John's Gospel: Our Gift
By Bishop Robert F. Morneau

One of the great treasures of the Church is the Gospel of John. In this work we are given a unique insight into the life of Jesus: his person, his ministry, his heart. More, we are given an invitation to enter into union with him in a most intimate way both at the personal level and as members of a community.

Thus far in this series we have reflected on the Beatitudes as found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. The Beatitudes, as such, are not found in the Gospel of John, but we are given the concept of —blessedness,— what it means to live a Christian life. To the extent that we respond to our fourfold baptismal call we will experience the blessedness John articulates.

Through the other evangelists—Matthew, Mark and Luke—we see Jesus as someone who is earthly and also as the very presence of God in history. The Gospel of John, on the other hand, presents Jesus as the preexistent one, the very Word of God. In becoming human, Jesus reveals the inner workings of divine life. That life is offered to us, and salvation consists precisely in our participation in this divine life. To the extent that we know Jesus and accept him into our lives, we enter into the mystery of salvation.

Through our Baptism into the life of Jesus all of us are called to maturity, holiness, community and service. The Gospel of John helps both to articulate those calls and to provide insights into living them. Responding to the call is the way to a blessed, happy life.

Four Roadmaps

The call to maturity! The mature disciple is a person of faith. Faith is the opening of our lives to God revealed in Jesus. Everything depends on faith, on our submission to the lordship of Jesus and his word. Maturity is a lifelong process; faith demands ongoing development. The reading and rereading of the Gospel of John can help us grow into the full stature of Christ.

The call to holiness! Within the Catholic tradition, holiness is the perfection of love. John speaks eloquently of the grace of love. In the Last Supper discourse, Jesus speaks profoundly of the values of friendship, intimacy and love. This love, the source of life and the radiance of light, points to union with God and unity among ourselves. The tenderness and force of God—s love are overwhelming. And the test? To lay down one—s life for others.

It is in the Gospel of John that Jesus uses the metaphor of the vine and the branches. This image captures well the essence of holiness. To the degree that we are united to Jesus, the vine, then we, the branches, can bear fruit—fruit that will last forever. Holiness is that union, that oneness which nourishes and sustains us on our pilgrim journey.

The call to community! One characteristic of the early Christian community was the insistence on Jesus— command that its members love one another. Another feature was dedication of the community to the person of Jesus. His vision and his values were their compass. They came together because of an outside enemy, the —world,— which stood for all that was not good.

The call to service! John depicts Jesus as a person for others. In the Cana miracle of water turned wine, in the healing of the royal official—s son, in the raising of Lazarus from the dead, in the washing of the feet at the Last Supper, in his death and burial, in the resurrection accounts—Jesus is serving the physical, psychological and spiritual needs of the people.

If the vine and the branches metaphor speaks to the issue of holiness, the image of the Good Shepherd reveals the depth of Jesus— call to service. In his willingness to lay down his life for his sheep, Jesus, the Eternal Shepherd, gives us the heart of his mission.

Simple Treasure

A great treasure, this Gospel of John. Though complex in many ways, there is an underlying simplicity: Jesus, the preexistent Word of God, is for and with us. We are invited into a life of deep friendship and called to share the gift of light, love and life with others. God dwells within us; we are temples of the Holy Spirit. Thus, —Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me— (14:1).

Robert F. Morneau is an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin. He is the author of numerous books, including Paths to Prayer (St. Anthony Messenger Press) and two children—s books, The Gift and A Tale from Paleface Creek (Paulist Press).

Next: The Beatitudes in John's Gospel

Questions for Reflection:

• In John's Gospel Jesus is the "very word of God." How is Jesus the "Word of God" to you?

• Baptism calls us to maturity, holiness, community and service. Which call do you hear most clearly?

Discuss this month's Questions for Reflection
from "God in Our Midst."

Treasured Stories
By Judith Dunlap

We all like to listen to a good story. When the story is about someone we know it is even more interesting. The Gospels are such stories—stories of Jesus according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John told and retold, generation to generation. They shape us as a Christian community. They tell us where we come from and what we are about. Our family stories can have the same effect.

One of my treasured keepsakes is a tape recording of my father telling his story. He shares his memories as a four-year-old of the boat ride from Poland to Ellis Island, and as a 10-year-old working in a bowling alley to help support his family. He talks about how he courted and married my mom, and their everyday life during the Depression and the Second World War.

I remember when we taped the stories. My daughter was working on a paper for school, and the whole family sat around the kitchen table as she asked her questions. Before long we had more than an hour of his life story recorded. I had one regret: I wished we had done it before Mom died. I would have loved to hear her version of Dad's stories. Our family elders can be a great resource of information and inspiration, but it's best not to put off tapping into the gold mine of their memories.

When Dad died I made a copy of the tape for each of his grandchildren. Today his great-grandchildren can listen to his voice and hear a firsthand account of their family history. They have, along with the Gospel stories of Jesus, "Papa Z's" good-news stories to help them know where they come from and what they are about.

For Family Response:

Plan a time when family elders can share their life stories or take some time to tell your youngsters the life stories you remember your parents telling you.

Discuss this month's FAMILY CORNER.

Media Watch
Spy Kids 2
By Frank Frost

James Bond meets Inspector Gadget—as juniors—in Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams. High-tech gadgets and a nonstop pace kept the audience I watched the movie with highly entertained.

