Friday, April 30, 2010

Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter

(Acts 13:26-33; John 14:1-6)

A university co-ed tells her roommates in the middle of a blizzard that her father is coming to pick her up. “How can you be so sure he will get here?” the roommates ask. They add, “It’s impossible driving outside.” “Because I am his favorite daughter,” the young woman replies. In the gospel today Jesus means to instill such confidence in his disciples.

The passage is taken from the beginning of the second part of John’s gospel, the so-called Book of Glory. Jesus gives a long farewell speech to his disciples among whom we should see ourselves. He does not want us to worry because he is leaving us. Rather, he assures us that things are better this way. “Why?” we may ask, with the same uncertainty as Thomas displays in the passage. He answers because he is “the way and the truth and the life.” Jesus is the way, the one who leads us to God. He is the truth whose directions we can utterly rely on because he comes from the Father. And he is the life of which we partake in the Eucharist for strength on the journey.

We sometimes find ourselves in bleak situations. Perhaps we face job termination, mortgage foreclosure, or even terminal disease. We are not to cower but to be confident. Jesus sublimely demonstrates this trust on the cross. In John’s crucifixion Jesus does not suffer but reigns when he is crucified. As he predicted, he has drawn the whole world – friends, foes, even the Roman governor to the scene. He completes his work on earth by forming the Church -- his family of brothers and sisters – when he entrusts his mother to his beloved disciple and him to her. And he dies only when he is ready, after everything has been accomplished. Believing in him, we can face our trials with the same surety of spirit.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

St. Catherine of Siena, virgin

(Acts 13:13-25; John 13:16-20)

Some may think St. Catherine of Siena arrogant. She did not hesitate to tell the pope to stop hiding in Avignon and return to Rome. She was equally forthright with everyone else. Although she was a young virgin, she befriended a condemned man in prison and moved him to repent of his crime. When his head was chopped off, she caught it in her arms and, I imagine, gave it a proper burial.

But Catherine was more likely sublimely humble than supremely arrogant. She thought of herself as nothing except for the Lord whom she worshipped and received in the Eucharist. As long as she carried him in her heart, she knew that she was anybody’s equal. She took seriously Jesus’ words in the gospel, “Whoever receives the one I send, receives me.” Her close association with Jesus in prayer assured her that she was his messenger.

Catherine is the co-patron of Italy and, indeed, for all Europe. She could easily serve as patron of our democracy as well. Her life testifies to the equality of everyone before God – whether man or woman, king or beggar, cleric or lay. In thirty-three years she achieved a lifetime of accomplishments through determination of will and purity of virtue but, much more to the point, through dependence on God. She was largely unlearned, yet she still has much to teach all of us.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter

(Acts 12:24-13:5a; John 12:44-50)

It seems odd to read that the Holy Spirit spoke to the community worshipping in Antioch. The Spirit inspires and emboldens, but how can he talk? Perhaps we should not take the words literally. Rather, we need to understand that the Holy Spirit directs all the action in the Acts of the Apostles.

Certainly the Spirit’s instructions here are in line with the general story. Barnabas and Paul are set apart for a preaching mission. The Acts of the Apostles, which begins in Jerusalem, is bringing its chief preacher to far-off Rome. From that hub of civilization new missionary expeditions, not recorded in Acts' narrative, will be launched throughout the world.

Those journeys will proceed until the end of time. Even if someday the whole world converts to Christ, there will still be need for more penetrating journeys inward. A missionary in the overwhelmingly Muslim country of Bangladesh once was asked how many converts he had many. The missionary said just one – he had become a better Christian. As we tell others about Christ, we also should not fail to prod ourselves to become more like him.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Easter

(Acts 11:19-26; John 10:22-30)

Experts tell people new to publicity never to joke with the press. In today’s contentious society, journalists are inclined to give the most controversial interpretation possible to anything a public official says. For this reason a politician or a bishop if she or he talks with reporters at all is very circumspect. In a similar way Jesus deftly answers his interrogators in the gospel today.

The Jews ask Jesus to state clearly whether or not he is their long-awaited Christ or Messiah. We should take note how this is the same question the high priest puts to Jesus during his interrogation in the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, and Luke. As in those gospels Jesus gives an indirect answer here. He says that they should know he is the Christ because of the works he performs. Still, the Jews refuse to believe.

