From SFS Bible Diary
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Saint John of Egypt (? - 394) was one of the hermits of the Nitrean desert. He began as a carpenter and left to solitude after receiving a divine call. According to hagiographer Alban Butler, John was noted for performing seemingly absurd acts at the bidding of the Holy Spirit, such as rolling rocks from place to place and cultivating dead trees. He then withdrew to the top of a cliff, where he could avoid all human contact.
Reflection: Jesus has more admirers than those committed to him and his values. We know from experience that a prophet is not honoured in his own country and among his own people. The people of Nazareth welcome Jesus not because they are in¬terested in his person but because they want to see his performances. John contrasts their superficial assessment and hollow recognition of Jesus with the deep faith of the royal official who trusts in Jesus’ word. His faith is confirmed by the report of the servants about his child’s healing at the very hour he was told by Jesus that he would be well. John calls Jesus’ miracles as signs. Jesus is the sign of God’s presence and action. That is the greatest miracle the world has ever seen. To encounter Jesus and to surrender oneself to him is more important than admiring his works.
St Gontran (531-592.) was the king of Burgundy from 561 to 592. Gontran had a period of intemperance. He was eventually overcome with remorse for the sins of his past life, and spent his remaining years repenting of them. In atonement, he fasted, prayed, wept, and offered himself to God.
Reflection: The story of the paralyzed man remaining at the pool for thirty-eight years offers a number of challenging lessons for us. Jesus goes to this man and asks if he wants to be healed. We expect him to say “yes” immediately. Instead, he narrates to Jesus how he is a victim of the situation. He is a typical example of reactive persons who allow themselves to be controlled by others or situations. They justify their inac¬tion or unhappiness attributing it to outside forces. The paralyzed man never took any steps to seek the help of someone to keep him near the water. Paralysis of the mind is worse than paralysis of the body. After being healed in body, the man does not take responsibility for carrying his bed. He does not even know the name of the one who healed him. God wants us to be pro-active disciples and not reactive people.
St. Berthold of Calabria (died 1195) was a French crusader who instituted a hermit colony on Mount Carmel in 1185. Some historians consider him to be the founder of the Carmelite Order. Aymeric, the patriarch of Antioch, appointed Berthold the first Carmelite superior general.
Reflection: Throughout his gospel John emphasizes Jesus’ intimate union with his Father. In fact, Jesus sums up his life as ‘coming from the Father’ and ‘going back to the Father’. It is in his Father that Jesus lives, moves and has his being. In answering those who question his authority to heal on the Sabbath, Jesus has no hesitation to affirm his unique relation with his Father. His origin is from the Father and he continues to do the work of the Father. Though he is distinct from the Father, he is not separate from him. We too have authority to touch the lives of people and heal them, depending on our intimacy with the Lord. Just as Jesus sees with the eyes of the Father, we need to look at others and our situations with the eyes of Jesus.
St. John Climacus also known as John of the Ladder, was a 7th-century Christian monk at the monastery on Mount Sinai Of John’s literary output we know only the ‘Ladder of Divine Ascent’. The Ladder describes how to raise one’s soul and body to God through the acquisition of ascetic virtues.
Reflection: For John, the Jews who do not believe in Jesus and are opposed to him are not the Jewish race but anyone who is not willing to accept him as the Lord of his life. Those who are opposed to Jesus are those who have closed their minds against God. For John that is the deadly sin. When one closes his or her heart and mind to the reality of Christ, he or she is in darkness, lie and death. That is the reason Jesus says that they have no love of God in them. Nothing can convince a person about the ultimate Truth about Jesus unless she/ he is open to the Truth. Every person and everything in this world point to the reality of Jesus. But we need openness of mind and sensitivity of heart to experience the Lord’s presence in our lives.
St. Benjamin was a deacon martyred circa 424 in Persia. Benjamin was imprisoned for his Christian faith, and later released with the condition that he abandon preaching. However, Benjamin declared that it was his duty to preach Christ. As a consequence, he was tortured mercilessly until his death.
Reflection: Jesus cannot remain hidden from his people. He wants to remain in Galilee and does not want to go to Judea. But later he goes for the festival. Jesus as God’s revelation and God’s word cannot be bound. He exposes himself though it is dangerous because his awareness of his mission impels him to fulfil it, come what may.. When we let our mission and ministry be limited by systems and structures or our own predilection for established order, we fail Jesus and his word. The people of Jesus’ time could not accept Jesus because he did not fit into their pre-conceived notion about the Messiah. To know Jesus is to experience him. To experience Jesus is to be affected and transformed by him. Only when we let ourselves be transformed by him can we be authentic witnesses of Jesus according to his plans and purposes.
St. Gilbert (1083 – 1190), the founder of the Gilbertine Order, was the first Englishman to found a conventual order, because the Abbot of Cîteaux declined his request to assist him in organising a group of women who wanted to live as nuns. In the end he founded a double monastery.
Reflection: On the last day of Paschal feast, Jesus invited the thirsty to come to him to drink water i.e to receive the Spirit of God from him. This invitation made some people think that he was the Messiah, some others thought of him as a prophet. Even temple police got astonished at his powerful words. But the chief priests & Pharisees, who were in authority, did not believe him to be the Messiah. Pharisees’ non-acceptance led them to devise means to persecute Jesus. However Jesus was able to withstand all types of persecutions because he felt very deeply within himself that God was with him. There are different sorts of people in this world. Some understand us and talk good of us while others misunderstand us and talk ill of us and, above all, they disturb us also. In such situations, like Jesus, we are invited to experience the ever-abiding presence of God with us.
Reflection: Since the people of Israel were out of their own land, they lost hope in Yahweh and cut off their relationship with God. It made them feel like dry bones. But God promised to them that He would take them from their graves and strengthen them by His Spirit and lead them back to their home land. Through Ezekiel, God gave the Israelites the message that God is always there to rejuvenate their life through the Spirit. Precisely that is the mes¬sage that Jesus went on preaching and proclaiming wherever he went. The resuscitation of Lazarus was just a sign to tell the whole humanity that Jesus is ready to transform the lives of the ‘dead’ people. As God brought life and happiness to the people of Israel, Jesus also gave life and happiness to many and continues to do so. Today when we become lifeless on account of our sinful life, Jesus gives us life by redeeming us from our sins. When people become lifeless, we have to make them energetic by our consoling and boosting words and life giving deeds and we have to encourage them to do so to others also.
Richard of Wyche, (1197-1253) also known as Richard of Chichester, was born at Wyche (Droitwich), Worcestershire, England. He was orphaned when he was quite young. Richard refused marriage and went to Oxford. He was ordained priest in 1243. Against the wish of the King Henry III he was consecrated as Bishop of Chichester in 1245. He is the patron saint of coachmen.
Reflection: The scribes and Pharisees wanted to show Jesus and the crowd that they were strictly following the Law of Moses. They wanted to show the crowd that Jesus was against the Law of Moses. That is why they brought a woman, caught in adultery, in front of Jesus in the temple. By saying that one who is without sin can first stone her to death, Jesus communicated to them that they were sinful. That is why they left the place. Follow¬ing the commandments and rules are just helps to become good people. They are not measurements or hallmarks of our goodness. Though the Pharisees and scribes followed the laws meticulously, still they were not good. On the other hand, though Jesus dared to transgress certain laws, such as Sabbath Law, he was sinless. Let the following of rules and regulations help us to become better persons. Boasting that I follow the rules and regulations meticulously is of no use by itself.