Lectio Divina: John 5:31-47
Season of Lent
1) Opening prayer
Lord our God, we know,
perhaps more in theory than in practice,
that You are with us,
that You are our God and we Your people. Forgive us, Lord, when we fashion
our own gods made in our own image -
honor, power, prestige,
things to which we are attached and enslaved.
Remind us again and again
that You are our loyal God,
who made us in Your own indelible image
and who shows us Your perfect likeness
in Jesus Christ, Your Son and our Lord.
2) Gospel Reading - John 5:31-47
Jesus said to the Jews: "If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not true. But there is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true. You sent emissaries to John, and he testified to the truth. I do not accept human testimony, but I say this so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light. But I have testimony greater than John's. The works that the Father gave me to accomplish, these works that I perform testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. Moreover, the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf. But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form, and you do not have his word remaining in you, because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf. But you do not want to come to me to have life. "I do not accept human praise; moreover, I know that you do not have the love of God in you. I came in the name of my Father, but you do not accept me; yet if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father: the one who will accuse you is Moses, in whom you have placed your hope. For if you had believed Moses, you would have believed me, because he wrote about me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?"
• John, interpreter of Jesus. John is a good interpreter of the words of Jesus. A good interpreter must have two-fold fidelity: fidelity to the words of the one who speaks, and fidelity to the language of the one who listens. In John’s Gospel, the words of Jesus are not transmitted materially or literally; rather they are translated and transferred to the language of the people of the Christian communities of the first century in Asia Minor. For this reason, the reflections in the Gospel of John are not always easy to understand, because in them are mixed the words of God and the words of the Evangelist himself, who mirrors the language of faith of the communities of Asia Minor. The scholarly or scientific study of Jesus is not sufficient for this. It is also necessary that we have the lived experience of faith in the community. Today’s Gospel is a typical example of the spiritual and mystical depth of the Gospel of the Beloved Disciple.
• Reciprocal enlightenment between life and faith. Here it is well to repeat what John Cassian says regarding the discovery of the full and profound sense of the psalms: “Instructed by that which we ourselves feel, let us not consider the text as something which we have only heard, but rather like something which we have experienced and which we touch with our hands; not like a strange and unheard of story, but rather like something that we bring out to light from the deepest part of our heart, as if these were sentiments which form part of our being. Let us repeat them; it is not the reading (the study) what makes us penetrate into the sense or meaning of the words, but rather our own experience which has previously been acquired in the life of every day.” (Collationes X, 11). Life enlightens the text; the text enlightens life. If, at times, the text says nothing, it is not because of lack of study or because of lack of prayer, but simply because of lack of depth in one’s own life.
• John 31-32: The value of the witness of Jesus. The witness of Jesus is true because He does not promote or exalt Himself. “There is another witness who speaks on My behalf,” that is, the Father. And His witness is true and deserves to be believed.
• John 5:33-36: The value of the witness of John the Baptist and of the works of Jesus. John the Baptist also gave witness to Jesus and presents Him to the people as the One sent by God who has to come to this world (cf. Jn 1:29, 33-34; 3:28-34). For this reason, even if the witness of John the Baptist is very important, Jesus does not depend on him. He has a witness in His favor who is greater than the witness of John, that is, the works which the Father carries out through Him (Jn 14:10-11).
• John 5:37-38: The Father bears witness to Jesus. Previously, Jesus had said, “Whoever is from God listens to the words of God” (Jn 8:47). The Jews who accused Jesus did not have a mind open to God. And for this reason, they do not perceive the witness of the Father which reaches them through Jesus.
• John 5:39-41: Scripture itself gives testimony of Jesus. The Jews say that they have faith in the Scriptures, but, in reality, they do not understand Scripture, because the Scripture speaks of Jesus (cf. Jn 5:46; 12:16,41; 20:9).
• John 5:42-47: The Father does not judge but entrusts His judgment to the Son. The Jews say that they are faithful to the Scripture of Moses and, because of this, they condemn Jesus. In reality, Moses and the Scripture speak about Jesus and ask us to believe in Him.
4) Personal questions
• Life enlightens the text; the text enlightens life. How does one use this to gain an authentic understanding of each?
• The Jews of the time were following their hardened beliefs and not open to Jesus’ teaching. What is the proper balance between keeping old beliefs and accepting new ones? How does one discern what to keep and what to adopt, and how does this apply to Church doctrine and ritual?
5) Concluding Prayer
Yahweh, Your kingship is a kingship forever;
Your reign lasts from age to age.
Yahweh is trustworthy in all His words,
and upright in all His deeds.
Yahweh supports all who stumble,
lifts up those who are bowed down. (Ps 145:13-14)