Sagacious and intelligent, Jesus outwits his adversaries. But his accomplishment just begins here. More significantly, he tells how he gives eternal life to his sheep. We can take comfort here. As long as we stay close to Jesus, the Good Shepherd, nothing can ultimately harm us. Come cancer, car-wreck, or other catastrophe, Jesus will save us from disaster.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter

(Acts 11:1-18; John 10:1-10)

Cardinal, soon to be “Blessed,” John Henry Newman clarified how logical argument seldom moves anyone to belief. Most often, he wrote, “informal inference” -- feeling, intuition, and unconscious motivation -- are necessary for one to accept the faith. Jesus certainly understood the need for non-rational motivation as he preached with vibrant images like the “good shepherd” and, what we hear today, the “gatekeeper.”

Sometimes preachers try to explain the roles of “good shepherd” and “gatekeeper” as the same, but the attempt is in vain. Jesus uses both images to indicate the different ways in which he is there for us. In the passage which begins in today’s gospel he will call himself the “good shepherd,” the one who leads his sheep to life. But now he refers to himself as the “gatekeeper” or “gate” with two functions. First, he only lets those shepherds whom he knows and calls – people like Peter – to care for his sheep. And second, he also allows the sheep to go out and pasture. He knows when it is safe to do so and when it is necessary to stay in the sheepfold under his watchful eye. In this way the sheep under his care will have abundant life.

Very few of us live in bucolic society, and even if we did, shepherding is not the same as it was in Jesus’ time. Yet these images resonate with us. We know that many wander through life without much sense of its purpose. Those who manage to clarify a goal sometimes get helplessly sidetracked. Accepting Jesus as our keeper and shepherd saves us from becoming so lost.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday of the Third Week of Easter

(Acts 9:1-20; John 6:52-59)

Every once in a while a report about intelligent design breaks into the news. Intelligent design is the theory of evolution claiming that the Creator has left some tracks in guiding the development of the species. Most scientists, seeing no evidence of God’s hand in the process, hold that random chance controlled evolutionary development.

Whether or not God reveals His hand in nature, does He do so in history? Secular historians will argue no. They likely see history meandering as aimlessly as elementary school students on the first day of vacation. On the other hand St. Luke, the New Testament’s most self-conscious historian, sees God’s design everywhere. He writes of Stephen’s martyrdom as the divine initiative to take the gospel outside Jerusalem. In today’s reading from Acts Luke narrates how Christ personally intervenes in Paul’s life directing him to the pagans.

Why, we may ask, does God have such an ambitious plan for Paul? The answer is contained in the basic gospel message. God loves each one of us – Jew and non-Jew alike -- more than we can ever appreciate. Out of this love He conscripts the sharp, strong, and zealous Paul to introduce us to His son.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thursday of the Third Week of Easter

(Acts 8:26-40; John 6:44-51)

Oh, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
Her beauty hangs upon the cheek of night
As a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear.

After seeing Juliet, Romeo describes her with these words. We should depict the Body of Christ with images as arresting.

A “jewel in an Ethiop’s ear” brings to mind stunning contrast because of the rich, black color of Ethiopians’ skin. When Philip baptizes the Ethiopian in the reading from Acts, he thus introduces Blacks into the Church. The community of Christ has already expanded beyond national boundaries to assimilate non-Jews as well as Jews. Now it has no trouble including Blacks as well as Whites.

But inclusion of the Ethiopian leaps beyond still another border. He is a eunuch, a man who was castrated to fulfill a courtly purpose. The Pentateuch forbids such men from entry into the people of Israel although the same Isaiah that the Ethiopian is reading predicts their future acceptance. Here the prophecy is fulfilled in the name of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter

(Acts 8:1b-8; John 6:35-40)

It is surely ironic that the seven so-called deacons, who were ordained to care for the table needs of the Hellenist widows while the apostles attended to preaching the word, show themselves to be quite competent preachers. In Monday’s reading from Acts Stephen’s fiery discourse moved the Jews to martyr him, and in today Philip’s words show an irresistible power. We may wonder what exactly are the table needs of the widows – just more bread or, as Jesus calls himself in the gospel, “the bread of life”?

