Gospel of John Chapter 2

Franciene and I hope that you are all enjoying this second lesson, and are gaining some wonderful insights from this beautiful Gospel of John. And we’re sure that you’re getting a workout with going back and forth between the Catechism and the other books of the Bible as you work through the questions.
The story of the wedding at Cana can seem so familiar to us, as we have heard it so many times. And yet there is so much to think about within the short story. There is the loving concern of Jesus and His Mother for the young couple at their marriage celebration, and there is the wonderful advice that Mary gives the servants, to “do whatever He tells you.” As the author of the commentary writes on page 22: “You would be hard pressed to find a spiritual director who could offer greater wisdom.”
One of the things that we can ponder in our own lives this week is how Mary often nudges us also in this direction. I know that in my own life Mary has been the catalyst in my spiritual life many times. She always points us to her Son, and to what is pleasing to Him. We can try to follow her example of her willingness to cooperate with God’s grace in our lives, in whatever surprising ways that may be!
We hope that you are enjoying this lesson, and–as always–feel free to call or email either of us with any questions. We look forward to seeing you next Tuesday!

 

Gospel of John Chapter 4

We hope that you are enjoying this week and the next lesson in our study. These stories can be so familiar to us, and yet as we read and study them again, we can see new insights in them.
In Chapter 4 of the Gospel of John, the majority of the story is about the Samaritan woman at the well. In the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible I have, I read an interesting footnote that brought something to me that I had never thought about before. We are told that after her unexpected and life-changing encounter with Jesus at the well, the Samaritan woman “left her water jar” and went back to her people to tell them about her experience. It sounds like she became both a believer and a missionary at that point, and brought her belief in Jesus as the Messiah to all those who would listen to her.
The footnote in my Bible quotes St. Augustine in saying “The water jar is the fallen desire of man that draws pleasure from the dark wells of the world but is never satisfied for long. Conversion to Christ moves us, like the Samaritan woman, to renounce the world, leave behind the desires of our earthen vessels, and follow a new way of life.” I had never thought of that symbolism before, and the specific mention of the Samaritan woman leaving her water jar behind must have been considered important to the story.
It made me think of how my own priorities shifted when I came back into active participation in the Church in my mid-twenties, and how some activities and even relationships had to be changed or put aside. And a “new way of life” can seem threatening to those who do not choose to share that new life with us. But God gives us the graces and the strength to follow Him, and–by our example, perhaps–others around us can be encouraged to seek a relationship with Him. It made me mindful of how we are all called to be missionaries in that way, by living our life in a way that leads to God.
Anyway, that footnote got me thinking, and I hope that you will find it interesting and something to ponder in your life. Franciene and I hope that you are enjoying this lesson, and–as always–feel free to call or email either of us with any questions. We look forward to seeing you next Tuesday!

Gospel of John Chapter 6

We hope that you are enjoying this week and the next lesson in our study. This lesson on the Eucharist is so rich and has so much good commentary for us to ponder. So many theologians and saints have written so much about this, and I love the poem “Adoro te devote” which is attributed to St. Thomas Aquinas, and translated by the 19th century Jesuit priest Gerald Manley Hopkins, and which is found in our Catechism at #1381. I know that first verse is something that I repeat often when I am in the Adoration Chapel, as it seems to sum up our natural reaction to this great Mystery of God’s great love for us.
And since so much has been already been given to us by such smart people about the Eucharist, I thought a lot about the short segment of Chapter 6, where Jesus walks on the Sea, and calms His frightened disciples. I can think of all of the times in my life when I felt like I was in a small boat in a big sea, with the darkness and storms all around me. I can worry with the best of worriers, and I know that that just made the waves seem to loom larger around my little boat. And even when the disciples see Jesus walking on the water toward them, they are frightened because they don’t understand what is happening, and that probably adds to their sense of fear. When Jesus tells them “It is I; do not be afraid.” then they were glad to take him into their boat, and the storm abated and they landed safely. A footnote in my Bible says that “this reassurance that Jesus gives to the disciples is also an act of self-revelation. His words recall the holy name “I Am” that Yahweh revealed to Moses at the burning bush.” And then this is made even clearer to the disciples with His power over the laws of nature in the storm at sea.
I can also think of many times when I was glad to welcome Jesus into my rocking boat, and how differently I was able to perceive things once I did that. Even if the storm doesn’t immediately calm, we are not left alone and frightened, and we know that we will land safely at the shore in His company. I think that as we grow in our faith we realize that we need Him and don’t want to separated from Him in our daily life and adventures.
And I’ve read that some of these seas were known by different names: the Sea of Galilee, the Lake of Gennesaret, or the Sea of Tiberias. I’ve included a poem I love by another 19th century poet which reminds me of this chapter we’re studying, and it always makes me think of this story in the present tense–Jesus is walking toward us right now and offering us His love and protection.
The Kingdom of God
O world invisible, we view thee,
O world intangible, we touch thee,
O world unknowable, we know thee,
Inapprehensible, we clutch thee!

