Our Lady of Sorrows

Mother-of-SorrowsOur Lady of Sorrows is celebrated on September 15th in the western Catholic Church. It is a devotion on Mary’s experience of the way in which the prophecy of Simeon came to be:

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord… Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:  “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel. The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:25-35)

In Catholic religious imagery, the Blessed Virgin Mary is portrayed in a sorrowful affect, with seven daggers piercing her heart. These represent the seven traditional sorrows:

  1. The prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:25-35)
  2. The Flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13)
  3. The loss of the child Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:34-45)
  4. Mary meeting Jesus on the way to Calvary (John 19:26-27)
  5. Jesus dying on the cross (John 19:30)
  6. The piercing of the side of Jesus and Mary’s receiving the body of Jesus in her arms (Matthew 27:57-59)
  7. The body of Jesus placed in the tomb (John 19:40-42)

Blindness: faith or disbelief

man-born-blindBeing Lead to Decision: Faith or Disbelief.  Where the authorities drive the man away (v.34), here Jesus finds the man (cf. 6:37) and asks: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Just as the Samaritan woman was confronted by Jesus with the possibility of the anticipated Messiah’s being already present (4:25-26), so also the healed man is confronted by Jesus with the possibility that the future judge is already present. To this point in John 9, the theme of the judgment evoked by the light of the world (9:5; cf. 3:17-21; 12:31-36) has largely been implicit. Jesus’ question makes this theme explicit as he asks the man whether he recognizes in his healer the one who brings of salvation. As v.36 indicates, the man is ready. Continue reading

Blindness: more questions

man-born-blindA second interrogation of the man by the Jews (9:24-34). In the third and final interrogation scene, the authorities are identified only with the pronoun “they.” They are clearly the same group identified as the Pharisees who interrogated the man in vv. 13-17, but the motivation for the second interrogation is also clearly linked to the parents’ testimony and their rebuttal: “…he is of age.”  The man is recalled before the elders.

Twice in this interrogation scene the authorities hold their knowledge up to the man and expect him to accept their positions (vv24, 29). Each time, however, the man counters with his own experience (vv.25, 30-33). Continue reading

Blindness: interrogation

man-born-blindThe Interrogations. If there is a “typical” pattern to any miracle account it is: (a) the situation of need, (b) the miracle, and (c) the attestation/witness to the miracle. It is here that John’s telling of the story has unique features – patterns outlined in the introductory comments of miracles and sin (in John’s writing).  Be attentive to simple categories such as true witness, equivocating witness, unbelievers, accommodator, or similar categories that are other that one who believes and is willing to live/act based upon that belief. Continue reading

Blindness: healing

man-born-blindCommentary. If you wanted a one sentence summary – here it is: “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see might see, and those who do see might become blind”(v.39). Or: as a sign that he is the light, Jesus gives sight to a man born blind. But there is a richness to be gained in a detailed looked at the text and narrative. The Johannine scholar, Fr. Raymond Brown suggests the following outline:

  • A. Setting (9:1-5)
  • B. Miraculous healing (9:6-7)
  • C. Interrogations of the blind man (9:8-34)
    • 1. Questioning by neighbors and acquaintances (9:8-12)
    • 2. Preliminary interrogation by Pharisees (9:13-17)
    • 3. The man’s parents questioned by the Jews (9:18-23)
    • 4. A second interrogation of the man by the Jews (9:24-34)
  • D. Jesus leads the man born blind to that spiritual sight which is faith (9:35-41) Continue reading

Blindness: sin

man-born-blindSin in the Gospel according to John. John seems to understand sin in a way that accents a singular aspect in a way that deserves mention. Words for “sin” occur often in our text: hamartano = “to sin” (9:2, 3; elsewhere in John: 5:14 & 8:11); hamartia = “sin” (9:34, 41); hamartolos = “sinner” (9:16, 24, 25, 31 — all the occurrences in John). The question is does John’s discussion match the discussion of hamartia in the other gospels?

In our passage, the concept of sin will be quickly introduced via the disciples’ question in v.2 : “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  This reflects tradi­tional Jewish speculation on the relationship of illness and sin (cf. 5:14). In 1st century Palestine, people commonly assumed that disease and disorders on both the personal and national level were due to sin, as summarized in the rabbinic saying from around 300 CE that “there is no death without sin and there is no suffering without iniquity” (b. shabbat 55a). Continue reading

Blindness: miracles

A Man Born Blind: John 9:1-41  1 As he passed by he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. 4 We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (the remainder of the gospel can be read here).

Our narrative begins with the simple phrase “As he passed by…” It lacks the general markers (time, geography, etc.) that indicate a break in continuity, sug­gesting that John intends the story of the blind man to be read in continuity with the preceding chapters. So what was in the preceding chapter? The primary narrative in Chapter 8 is the “woman caught in adultery,” Jesus’ self-identification as the “light of the world,” and a long discussion between Jesus and the “Jews” about the very nature of what it means to be of the covenant people – a dialogue that occurs in the context of the Feast of Tabernacles. Continue reading

At the well: we have heard for ourselves

SamaritanWomanAtTheWellJesus’ words overflow with metaphor: living water, the hour, food, harvest. Each of these metaphors attempts to open reality in fresh ways for his conversation partners. Jesus wants to open the eyes of the Samaritan woman and his disciples so that they can see what is being offered to them in the present instead of continuing to view everything through the lens of old realities. Jesus wants the Samaritan woman to see who is speaking with her at this moment and the gifts that he offers (4:10). He wants her to see that the present moment is the time of eschatological fulfillment (4:23-24). Jesus wants his disciples to see that the harvest is ready now, contrary to popular understandings (4:35). In both conversations (4:7.26, 31-38), Jesus takes familiar images and fills them with new meaning in order to open up for his listeners the possibilities of a life defined by God’s gifts. The metaphors of these verses keep the terms of the conversations always fresh, always suggestive, always open to new meanings in changing circumstances. Continue reading

At the well: one sows another reaps

SamaritanWomanAtTheWellArrival of the disciples and departure of the woman.  27 At that moment his disciples returned, and were amazed that he was talking with a woman, but still no one said, “What are you looking for?” or “Why are you talking with her?” 28 The woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, 29 “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Messiah?” 30 They went out of the town and came to him. 31 Meanwhile, the disciples urged him, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do not know.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Could someone have brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘In four months the harvest will be here’? I tell you, look up and see the fields ripe for the harvest. 36 The reaper is already receiving his payment and gathering crops for eternal life, so that the sower and reaper can rejoice together. 37 For here the saying is verified that ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for; others have done the work, and you are sharing the fruits of their work.” Continue reading