Rather than make strict classes between the ordained and the non-ordained, the preachers and the listeners in these Scriptures, it seems wise to recognize how all followers are giving testimony to Jesus by their expressed actions. Likewise in the Church today we must take care not to make a hard caste system of the different levels of ordination and the laity. Certainly bishops and even priests are ordained to carry out formational roles in the Church. But the laity has a unique role in the celebration of sacraments and certainly forms the frontline in taking the gospel to the world.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter

(Acts 7:51-8:1a; John 3:31-36)

As we grow old, the inevitability of death becomes less of a truism and more a truth. We should begin to ask ourselves, “How do I wish to die?” To this end people have always written wills for the disposition of their belongings. These days many are also making “living wills” where they indicate what medical treatments they wish to have or avoid and who will make health decisions for them if they become incapacitated. We would do better if we plan a Christian death.

Some may think that a Christian death means to have a church burial and that planning it means to choose the Scripture readings and hymns to be used in the funeral mass. But the term “Christian death” or “Christian way of dying” has a deeper, more ancient meaning. Like Stephen in the reading from Acts today, we die a Christian death when we ask forgiveness for our enemies and entrust our souls to the Lord. These practices are truly “Christian,” of course, because they also imitate Jesus’ death in the Gospel according to Luke.

We can prepare for such a death by repeating the same prayers daily – asking forgiveness for those who knowingly or not harm us and putting our lives into the hands of God.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Monday of the Third Week of Easter

(Acts 6:9-15; John 6:22-29)

“The Goose that Laid Golden Eggs,” tells the story of owners of a magical goose which daily deposits for them a small fortune. But the couple somehow feels short-changed because they must wait a whole day for the next delivery of gold. Thinking that the goose has golden insides which might be immediately exploited, they kill the goose. In stead of discovering a fortune, however, they only find the usual blood and gore. We find this fable echoed in today’s gospel.

As Jesus tells the Jews in today’s gospel, they look for him only because he has given them bread to eat. They have overlooked the fact that he came come down from heaven which is evident from all the signs he has worked. He just fed thousands of them with a few loaves of bread and small fish. After that, he miraculously transferred himself over water. Instead of trying to exploit him for a fortune, why don’t they heed his words daily to gain a destiny greater than gold?

We must ask the same question of ourselves. Of course, we believe in Jesus as Lord, but often our actions fail our beliefs. We squirm (and perhaps scream) when events don’t follow our preferences. We may hedge on commitments when they lead up high, seemingly endless roads. These are not Jesus’ ways. He taught us to bear difficulties patiently and to fulfill our responsibilities come what may.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday of the Second Week of Easter

(Acts 5:34-42; John 6:1-15)

Once I met a Jewish friend on the day before Passover. He remarked that the feast provides an excuse for a party. He was being a bit irreverent, of course, but what he said hit the mark. Passover gives reason to rejoice as it celebrates Israel’s release from Egyptian slave gangs.

John the Evangelist notes that Jesus feeds the crowds at Passover time. This is not a detail to add realism to his story; rather, it frames the account in gold. It tells us that Jesus’ feeding the five thousand men and an untold number of women and children has a liberation theme. The people’s attention to Jesus frees them from helpless attachment to sin. Their participation in his supper gives energizes them for life’s journey. The fact that the people carry home leftovers underscores Jesus’ accomplishment.

We should find ourselves involved in this same process of liberation during the Eucharist. The Word of God prunes us of vices while the bread and wine, changed into Jesus’ body and blood, charge us with his life. Carefully attended to with prayer, the Eucharist allows us to feel in our lives the effects of Christ’s redemption.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Thursday of the Second Week of Easter

(Acts 5:27-33; John 3:31-36)

We should take note of who is speaking in this gospel. It sounds similar to yesterday’s gospel where Jesus tells Nicodemus, “’God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” Today’s passage, however, relates the testimony of John, whom we (but not the fourth evangelist) call “the Baptist.”

The reading does not mention us the context of John’s testimony, but we can find it by referring to the whole gospel. Jesus has left Jerusalem and gone into the country of Judea where John is baptizing. Jesus also baptizes -- a fact which raises concern among John’s disciples that Jesus is encroaching on John’s turf. However, John -- a true prophet – raises no objection. On the contrary, he utters his famous words of submission, “He (Jesus) must increase; I must decrease.”