Does the fish soar to find the ocean,
The eagle plunge to find the air–
That we ask of the stars in motion
If they have rumor of thee there?

Not where the wheeling systems darken,
And our benumbed conceiving soars!–
The drift of pinions, would we hearken,
Beats at our own clay-shuttered doors.

The angels keep their ancient places–
Turn but a stone and start a wing!
‘Tis ye, ’tis your estrangèd faces,
That miss the many-splendored thing.

But (when so sad thou canst not sadder)
Cry–and upon thy so sore loss
Shall shine the traffic of Jacob’s ladder
Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross.

Yea, in the night, my Soul, my daughter,
Cry–clinging to Heaven by the hems;
And lo, Christ walking on the water,
Not of Genesareth, but Thames!

By Francis Thompson
I hope that you will find in this chapter several good things to ponder in your life. Franciene and I hope that you are enjoying this lesson, and–as always–feel free to call or email either of us with any questions. We look forward to seeing you next Tuesday!

 

Gospel of John Chapter 8

In Chapter 8, we read “Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know he truth, and the truth will make you free.” He seems to raise the bar for his true disciples, and to offer them a freedom beyond our human understanding. This truth is different from the thinking of most people today, for this truth Jesus speaks of puts God, rather than our own personal feelings and ambitions, as the one true good. And unlike our understanding of freedom being the ability to do whatever we want according to our own desires, this freedom that Jesus speaks of is a freedom from sin, which is an alienation from God.
In the commentary for this lesson there is a quote about Jesus from Pope Paul VI in 1974 that says “He is the joy of the world; He is the image of the invisible God; He is the way, the truth and the life; He is the One who knows us even from afar; He knows our thoughts; He is the One who can forgive us, console, cure, even raise from the dead; and He is the One who will return, the judge of one and all in the fullness of His glory and eternal happiness.”
Part of the challenge of this truth is for us to realize who we are, and who God is. This requires some serious self-knowledge on our part, which brings a humble realization of our weakness and our sinfulness, and the recognition of our need for God as our Creator, Redeemer and Friend. It is an interesting question to pose to ourselves: When we face the truth about ourselves, how does our relationship with God change?
We could all be in a situation like the Samaritan woman at the well, who encounters Jesus, and her life is forever altered. She has encountered Truth, and her priorities, relationships and activities have changed as a result. I can think of ways that my life has altered as I have tried to grow in my relationship with God, from bigger changes like ongoing study, to smaller day-to-day efforts to love as I am loved by God. And I think that when we make these efforts–large or small–to be more forgiving, less judgmental, and more willing to carry the cross we are given, then we help to bring this Truth to the world around us.
I hope that you will find in this rich chapter several good things to ponder in your life. Franciene and I hope that you are enjoying this lesson, and–as always–feel free to call or email either of us with any questions. We look forward to seeing you next Tuesday!
In His Love,
Franciene and Karen

 

