The Sign

There are no miracles in the Gospel of John. Well, at least he does not call them as such. John seems to assiduously avoid calling them miracles, preferring to call them “signs.” In fact the first part of the Gospel of John is called the “Book of Signs” – and there are seven.

  • Changing water into wine in John 2:1-11
  • Healing the royal official’s son in Capernaum in John 4:46-54
  • Healing the paralytic at Bethesda in John 5:1-18
  • Feeding the 5000 in John 6:5-14
  • Jesus’ walk on water in John 6:16-24
  • Healing the man born blind in John 9:1-7
  • Raising of Lazarus in John 11:1-45

Each sign is meant, not only to grab your attention, but to serve as a pointer, not that which has just transpired, but to the person of Jesus. The signs also serve to point to a choice.
That has been the motif in the Gospel of John all along. At the end of the first sign, the words of the Blessed Virgin Mother in the story from Cana make it evident. Her last words in the Gospel of John are the clearest and most poignant sign: “This is my son, do what he tells you.” She points to the person of Jesus and points to the choice each will have to make: do what he tells you. Every disciples, every reader, each one who hears this Book of Signs is brought to that moment where choices are made to follow, or not, the one who is the Living Word of God made flesh, Jesus Christ. Continue reading

St. Francis and Fasting

saint-francis-of-assisi-cimabueOf the three traditional Lenten practices: prayer, almsgiving, and fasting, it is the last one that is perhaps the one that is hardest to extract from the historical record. This is for two reasons. First, fasting was part and parcel of medieval Christianity. Second, Francis mentions fasting, but does not expound upon its meaning directly.

The meaning and context of medieval fasting. In the OT there were two kinds of fasts, public and private. The most notable, and only one required by the law of Moses was on the great Day of Atonement, thus fasting was a penitential practice associated with reconciliation from sin. In addition, there are biblical records of public fasts being proclaimed in times of distress, lamentation, and at the prophetic insistence for various situations. The public fasts were generally connected to communal sins and lasted a day. Private fasts were generally acts of penance. Continue reading