land. A vine dresser watches His vine. He tends to it each day. He lovingly prunes the vine. He protects the vine from pests which would destroy it. He does not just plant the vine and walk away.

In verse 16 of the gospel of John Jesus says to us: “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you…” This verse jumped out at me when I first read this chapter.

We see throughout the Gospels the “calling” of the Apostles. Many hundreds of people followed Jesus, listened to His teaching and even witnessed His miracles. But Jesus chose twelve to be His special friends, to know all that the Father had taught Him.

At the beginning of the Gospel of John we see Andrew and the Evangelist John following Jesus, because their teacher John the Baptist has pointed Jesus out as the Messiah. Jesus turns and asks the two “what are you looking for?” Uncertain what to say, John replies  “Rabbi, where do you stay?” In answer, Jesus says “Come, and you will see”. So it began. Each Apostle was invited – Peter, James, son of Zebedee, and John his brother, Andrew, Matthew, Phillip, Bartholomew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddeus, Simon the Cananean and Judas. These became the Twelve. Many other individuals followed Jesus, but He did not choose them for this special relationship. The twelve, whom He had chosen, stayed, even when other followers left . Of these twelve only one was lost, as was prophesied – Judas.

During the baptismal ceremony we hear the priest or deacon say: “I claim you for Christ,” and then the child is anointed with blessed oil in the sign of the cross on the child’s forehead. And so the newly baptized belong to Jesus. But even before our Baptism, Jesus had chosen us to be His special friends. Jesus chose us before time began. He created us. He knew us. He loved us even then.

Thinking back on my life and on the many missteps that I have made, I am surprised and humbled that Christ chose me. He knew what I would be. He knew the mistakes I would make, He knew when I would deny Him or be angry with Him, and yet He chose me anyway. When I fall in my faith journey, I cry out to the Lord, “Are you sure you didn’t make a mistake?”, “Are you sure that You still want me?” And I imagine that He just smiles in that quiet way He has, helps me up from where I have fallen, and walks with me calmly back to the sheepfold.

Jesus chose you, too. You didn’t choose Him, no matter what you think you might remember. Before you knew Him, He knew you. Before you could choose Him, He had already chosen you. Rejoice with me this week that we are chosen, by the One who is Love beyond understanding.

Remember that you can call Karen or me if you have any question. We hope to see you on Tuesday.

May God bless you all and keep you close to His heart.

Karen and Franciene

Gospel of John Chapter 17

Hi ladies,

Karen and I hope that you are enjoying this lesson and staying warm and dry today. We have so few lessons yet to study in this beautiful Gospel of John.

In Chapter 17 of the Gospel of John we have come to the end of the last meal which Jesus shared with his Apostles. It has been a long, eventful day for Jesus and the Apostles. The night has now grown dark. A cool wind is blowing through the open windows. The meal has been eaten; the plates taken away. The candles are burning down, soon to be extinguished. The men shift in their seats, wrapping their cloaks about them as a protection from the coolness of the night. In Chapter 12 of the Gospel of John we read of the anointing of Jesus at Bethany by Mary, Lazarus’ sister, and the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Also in Chapter 12 Jesus speaks more forcefully about his coming death: “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say, “Father save my from this hour? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour.””

Since Chapter 13, at the beginning of this last meal together, Jesus has been giving the Apostles His final instructions, both in word and in deed. By washing their feet Jesus has shown the Apostles what it means to be a servant to all. Jesus has told them that this very night He would be betrayed, even as His betrayer sits among them, and that Peter would deny Him three times. Jesus has reminded the Apostles that they must stay connected to Him, like branches on a grapevine, if they are to bear fruit for His kingdom. Jesus has given the Apostles His Commandment, that they love one another as He has loved them. Jesus has reminded the Apostles that the way to the Father is through faith in Him. Jesus has warned the Apostles that the world will hate and persecute them for their faith in Him, just as they have hated Him. Jesus has promised the Apostles that He would not leave them alone, that He would send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to be with them always. And finally, Jesus has assured the Apostles that the sorrow and grief they will soon experience will turn to great joy that no one can take away.

The room is quiet, as the Apostles fight off the fatigue of a long day and try to comprehend all that Jesus has told them during these last hours. In their hearts there is a deep sadness, as they are fully aware now that their Lord and Teacher is returning to the Father, from Whom He had come. Then Jesus raises his eyes to heaven, and in a voice hardly above a whisper says, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your Son, so your Son may glorify You”. All heads turn once more to Jesus, the Apostles straining their ears to hear. Jesus final words in the presence of His friends are a prayer of love for the Apostles and for all those who will believe in Him through the Apostle’s words. Jesus prays that the Apostles will be faithful to what He has taught them and that the Father will protect all those who love Him.