Gospel of John Chapter 12

Hello to you all,

Franciene and I hope that you are enjoying this next lesson in the Gospel of John. Though we have probably heard and read these stories so many times, I feel like we can often see them in a new light as we study and discuss them together.
There is so much going on in this chapter, and we can see the inexorable movement toward Jesus’s crucifixion as the Pharisees and others are afraid of His influence and mistrustful of His motives. And the apostles themselves are struggling to understand and follow Him.
One of the things that really impressed me in this chapter this time, is the reaction of the crowd standing by Jesus when they hear the voice of God coming down from heaven. When this happens, some in the crowd say that it was an angel speaking to Jesus, and some others say that it had thundered, even though Jesus specifically tells the crowd “The voice has come for your sake, not for mine.” How hard the crowd tried to explain and dismiss this voice from heaven.
It made me think of times in my life when I have tried to rationalize that “voice from heaven” when I have felt that God was nudging me in a new direction, or to amend my behavior in some way. It can sometimes be easier or less disruptive to our lives to try to reason that the voice of God speaking to us is something else entirely, so that we are not “really” required to make the changes that He is prompting us to make. But just like in this chapter, Jesus speaks to us today as well as the crowd around Him then, saying “The voice has come for your sake, not for mine” as He reminds us that it is for our benefit and growth and understanding that we listen to His voice and try to follow His guidance for us. I’m sure that each of us has had that experience in our lives, and hopefully as we grow in our relationship with God, we are more willing to listen for His voice and to follow in His footsteps. And Advent seems like a really good time to see how we are doing with this, and to try to focus more on watching and listening for Him as He comes to us again in such humility and love.
We hope that you are enjoying this lesson, and–as always–feel free to contact either of us if you have any questions or comments. You all are in our prayers.
Franciene and Karen
P.S. Since this chapter also discusses Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and the reference to Zechariah’s prophecy about the Messiah riding on a humble donkey, I’ve included a poem I’ve always liked about the donkey’s role in this wonderful story. I hope you enjoy it!
The Donkey by G. K. Chesterton
When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.
With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.
The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.
Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

Gospel of John Chapter 14

It seems like ages since we’ve been in class together and discussed the last chapter in the Gospel of John, but our class will resume next Tuesday, January 6 with our discussion and insights on Chapter 14. Franciene and I hope that you all are continuing to enjoy this beautiful Christmas season, and are feeling refreshed from our short vacation.
Chapter 14 is so rich, and contains so much that is so integral to our faith. When Jesus says in 14:6 “I am the way, and the truth, and the life”, His disciples still had questions for Him. And since they did not fully understand what He was telling them, Jesus later said in verse 27 “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard Me say to you ‘I go away, and I will come to you.'” He reminds us that the Holy Spirit will be present within the Church as a whole, and also personally present within each of God’s children individually. A footnote in my Bible says “For this reason, both the universal Church and individual Christians can be called “temples” of the Spirit.” What a comfort and an unmerited honor this is!
I think that what struck me most in this chapter, is that statement by Jesus saying that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. There is a quote in our workbook on page 123 by Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical “Veritatis Splendor”, from 1993 that says:
“It is urgent to discover and set forth once more the authentic reality of the Christian faith, which is not simply a set of propositions to be accepted with intellectual assent. Rather, faith is a lived knowledge of Christ, a living remembrance of His commandments, and a truth to be lived out. A word, in any event, is not truly received until it passes into action, until it is put into practice. Faith is a decision involving one’s whole existence. It is an encounter, a dialogue, a communion of love and of life between the believer and Jesus Christ, the Way, and the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). It entails an act of trusting abandonment to Christ, which enables us to live as He lived (Galatians 2:20), in profound love of God and of our brothers and sisters.”
Have you had this experience in your own faith life? I know that I was brought up in the Catholic faith, and I remember being taught the basic foundation of our faith, and being interested in learning and understanding it. But I can certainly remember times when that was really that “intellectual assent”–the important truths may not have made the important and necessary descent from my head into my heart. I can remember times in my life when that journey was successful and my heart had pondered and understood something about our faith, that my head had only “agreed” to, without fully understanding. I think it’s so important what Saint John Paul II wrote about the necessity of that understanding being put into lived practice–a “decision involving one’s whole existence”. That really changes everything–it is as if a light comes on that shows us the path we are called to walk, and we understand that we want to walk it to meet our Merciful God.
Did you have some kind of an “encounter” with God that personally helped you understand or decide to grow in your faith? I think that so often we need an individual experience of God in our lives–whether it is a joyful or a difficult experience–to help us to internalize and act upon our faith. It’s as though the ground of our souls is tilled by our study and learning, and then when God decides the time is right, He comes Himself to sow the seeds of our true understanding, and from this understanding comes our response of love for Him. And I think that that response is what changes our lives.
As always, there is so much for us to learn and discuss in these chapters, and we look forward to seeing you all on Tuesday. Please feel free to contact Franciene or I if you have any questions or comments.
You all are in our prayers,