Today’s gospel challenges us to be likewise humble. We think of ourselves as fortunate to live in a time of so many comforts and conveniences – to name a few: high definition television, central air and heating, popular vacation cruises. But are these luxuries anything in comparison to the eternal life which Jesus promises? Eternal life is companionship with Jesus. It far exceeds anything the world has to offer because it provides a joy not limited to time and space. We will experience it when we, like John, submit ourselves to him.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wednesday of the Second Week of Easter

(Acts 5:17-26; John 3:16-21)

Missionary theory was once very simple. Missionaries brought Christ to peoples who did not know him. We find this idea reflected in both readings today. The gospel proclaims that God so loved the world that He gave His only son so that all who believe in him might have everlasting life. This is kerygma, the missionary message. The passage from Acts shows the apostles preaching in the Temple area – the paradigm of missionary activity.

As always, reality has complicated the simple vision. Missionaries going to foreign lands have found, in a sense, Christ already there. They see the people cooperating with one another and expressing genuine love for the needy. The missionaries have concluded that it is the Holy Spirit who, working in the minds and hearts of these people, have molded them in caring ways.

Still the missionaries bring something new and authentically Christian to the people. The gospel remains a unique document expressing the fullness of God’s promise however much it is corrupted in different times and places. Most importantly, missionaries bring the Eucharist which renews the death and resurrection of Jesus. This event, which we call “the paschal mystery of Jesus,” assures us of God’s love no matter who we are and calls us back to that love when we fall away.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter

(Acts 4:32-37; John 3:7b-15)

Once as a class project a group of students asked associates to donate their coats to the poor. A number of the associates, thinking their donations were merely an academic exercise, handed over their coats with full expectation of reclaiming them. But when the class ended, the group conducting the exercise indicated that they intended to take the coats to a redistribution center.

Complete sharing is a remarkable phenomenon. The reading from Acts proclaims that “with great power the Apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord...” It does not specify the acts of witness, but certainly its next sentence describing people selling their property so that sales’ proceeds might be given to the Apostles for redistribution provides a remarkable testimony of faith.

Such attempts at radical communal sharing usually break down like chain letters after a short while. It is commonly thought that Luke, the writer of Acts, is giving an idealized portrait of the apostolic community in the text today. But just because experiments in communal sharing fail to maintain the high ideals they set out to achieve does not mean that they should not be proclaimed. A sage once commented, “Giving has never made anyone poor.” Indeed, the opposite forms the truism. Stories inspiring people to give more cause many to grow rich, spiritually at least but also, rather mysteriously, materially as well.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Monday of the Second Week of Easter

(Acts 4:23-31; John 3:1-8)

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” the saying goes. Likewise we excuse the elderly for not learning how to use the computer. No doubt, old peoples’ minds react more slowly so that they are often challenged to do things they have never done before. But to say that it is impossible is to deny the force of the Spirit which constantly moves us more righteous ways of being.

For people aware of the Civil Rights movement during the latter half of the twentieth century the prime example of the force of the Holy Spirit is the about face that Governor George Wallace of Alabama took before his death. During the 1960s Governor Wallace was the Sam Adams of resistance to integration. He defied Presidential orders and federal marshals at every turn. It was a losing battle, but the victory was diminished by the acclaim given to Wallace as a folk hero. He maintained his segregationist views until the late 1970s when he claimed to have been “born again.” Wallace’s acceptance of African-Americans certainly changed as he publicly apologized for his segregationist views and appointed many African-Americans to public positions during his last term as Alabama governor.

As we age, we too can improve. Hopefully, we haven’t taken egregious stands like that of George Wallace, but perhaps we judged people harshly or defended our shortcomings doggedly over the years. Easter time with its renewed awareness of the Holy Spirit seems apt for us to change and learn more loving ways of being.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Friday in the Octave of Easter

(Acts 4:1-12; John 21:1-14)

“The one who loves much, does much.” The Scriptures today witness to this simple test of love in the actions of Peter on behalf of Jesus. Love moves the chief apostle in the reading from Acts to confront the Jewish leaders who recently negotiated Jesus’ execution. In the gospel, love for Jesus compels Peter to jump in the water with his clothes on to greet the risen Lord.

