|The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things |
Hieronymus Bosch, c1500
Today's section of St John's Gospel is a speech Jesus gives in response to those who challenged his healing of the man at the healing pool because he did it on the sabbath. And it takes us to the vital issues of death, judgment, heaven and hell.
Amen, amen dico vobis: non potest Filius a se facere quidquam, nisi quod viderit Patrem facientem: quæcumque enim ille fecerit, hæc et Filius similiter facit. 20 Pater enim diligit Filium, et omnia demonstrat ei quæ ipse facit: et majora his demonstrabit ei opera, ut vos miremini. 21 Sicut enim Pater suscitat mortuos, et vivificat, sic et Filius, quos vult, vivificat. 22 Neque enim Pater judicat quemquam: sed omne judicium dedit Filio, 23 ut omnes honorificent Filium, sicut honorificant Patrem; qui non honorificat Filium, non honorificat Patrem, qui misit illum.
24 Amen, amen dico vobis, quia qui verbum meum audit, et credit ei qui misit me, habet vitam æternam, et in judicium non venit, sed transiit a morte in vitam. 25Amen, amen dico vobis, quia venit hora, et nunc est, quando mortui audient vocem Filii Dei: et qui audierint, vivent. 26 Sicut enim Pater habet vitam in semetipso, sic dedit et Filio habere vitam in semetipso: 27 et potestatem dedit ei judicium facere, quia Filius hominis est. 28Nolite mirari hoc, quia venit hora in qua omnes qui in monumentis sunt audient vocem Filii Dei: 29 et procedent qui bona fecerunt, in resurrectionem vitæ; qui vero mala egerunt, in resurrectionem judicii. 30 Non possum ego a meipso facere quidquam. Sicut audio, judico: et judicium meum justum est, quia non quæro voluntatem meam, sed voluntatem ejus qui misit me.
And the English:
Then Jesus answered, and said to them: Amen, amen, I say unto you, the Son cannot do anything of himself, but what he seeth the Father doing: for what things soever he doth, these the Son also doth in like manner.  For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things which himself doth: and greater works than these will he shew him, that you may wonder. For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and giveth life: so the Son also giveth life to whom he will.  For neither doth the Father judge any man, but hath given all judgment to the Son.  That all men may honour the Son, as they honour the Father. He who honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father, who hath sent him.  Amen, amen I say unto you, that he who heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath life everlasting; and cometh not into judgment, but is passed from death to life.  Amen, amen I say unto you, that the hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself, so he hath given the Son also to have life in himself:  And he hath given him power to do judgment, because he is the Son of man.  Wonder not at this; for the hour cometh, wherein all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God.  And they that have done good things, shall come forth unto the resurrection of life; but they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment.  I cannot of myself do any thing. As I hear, so I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not my own will, but the will of him that sent me.
You can find the Latin, Greek and English of John 5:1-18 here. The video below provided in the previous post in this series gives the English and Latin read verse by verse; alternatively, you can find the Latin read here (from 2.08) and the Greek here (around 3.20).
Study and meditation
The first few verses respond to the charge that Jesus is calling himself God. He is, he replies but it is more complex than that - and indeed, Trinitarian theology is no simple subject! The Catena Aurea commentaries on this point include this one:
AUG. As if He said: Why are you offended that I called God My Father, and that I make Myself equal with God? I am equal, but equal in such a sense as is consistent with His having begotten Me; with My being from Him, not Him from Me. With the Son, being and power are one and the same thing. The Substance of the Son then being of the Father, the power of the Son is of tile Father also: and as the Son is not of Himself, so He can not of Himself. The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do. His seeing and His being born of the Father are the same. His vision is not distinct from His Substance, but the whole together is of the Father.
They also include a response to the claim made by some today that Jesus wasn't fully aware of his own nature or mission:
HILARY. That the wholesome order of our confession, i.e. that we believe in the Father and the Son, might remain, He shows the nature of His birth; viz. that He derived the power of acting not from au accessible of strength supplied for each work, but by His own knowledge in the first instance. And this knowledge He derived not from any particular visible precedents, as if what the Father had done, the Son could do afterwards; but that the Son being born of the Father, and consequently conscious of the Father's virtue and nature within Him, could do nothing but what He saw the Father do: as he here testifies; God does not see by bodily organs, but by the virtue of His nature.