Gospel of John Chapter 16

Hello to you all,
I can’t believe how quickly these weeks go by, and we are coming near to the end of our study of John. Franciene and I hope that you all are continuing to enjoy this beautiful and enriching study.
These chapters are so rich, and they can help us to deepen and strengthen our faith. One of the things that really struck me when I was reading this chapter is verse 13. Jesus tells His disciples “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth…” It made me think of how often I hear someone say they are a “seeker of truth”, and how “truth” is so valued when something is explained to us. In our culture, we put such a value on what we call “truth”–and we claim to always be looking for it in people and organizations, in candidates and in the products we buy. But Jesus reminds His disciples (and us) that truth is not something we create, nor is it something we discover on our own. It is not a subjective thing that is different for me than it is for you. It is the gift of God who is Himself the possessor of all truth. Jesus tells His disciples that it is the role of the Holy Spirit to reveal to us what is true. So often people don’t want to believe that there is an absolute and objective truth, because this sounds too authoritarian, and they feel it might inhibit their individual freedom. But we’ve read in an earlier chapter that Jesus also told His disciples that “the truth will make you free”. This kind of truth that Jesus is speaking of will liberate us from our human doubts, illusions and fears, and can keep us on the right path. Since God is the source of all truth, then the closer we draw to Him and listen to His word, the more we grow in the knowledge of Him and of His great love for us.
I can think of a few times in my life when I was following my own plans for my life, and then how–through time spent in prayer–I felt a sort of “nudge” that something ought to be changed, or done differently. It would have been very easy to dismiss these “nudges” as not corresponding with my idea of my life’s agenda, but I felt a certainty of their authenticity that made me seek to make the changes I felt God was asking me to make. I can only understand those “nudges” now as the Holy Spirit reflecting the truth to me in those situations–the eternal, unchanging, and unquestionable truth that I had been unable (or unwilling) to see on my own. To me this seems very comforting, as I can certainly make a mess on my own with very little trouble. But if I know that God desires only the best for each of us, and if we seek His will for our lives, then He will always provide us with the guidance we need from Him to grow closer to Him. Perhaps you have had similar experiences in your life that have convinced you of the Holy Spirit’s actions on your behalf.
As always, there is so much for us to learn and discuss in these chapters, and I continue to learn so much from each of you. Please feel free to contact Franciene or I if you have any questions or comments.
You all are in our prayers,
Franciene and Karen

