This blog follows the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church
Reading 1, Isaiah 49:8-15
8 Thus says the Lord: At the time of my favour I have answered you, on the day of salvation I have helped you. I have formed you and have appointed you to be the covenant for a people, to restore the land, to return ravaged properties,
9 to say to prisoners, ‘Come out,’ to those who are in darkness, ‘Show yourselves.’ Along the roadway they will graze, and any bare height will be their pasture.
10 They will never hunger or thirst, scorching wind and sun will never plague them; for he who pities them will lead them, will guide them to springs of water.
11 I shall turn all my mountains into a road and my highways will be raised aloft.
12 Look! Here they come from far away, look, these from the north and the west, those from the land of Sinim.
13 Shout for joy, you heavens; earth, exult! Mountains, break into joyful cries! For the Lord has consoled his people, is taking pity on his afflicted ones.
14 Zion was saying, ‘The Lord has abandoned me, the Lord has forgotten me.’
15 Can a woman forget her baby at the breast, feel no pity for the child she has borne? Even if these were to forget, I shall not forget you.
When did Isaiah speak? The answer seems to be: at the time the exiled Jews in Babylon knew of Cyrus’ decree (538 BCE), to permit their return to Jerusalem. His poems capture the joy of the first moments of liberation. Then words he gives to God have comforted generations of needy people, “They will never hunger or thirst….I will guide them to springs of living water…can a woman for get her baby at the breast?”
He also influenced the early Christian writers. St Paul quotes, “on the day of salvation I have helped you,” adding, “NOW (as the gospel is preached) is the day of salvation!” The gospel writers are all aware of the way in which the salvation from the Babylonians, announced by Isaiah, is a proto-type of the salvation offered in Jesus Christ.
His words are the poetry of the dispossessed, the exiled, the oppressed and the slave, who long for freedom, and in the moment of liberation, sense the compassion of the just God, who is unequivocally on their side. Only those who have suffered, can truly interpret chapters 40-55 of Isaiah.
Gospel, John 5:17-30
17 His answer to them was, ‘My Father still goes on working, and I am at work, too.’
18 But that only made the Jews even more intent on killing him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he spoke of God as his own Father and so made himself God’s equal.
19 To this Jesus replied: In all truth I tell you, by himself the Son can do nothing; he can do only what he sees the Father doing: and whatever the Father does the Son does too.
20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he himself does, and he will show him even greater things than these, works that will astonish you.
21 Thus, as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son gives life to anyone he chooses;
22 for the Father judges no one; he has entrusted all judgement to the Son, 23 so that all may honour the Son as they honour the Father. Whoever refuses honour to the Son refuses honour to the Father who sent him.
24 In all truth I tell you, whoever listens to my words, and believes in the one who sent me, has eternal life; without being brought to judgement such a person has passed from death to life.
25 In all truth I tell you, the hour is coming — indeed it is already here — when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and all who hear it will live.
26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself;
27 and, because he is the Son of man, has granted him power to give judgement.
28 Do not be surprised at this, for the hour is coming when the dead will leave their graves at the sound of his voice:
29 those who did good will come forth to life; and those who did evil will come forth to judgement.
30 By myself I can do nothing; I can judge only as I am told to judge, and my judging is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me.
People ask what is going on in John’s Gospel where Jesus apparently speaks at a length and in ways that are quite different from his words in the other gospels. There he gives short commandments, tells stories, gives wise answers, offers harsh denunciations; but according to John he engages in long, diffuse, and repetitive meditations on his own status.
Scholars have all sorts of answers to my question. I think that, having introduced Jesus as the “Word of God”, John puts into words- words that he ascribes to Jesus- what his community believes about him. He takes a risk in doing this: that he may turn the word-made-flesh back into words, but of course that’s precisely the risk of all Christian writing about Jesus. John’s gospel is immensely resourceful in ensuring that the words direct the reader away from the text, towards the living Christ.
-my father goes on working and I am at work too (it’s not just words on a page!)
-he will show him greater things than these (not all miracles are in the past!)
-the hour is coming-indeed it is already here-when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God (Can you hear it, now?)
We, as readers, are constantly being nudged out of the book, into our own experiences, our own beliefs. We can use such phrases as the basis of our exploration of faith.
As far as doctrine is concerned, it’s worth noting that Jesus is depicted as the true Son of God, precisely because he is completely subordinate to the Father. No Islam preaches a greater submission than this: “by myself I can do nothing.” This insight may help the dialogue of Christians with Moslems.