As courageous and spontaneous as Peter’s love for Jesus is, it only shadows Jesus’ love for him and for the rest of us. St. Paul surely captures the heart of the gospel when he writes: “...God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). His death has gained for us the forgiveness of sin. But that is only half of the mystery of God’s love. His resurrection – the other side of the mystery – promises us eternal life.

Peter’s actions suggest how we might show our love for Christ. We too can confront sin by naming it and then doing what is right. For example, rather than tell a lie to avoid paying a tax, we should recognize the falsehood as sin and pay the tax as our contribution to the common good. Also, we should lose no time to meet the Lord in the Eucharist. Coming early to pray quietly and, if possible, to preview the Scripture readings will indicate our desire to know the Lord.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Thursday in the Octave of Easter

(Acts 3:11-26; Luke 24:35-48)

There is an old joke about a messenger reporting to the apostles news of Jesus’ resurrection. The messenger first announced that the Lord indeed rose from the dead. Then the messenger continued that he wanted to speak to them about what happened in the garden on Thursday night. Luke’s gospel does not mention the disciples fleeing Jesus when he is arrested; nevertheless there is a sense in which their meeting Jesus after the resurrection is not pure pleasure.

The resurrection account we hear today establishes that Jesus rose from the dead in body as well as soul. He offers his flesh and bones, to be touched if desired, as proof that his disciples are not imagining his presence. Then he bites into a piece of fish as further evidence. The disciples can rejoice that their leader has returned. Now comes the hard part. The Scriptures, which foretold Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection, also predicted that repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached in his name. As the chief witnesses to the wonders of the resurrection, the disciples inherit the responsibility of fulfilling this prophecy.

It is a formidable task for at least two reasons. First, the disciples must reform their lives in perfect conformity with the gospel. Dom Helder Camara once warned confirmed Christians, “Your lives may be the only gospel your sisters and brothers will ever read.” Second, many will resist the call to change their ways and will react violently against those who preach the need to do so. We, likewise, can be sure that just in living the gospel we will incur hostility at times.
Wednesday in the Octave of Easter

(Acts 3:1-10; Luke 24:13-35)

During Easter-time the Church regularly reads from the Acts of the Apostles at mass. Its use instructs us that the Father raised Jesus from the dead not only to validate Jesus’ mission that ends with the ignominy of the cross but also to give new life to His people. In today’s passage Peter and John’s cure of a cripple fills onlookers with amazement at the power of Jesus’ name.

The scene is both typical and indicative of Luke, the author of Acts. Since beggars sit in front of most churches to this day, it does not surprise us to hear of a beggar in the temple area in apostolic times. The assertion that the disciples continue to pray in the Jerusalem temple appears only in Luke’s gospel where Jesus’ death does not illegitimate the temple as in Mark’s and Matthew’s nor do the disciples have any fear of the Jews as in John’s.

Gold and silver have the highest currency in most societies, but for Christians their value is limited. We have Jesus Christ whose worth outpaces precious metals because he has the power to rescue us from every kind of distress. All Peter and John have to do to assure Jesus’ saving help is to invoke his name. The legs of the beggar suddenly become strong enough to jump. We also can count on Jesus when we plea for help. Of course, Jesus’ name is not a magic formula. He has promised to come to our assistance when we call him by name. But as Lord he retains the right to meet our needs as he sees fit, not as we might specify.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tuesday in the Octave of Easter

(Acts 2:36-41; John 20:11-18)

These days Mary Magdalene is commonly portrayed as involved with Jesus in, for Christians, a scandalous way. However, there is no historical warrant to consider her as Jesus’ wife or concubine. Her relationship to Jesus is like his other associates’ -- one of discipleship.

In today’s gospel passage Mary Magdalene is seen for a second time in John’s resurrection narratives. She previously went to the tomb -- probably with other women although this is not expressly stated -- before dawn and found the stone rolled back which led her to conclude that Jesus’ body had been stolen. After reporting her experience to the other disciples, she returns to the tomb to encounter the risen Lord. Quite typically, Jesus asks a question probing her discipleship: “Whom are you looking for?” Will her response be one of acute interest like the Baptist’s disciples’ at the beginning of the gospel or of hostile suspicion like that of the Roman troops in the garden of the Mount of Olives? When Jesus mentions her name, Mary gives a favorable answer, “Rabbouni,” teacher.