Jesus prays “Holy Father, keep them in your name that You gave me, so that they may be one just as we are. When I was with them I protected them in your name that You gave me, and I guarded them…”  These words are a reminder that the Father gave Jesus His name, as in Luke 1:31 the angel Gabriel tells Mary what her son’s name will be. “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.” These words of Jesus, that His Name comes from the Father, remind us of the majesty, power and purpose in the very name of Jesus.

As the Catechism says, “The invocation of the Holy Name of Jesus is the simplest way of praying always…. This prayer is possible ‘at all times’, because it is not one occupation among others, but the only occupation: that of loving God, which animates and transfigures every action in Christ Jesus” (CCC 2668).

This week, as you go about your days, will you join me in lovingly repeating the Name of Jesus? Let us praise the One, who loved us “even unto death”, by keeping His Name constantly on our hearts and minds and lips. May the Holy Name of Jesus bless you and bring you peace.

As always you may call Karen or me, if you have any questions about the lesson. Enjoy your week and the lesson. We look forward to seeing you on Tuesday.

Karen and Franciene

Gospel of John Chapter 19

Hi Ladies,
We hope you are keeping warm and dry. The weather forecaster promises this weekend will be warm and sunny. I am praying that it is so. I also hope that Punxsutawney Phil was mistaken about the weeks of winter still left! I am ready for spring.Throughout Church history, since the death and Resurrection of our Lord, thousands upon thousands of words have been written concerning the Passion and Death of Jesus. Bishop Fulton Sheen’s beautiful work, The Life of Christ, has always been meaningful to me. I cannot add to the Bishop’s words to explain the horror of Jesus’ death, or the overwhelming Love which led Jesus to willingly sacrifice His life for all of us.

John 19:34-35: “But when they came to Jesus and saw the He was already dead, they did not break His legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out. An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may come to believe.”Having been at my mother’s side as she passed from this life, the last part of verse 34 had new meaning to me – “blood and water flowed from Jesus’ side“. I came to understand during my mother’s last days that fluid builds up in our lungs, as our other organs begin to fail. We can no longer take in oxygen to sustain our lives, to keep our hearts beating. So when the soldier thrust his spear through the side of our Blessed Lord Jesus, piercing His lungs and then His Sacred Heart, fluid (water) from the lungs was released, as well as blood from His Sacred Heart.

What I found curious about the passage quoted above was the strength of John’s statement about the eyewitness to Christ’s death. John, who was the witness, testifies to the release of the water and blood, which people of that time would have understood to mean that the person had died. John asserts that “his testimony is true”. Why did John think it necessary to be so strong in his testimony, to do more than merely report that there was a release of both fluid and blood?

From the Resurrection of our Lord to our own day, there have been “naysayers” – those who refuse to believe that Jesus died on the cross, or that He rose from the dead. The Gospel of Matthew, originally addressed to a mainly Jewish audience, reports in Chapter 28 that the leaders of the Temple sent a group of soldiers to watch Christ’s tomb. The Pharisees had remembered Jesus’ words that He would rise again. After Christ’s Resurrection and the soldiers testimony of the earthquake and the open tomb, the Pharisees bribed the soldiers to say that the disciples had stolen Jesus’ body. Even today the popular novel and film, Da Vinci Code, imagines that Jesus’ had a life after the Crucifixion. Islam teaches that Jesus did not die in the Crucifixion.How can so many refuse to recognize the truth? Under the Holy Spirit’s guidance, John wanted to be sure that people understood that Jesus had died, that there was no disputing the facts, and by understanding the truth, one could come to believe in Jesus. John the Apostle was present at the Crucifixion; he saw Jesus die; he affirms that he tells the truth of what he saw. In the days before photographic evidence, DNA testing, lie detectors or lawyer written contracts, a man’s word was his bond. A man’s word was as valuable to him as his life. What better proof could there be then, than the testimony of someone who was present at the death and crucifixion of Jesus? No doubt there will always be those who say that Jesus didn’t die, because the truth doesn’t fit the narrative that they are trying to sell. We have been so blessed, because we know the truth. We know the One who is Truth.

There was a beautiful hymn this week in the Magnificat, which I wanted to share with you. The hymn reminded me of one of Jesus last words: “I thirst”, and how in response to God’s thirst for us, we thirst for Him.

For God, the living God, I thirst.
Like dew upon the fleece come down.
Like rain upon the desert sand.
Like light into a darkened room.
As parched earth breaks for need of rain
So my heart breaks but not in vain.
When wilt thou on my vision burst?
For thee, my living God, I thirst.
Just a reminder that Chapter 19 is long – there are 25 questions to answer. They are not difficult questions, just a lot of them. Please don’t wait till Monday evening to begin. You would miss the beauty and peace of studying this chapter. You have all been so faithful in your study. We have only two more chapters after this one. We will have completed this study of the Gospel of John – just a little more time and effort until we can all take a break and have a well deserved celebration. Remember that you can call Karen or me if you have questions about the lesson.

We look forward to seeing you all again on Tuesday. May God bless you as you read and answer the questions in this chapter.

Karen and Franciene