I want to focus in, though, on the issue of the General Resurrection and final judgment referred to in these passages, for many are reluctant to think about the Last Things, and perhaps for good reasons:
CHRYS. But why does He dwell so constantly on these subjects; judgment, resurrection, and life? Because these are the most powerful arguments for bringing men over to the faith, and the most likely ones to prevail with obstinate hearers. For one who is persuaded that he shall rise again, and be called by the Son to account for his misdeeds, will, though he know nothing more than this, be anxious to propitiate his Judge...In referring above to the resurrection of Lazarus and the rest, he said nothing about judgment, for Lazarus did not rise again for judgment; whereas now, that He is speaking of the general resurrection, He brings in the mention of the judgment: And (they) shall come forth, He says, they that have done good to the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil to the resurrection of damnation. Having said above, He that hears My words, and believe in Him that sent Me, has everlasting life; that men might not suppose from this, that belief was sufficient for salvation, He proceeds to speak of works: And they that have done good, - and they that have done evil.
And an issue all too pertinent to our times, when 'futile medical treatment' - attempts to extend life when all hope of recovery is lost and often at the cost of a good death in the Catholic sense - is all too prevalent:
AUG. We see the lovers of this present transitory life so intent on its welfare, that when in danger of death, they will take any means to delay its approach, though they can not hope to drive it off altogether. If so much care and labor then is spent on gaining a little additional length of life, how ought we to strive after life eternal? And if they are thought wise, who endeavor in every way to put off death, though they can live but a few days longer; how foolish are they who so live, as to lose the eternal day?
What do we have to do to attain a favourable judgment?
AUG. If, in hearing and believing is eternal life, how much more in understanding? But the step to our piety is faith, the fruit of faith, understanding. It is not, Believes in Me, but in Him that sent Me. Why is one to hear His word, and believe another? Is it not that He means to say, His word is in Me? And what is, Hears My word, but hears Me? And it is, Believe in Him that sent Me; as to say, He that believes in Him, believes in His Word, i.e. in Me, because I am the Word of the Father...
AUG. Or, He means to guard against our thinking, that the being passed from death to life, refers to the future resurrection; its meaning being, that he who believes is passed: and therefore He says, Verily, verily, I say to you, The hour comes, (what hour?) and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live. He said not, because they live, they hear; but in consequence of hearing, they come to life again. But what is hearing, but obeying? For they who believe and do according to the true faith, live, and are not dead; whereas those who believe not, or, believing, live a bad life, and have not love, are rather to be accounted dead. And yet that hour is still going on, and will go on, the same hour, to the end of the world: as John says, It is the last hour.
AUG. When the dead, i.e. unbelievers, shall hear the voice of the Son of God, i.e. the Gospel: and they that hear, i.e. who obey, shall live, i.e. be justified, and no longer remain in unbelief.
Meditation on the Last Things should help focus our minds.
It should remind us firstly to do our best to ensure we always stay in a state of grace, lest we fall to damnation.
Secondly, it should remind us that simply escaping hell is not enough: there are different degrees of reward to us, different capacities of the beatific vision which are dependent on the degree of sanctity we attain now.
Thirdly, it should remind us to pray for the grace of a good death: one we know is coming, so we can prepare for it, and have the comfort of friends, family and the last rites to aid our journey.
Fourthly, it should impel us to mission, caring for the salvation of others.
Finally, it should direct our choices for ourselves and those around us, as well as our work in the public square on end of life issues, so that we work to ensure that the gift of life is treasured not rejected through evil directions such as euthanasia; that we understand and can promote the value of suffering offered for the redemption of others; and at the same time do not seek fruitlessly to prolong the fight when Our Lord calls us home.
The next set of lectio notes can be found here.