Although Mary has no sexual relationship with Jesus, her discipleship is very much based on love. In the Good Shepherd discourse Jesus said that he knows each of his sheep by name and was ready to lay down his life for them. Now Mary hears Jesus, who has already laid down his life for all his followers, call her by name and can respond with affection. When she returns to the others to report her encounter with the Lord, she becomes the first disciple to proclaim the good news of his resurrection.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Monday in the Octave of Easter

(Acts 2:14.22-33; Matthew 28:8-15)

The idea of resurrection from the dead staggers the mind so much that suggesting it invites skepticism. In the readings today we see bases of two attempts to discredit Jesus’ resurrection. The gospel mentions a refutation from apostolic times. Apparently some Jews claimed that Jesus did not rise from the dead but that his disciples stole his body. The evangelist’s picturing corrupt Jewish leaders as bribing the Roman soldiers corresponds to their seeking false witnesses at Jesus’ trial.

More pertinent today is a doubt about the resurrection that the Acts of the Apostles suggests. In the first reading Peter tries to show his Jewish listeners that Jesus’ resurrection is foretold in Scripture. Propelled by this account, modern skeptics have conjectured that the passion, death and resurrection narratives were invented by early Christians with the Old Testament in hand. According to these theorists, the apostles gleaned tidbits from the Jewish Scriptures, injected them into the story of Jesus’ ordeal, and then claimed that the crucified Jesus also rose from the dead. This scenario may be possible, but it is hardly likely. We might ask why the apostles did not choose more relevant information than casting lots for Jesus’ garments or offering Jesus wine mixed with gall. Catholic scholar Fr. Raymond Brown has written it is far more likely that early Christians, after witnessing Jesus’ death and resurrection, told of it with reference to its elements that correspond to Scripture.

Skeptics can and will always raise doubts about Jesus’ resurrection. It remains a singular event in history (unless we count the Assumption of Mary for which there appears to be far less testimony). We accept it in faith for at least three reasons. First, the apostles, who died for preaching the resurrection, make a credible witness. Second, the resurrection satisfies the longing of the human heart, which God has created, for immortality. And third, we have experienced the effects of the resurrection in the Spirit’s filling our hearts with God’s love.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday

(Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:6-7; John 18.1-19:42)

It can be said that the passion of Jesus in the Gospel according to St. John is drama without suspense. Careful readers realize that Jesus is fully aware throughout this gospel that he is the pre-existent Son of God. He knows where he comes from and when he will return to his Father. He says in the middle of the gospel that no one takes his life from him, “I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again” (10:18). Since Jesus in John’s eyes has already conquered the world (16:33), worldly powers -- be they Roman procurators or Jewish high priests – only imagine that they are cutting short his life when they crucify him. He dies when he is ready as his last words testify, “It is finished.” In fact, nothing happens in this gospel that catches Jesus by surprise. As the omniscient Son of God, he knows when and how everything will take place.

Jesus’ dominance over his opponents is also apparent throughout the narrative. When Roman soldiers come to arrest Jesus, they fall to the ground as Jesus pronounces the divine “I AM.” When Pilate tries to interrogate Jesus, he finds himself outmaneuvered. He learns that, yes, Jesus is a king, but not of this world; and that his own authority is granted from above so that anything he does, God intends him to do in the first place. Most spectacularly, Jesus’ supremacy is seen at the cross. To the consternation of the Jews, Pilate posts a sign on it – in three languages, no less – that Jesus is “king of the Jews.” Jesus even holds court there with his mother, her companions and his beloved disciple in attendance. Jesus initiates his church from the cross by proclaiming his mother and the disciple his family and sending his Spirit upon them. And when Jesus dies, a new disciple rushes on the scene with enough burial spices to inter a pharaoh.

The Gospel of John’s omniscient, impassable, almighty Jesus assures us that he is truly God’s Son. We have only to put our faith in him, and nothing will defeat us either. This kind of faith has enabled an elderly religious sister to accept her terminal condition of liver cancer with serenity and peace. She was told five months ago that she had just three months to live. She continues day after day without hospice, with hardly any painkillers, and now without food. She only asks the other sisters to sit with her and to pray for her. Since she has long ago given herself over to her Lord, there is now no reason to deny, fear or dread death now. As Jesus says of himself, so she hears him say to her: he will take her when he is ready and he will give life back to her again.