When we left Juni and Carmen Cortez at the end of last year's Spy Kids movie, they had earned a place along with their super-spy parents Gregorio and Ingrid Cortez (Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino) in the superspy agency, the OSS. Their assignment now is to save the world from an evil plotter whose pending "transmooker" device can give him total power by rendering all high-tech devices useless. (Note the implied commentary on our growing dependence on high-tech aids.) But the spy kids' job is now complicated by a pair of unpleasant competing spy kids, Gary and Gerti Giggles (Matt O'Leary and Emily Osment) and their father Donagon (Mike Judge).

The movie is loaded with visual fun and wild imagination. The film opens with an extreme theme park that provides the requisite pre-teen body humor with its spinning ride called "The Vomit." The snooty president's daughter arrives at a special event surrounded by a wall of Secret Service agents stepping like a dance of wooden soldiers. The island of the movie's title is populated by a host of weird hybrid creatures including a flying pig and, Juni's favorite, a spider centaur.

But high-tech gadgets are at the heart of the movie and even offer the basis for a moral. Gary Giggles shows up with an armful of technology that trumps all the fresh gimmicks of Carmen and Juni, and sneers, "An agent is only as good as his gadgets." Carmen and Juni's technology developer reminds them, however, that the most important tool they have is their mind.

Like the original Spy Kids movie, the central value of this film is family solidarity, although here it seems a bit of an add-on to what is essentially a kid action movie. In this sequel not only the parents are involved, but also the grandparents. Dad and Mom are joined by Grandfather (Ricardo Montalban) and Grandmother (Holland Taylor). Some in-law jokes provide a little "tension" so that the film can end with a newfound moment of family solidarity and appreciation.

Moreover, loyalty to blood relations finds a foil in the Giggles family when Gary and Gerti finally must face a choice between backing their father or doing what is right.

Spy Kids 2 is another remarkable achievement by a young filmmaker, Robert Rodriguez.

Even the final credits are entertaining because of the accompanying postscript. In a life-imitates-art kind of way the credits become movie-imitates-DVD, providing bonus material, including outtakes from gaffes of the key actors.

For Media Watch:

What values did you find in the film Spy Kids 2?

Discuss Frank Frost's film review
in this month's MEDIA WATCH.

By Judy Ball

St. Th—r—se of Lisieux (1873-1897)

What is it that makes Th—r—se of Lisieux—widely known as "the Little Flower"—one of the best-loved saints? How is it that the young nun who lived a short, obscure life in a cloistered convent has captured so many hearts?

In part, the answer lies in the very ordinary life she lived as a Carmelite. Th—r—se's uncluttered days consisted of prayer and work. Her way to perfection involved a never-ending series of hidden sacrifices, small gestures, simple kindnesses, obscure tasks.

"Great deeds are forbidden me..." she said, "but what does it matter? I will scatter flowers."

Th—r—se's life was indeed about small deeds—but great ones as well, beginning with her burning desire to serve God as a Carmelite nun. She obtained special permission to enter the convent at the early age of 15. She longed to become a missionary and a martyr—dreams that went unfulfilled in her brief time on this earth.

But Th—r—se quietly followed her way—the little way—and bequeathed it to the world through her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, which gained quick and wide popularity. Through her life and her writings she taught that everyone is called to sanctity and anyone can become a saint—even "little" souls.

The early signs of tuberculosis appeared during Holy Week of 1896. Over the next 18 months Th—r—se endured immense physical pain and spiritual suffering. She embraced the long days and nights as her preparation for heaven. Her agony ended on the last day of September in 1897.

Th—r—se of Lisieux was canonized only 27 years after her death. Her feast day is October 1.

Carole Binzer

Carole Binzer knows suffering when she sees it. She sees it every day as a staff nurse at St. Elizabeth Medical Center Hospice in Covington, Kentucky. But she also sees faith, courage and a certain kind of healing that takes place in patients' final moments and hours.

"I don't have to try very had to find God in my workplace," says the 60-year-old mother of five and grandmother of seven.

When she first returned to nursing after raising her family, Carole worked on a medical-surgical floor in a hospital. She couldn't help noticing that so many of her co-workers did not want to approach dying patients. "This is not why I want to be a nurse," she told herself. She turned to St. Elizabeth's, then opening its new hospice unit. That was 16 years ago.

"It's a privilege to be with people in the last part of their life's journey," she says, especially when they have made their peace with God, said goodbye to their families and are ready to let go.

Carole is often called on to help facilitate one or more of those last steps. In such moments, she is convinced, "it's not the words we say. It's just being there."

Over time, Carole has turned to song to help a patient in the final phase of his or her life. Hearing a gentle song, such as Marty Haugen's "Eye Has Not Seen," she says, "seems to be especially helpful with people who won't let go" for whatever reason.

What helps Carole return to work each day with her faith and energy renewed is the belief that God is at work, whether the dying person has lived a long or short life, whether few or many mourn the life that is ending. "God doesn't measure in people years," she says.

The following material is available at www.AmericanCatholic.org:

"Community of the Beatitudes," St. Anthony Messenger, March 2002
"The Forgotten Art of Blessing," St. Anthony Messenger, October 2000

The following products can be ordered from St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications (1-800-488-0488):

"Archbishop Oscar Romero: A Shepherd's Diary" (book)
"Lessons From the School of Suffering: A Young Priest With Cancer Teaches Us How to Live" (book)
"Jesus' Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount" (book) "Breaking Open the Gospel of Matthew: The Sermon on the Mount" (book)
"Sermon on the Mount" (audiocassette)

"The Beatitudes: Finding Where Your Treasure Is" (Catholic Update)


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