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Saturday, March 13, 2021

Go And Sin No More (John 8:1-11)

 If you're paying attention, you notice that the transition from 7:53 to 8:1 is in the middle of a sentence. In fact, many scholars doubt that St. John wrote this at all. It is not in the oldest manuscripts--handwritten copies--of the New Testament that we have. In some other copies, it appears in other Gospels. Even so, the Church has received this, and considers it part of St. John's Gospel.

As I recall, anyone and everyone who was caught in adultery was supposed to be stoned, according to the law. So right away, we notice that these leaders are going to give the man a break, and pin it all on the woman. So Jesus was going to ignore this farce for as long as he could. St. John also tells us that they asked him the question in order to trap him, but that obviously isn't going to work.

The way that Jesus answers is deeper than it first appears. This is not just a sentimental story about Jesus giving a break to a woman caught in adultery. Every Israelite knew as each new year came around that the community would commemorate the Day of Atonement, when the high priest would enter the holy place of the temple and make a sacrifice once a year for the sins of everyone in Israel. But maybe even they knew that the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin. After all, if the blood of bulls and goats could take away sin, why would they have to repeat it? So when Jesus says, "Let him who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her," he is pointing out that even on the most solemn day of the whole year, everyone is still guilty. Jesus never says that what she did is acceptable, but he puts it in perspective. We can judge conduct, and we can judge ourselves, but we should be very careful about making a final judgment about anyone else. That's what it means when St. John is using the word "condemn" here: we know that someone who is condemned is going to die. They are a murderer; that is what they are. A lot of people don't have time for nuance and explanations when it comes to people who have done bad things. Jesus is saying that God always has time to see us for more than what we have done, especially when we have done the wrong things. He tells her not to sin again, and she goes on her way. This is the definition of mercy, because she didn't deserve it. True mercy acknowledges wrongdoing, and offers relief from some of the consequences. May we be people of truth, and abundant mercy, because we know that God has been merciful to us.

Candyland Is Pointless

 Did you know that there isn't even luck or chance in Candyland? The outcome is determined before you start. I made the mistake of saying that it was pointless, and someone said it was "deterministic," not pointless. He went on to say that "pointless" was a value judgment. You don't say?

I guess if you really think about it, you can figure out my views on the weirdly popular, evergreen debate in theology, with respect to God's sovereignty, and humanity's free will. Even the strict Thomists have to be careful, in my book.

You may be asking yourself, "If he doesn't like determinism, why does he watch the same movie over and over again?" I don't know, really. But it wasn't determined before it was made. And if you haven't seen it, it's not determined for you. Suppose I just like a happy story. Or at least a redemptive one. If you want to call me a hypocrite, that's fine, but at least I won't be a programmed hypocrite.

I also have very defined and passionate food preferences, which is probably a manifestation of, "By golly, I'm not in control of much, but I'm going to control something!" I might as well be unguarded for a moment.

Sometimes ignorance really is bliss. It kind of ruined the cereal for me, when I found out that Trix is all the same flavor, regardless of the color or shape. Don't take a food science course, if you like your breakfast cereal. And don't ask me to play Candyland.

Friday, March 12, 2021

I'm Not Superstitious. But I Am Just A Little Bit Stitious.

 Every time there is a major sporting event that I really want to see, I have Bible study, or some other Jesus-related event. And I mean every time. [That's because you watch every major sport, and most of the minor ones, you dimwit.--ed.]

Moreover, when I do exercise my choice to watch the game, or a match of my favorite athlete Roger Federer, seemingly they always lose. It's to the point where Tim Butler says, "You sure you want to do that? You ruined their season last time." I'm supposed to know things about correlation and causation, but I tell you, part of the reason I skipped the game last night (my alma mater's basketball team) is that I didn't want them to lose. They won.

This is barking nuts, I know. But if it happens often enough, you at least start to get the idea that Jesus really doesn't want you to skip Bible study, or anything else involving Him, for that matter. I think, "Sheesh, Lord, you don't have to ruin it for everyone, just to get my attention. Couldn't you just tell the Holy Spirit to make me feel really bad about skipping?" Then again, I don't think God is as committed to guilt trips as we think he is. Even so, I skipped the game, and it apparently worked! Hey, don't knock it till you try it.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

The Giver of Living Water (John 7:37-53)

 Jesus knew that the last day of a feast is incredibly important. That's usually when the celebrating actually takes place. He says we should come to him and drink the rivers of living water. It reminds us of his conversation with the woman at the well back in chapter 4. Also, over in St. Matthew's Gospel, in 5:6, Jesus says, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." In Isaiah chapter 55, Isaiah speaks about this hunger and thirst. Jesus is "a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples." St. John wants us to know that Isaiah's prophecy is beginning to come true in Jesus.

St. John just tells us that this "living water" is from the Holy Spirit, and truly, the living water is the Holy Spirit. Then St. John tells us about the plan as it is going to unfold. The special empowering gift of the Holy Spirit given to all of us cannot be received in this way until Jesus has finished his work.

Once more, we see the division among the people, in terms of what they believe about Jesus. The officers who tried to arrest Jesus must have been impressed by something he said, or at least they thought he had not said or done anything worthy of arrest.

Nicodemus, who came to see Jesus in chapter 3, tries to press the leaders to be fair, and to hear Jesus out. Nicodemus unfortunately hoped that reason and fairness would prevail, and it did not. It was never going to be a fair trial, once Jesus was on trial.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Who Is This Jesus? (John 7:25-36)

 Some of the people knew that Jesus had begun to get an infamous reputation, and that some of the leaders wanted to kill him. Maybe they were taken aback by his gentleness, or they wondered why the leadership would hesitate, if they were so set in their opinions against Jesus.

Some leaders thought they knew where Jesus had come from, because they knew his family. They could not account for his special knowledge, which he did not get from studying; he got it from His divine nature. Jesus once more speaks of his special relationship with the Father, and that he is the one whom the Father has sent. To say this is not very prudent, because it is not an accepted custom for an Israelite to speak about God so intimately. St. John tells us that the reason why the leaders could not lay hands on Jesus is that his hour had not yet come. This means that everything that will happen in Jerusalem is a spiritual mystery that will unfold according to the Father's plan, and not a moment before.

Some holy citizens start to recognize that the coming of the Messiah will bring miracles, and they ask the natural question, "Will the Messiah do more miracles than this man?" It's a good question. It's not necessarily the case that every miracle worker is the Messiah, but it was generally believed that a person who did miracles was most likely sent by God for some purpose.

As you might expect, growing support for Jesus among the people did not go over well with the religious and political leadership of the nation. Jesus is well aware of what is happening, but he also knows that they won't succeed in arresting him until the Father permits it. He is speaking in a spiritual way about his death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. But again, without the grace to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, everything Jesus says would sound completely crazy.