Gospel of John Chapter 18

Hello to you all,
I hope that you are all enjoying this beautiful chapter in the Gospel of John. I feel like even though I’ve read or heard these lines so many times, I can still see a different idea or a deeper understanding of an idea as I read these chapters again.
One thing that impressed me for the first time in this recent reading is the idea in verse 9 when Jesus says “Of those whom you gave me, I lost not one.” Even though this is a dreadful time of His arrest and imminent suffering and death, He is still mindful of those whom the Father has given Him, and He wants to make sure that they are safe and protected and not separated from Him. Even in an amazing chapter, this point seems especially amazing to me.
St Therese of Lisieux, in her autobiography “The Story of a Soul” touched on this topic when she wrote “O Jesus, it is not even necessary to say ‘when drawing me, draw the souls whom I love!’ This simple statement “draw me” suffices; I understand, Lord, that when a soul allows herself to be captivated by the odor of your ointments, she cannot run alone, all the souls whom she loves follow in her train; this is done without constraint, without effort, it is a natural consequence of her attraction to You. Just as a torrent, throwing itself with impetuosity into the ocean, drags after itself everything it encounters in its passage, in the same way, O Jesus, the soul who plunges into the shoreless ocean of Your love, draws with her all the treasures she possesses. Lord, you know it, I have no other treasures than the souls it has pleased You to unite to mine; it is You who entrusted these treasures to me, and so I dare to borrow the words You addressed to the heavenly Father, the last night which saw You on our earth as a traveler and a mortal….I want to be able to say to You.. ‘I have manifested Your name to those whom You have given me out of the world. They were Yours, and You have given them to me…'”
I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of wanting our loved ones to share in the riches and the beauty of our faith. When a family member, a friend or a co-worker is suffering a great loss and doesn’t have faith in God that could give them some hope in what seems to them to be a hopeless situation, we want to bring them the comfort that our faith can provide. In times of illness and suffering, it is so painful to see someone you love act as though they believe their ordeal is meaningless. This comment by Jesus seems to me to reminds us that we are called to bring the light that comes from our faith in God to those around us, and especially to those “whom God has given us”.
And that same idea makes me tremendously grateful for the family members and friends who who have shared their faith with me, and encouraged me on this journey. We do pray for others and we know that others pray for us, and this comment in this chapter really reminded me of the importance of this. I’m sure that each of you has your own stories about your own journey in faith.
As always, there is so much for us to learn and discuss in these chapters, and I continue to learn so much from each of you. Please feel free to contact Franciene or I if you have any questions or comments.
You all are in our prayers,
Franciene and Karen

Gospel of John Chapter 20

Hello to you all,
I can’t believe that we are almost done with this beautiful Gospel of John, but it has been such a wonderful adventure studying it together. I hope that you are all enjoying the study and the pleasure of learning from each other.
This chapter describing the resurrection of Jesus is an amazing story. We’ve heard it and read it so many times, and each time we allow ourselves to delve into its mysteries, we strengthen our faith, our hope and our love as we grow in our awareness and understanding of God’s great love for His people.
One thing that impressed me in studying this chapter was in the commentary in our workbook for this chapter, on page 174. It describes Peter and John running to the tomb on Easter morning after they had been told that the tomb is empty–what an image that is to our minds. The commentary tells us “Peter and John represent the charisms of love and authority within the Church…Jesus’ love is not a reckless love that flouts deference to authority. Both love and authority are of Jesus. Properly exercised, they are never in conflict.”
This idea gave me a lot to think about. It reminded me of how often to be in charge of something can bring out a lot of tendencies in us to focus on what we want to do, and what we want to achieve, and how we want to control things, and it is so easy to forget that if our service is not deeply rooted in love, then it will not achieve the ends that God has planned for it. Often I have not fully understood some authority over me, but when I try to look at that authority through the filter of love, it can become clearer to me and it is easier for me to work with. Sometimes in our culture today the teachings of the Church are resented because they sound too “authoritarian” to our ears, but as we spend time in prayer we can come to understand that they are based on love. And I had never thought about Peter and John representing these two charisms which are so inseparable and necessary to our ongoing faith.
And similar to that idea, in one of the footnotes in my Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, there is a fascinating allegory that is completely new to me, at least. Referencing those same lines describing Peter and John running to the tomb on Easter morning, it says: “The tomb is the Sacred Scriptures. Peter is faith, which is the first thing we bring to its pages, and John is understanding, which afterward enters and penetrates their meaning more deeply.”
I immediately thought of our Bible Study when I read this–each of us has responded to the nudges of the Holy Spirit and brought our individual faith to this study of Sacred Scriptures. I believe that through our study together and our discussions and sharing we have had the opportunity to grow in our understanding of their meaning–I know that it has been true for me.
As always, there is so much for us to learn and discuss in these chapters, and I continue to learn so much from each of you. Please feel free to contact Franciene or I if you have any questions or comments.
You all are in our prayers,
Franciene and Karen