Thus says the Lord: 'In a time of favour I have answered you, on a day of salvation I have helped you; I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages; saying to the prisoners, "Come out," to those who are in darkness, "Show yourselves." They shall feed along the ways, on all the bare heights shall be their pasture; they shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them down, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them. And I will turn all my mountains into a road, and my highways shall be raised up.'
Lo, these shall come from far away, and lo, these from the north and from the west, and these from the land of Syene. Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his suffering ones.
But Zion said, "The Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me." Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.
But Jesus answered them, "My Father is still working, and I also am working." For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.
Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he ill show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished. Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes. The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, so that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. Anyone who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent him. Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life.
"Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself; and he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and will come out .. those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.
"I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me.
Isaiah's vision of his people returning from exile and today's section from St John both invite us to see the larger picture. The prophet thinks of God splitting the mountains to bring his people home from afar. Almost in the same breath he imagines this mighty God as a mother, tenderly loving the child of her womb. Even if these images are mismatched, they serve to enhance the manifold mystery of God. John's gospel ponders the mysteries of the Godhead. Today he ponders the equality of Father and Son, alongside the subordination of Jesus to the Father. Questions about life and death, judgment and resurrection, sin and grace, heaven and damnation, life received and life possessed, are the subject of John's contemplation. Such are the possibilities of our own life. We can be so deeply touched by inner joy that we want to summon the mountains to break out in song. The depth of God's goodness and majesty .. the plunging into the eternity behind us and the sweep of contemplation into another future eternity .. causes the soul to sing!
How petty seems the argument about whether or not good works should be done on the Sabbath! Jesus cures a lame man at the pool of Bethesda, and jealous people bicker over a violation of Sabbath rest. Long before, Isaiah had explained how to keep the Sabbath free from profanation: People should "do what is just . . . and let the foreigners join themselves to the Lord" (Is 56:1-8). God works on the Sabbath by keeping the created world going, by bringing infants to birth and by calling others in death. But legalists can be blind to the wonderful and the tender, preferring to argue a point of legal procedure. A tiny hill turns into a mountain, blocking their view of God's beautiful world of people and natural phenomena.
We can easily become narrow, prejudiced, blinded, tied up in all types of red tape while on our screens we see how some people are dying of starvation, refugees are deprived of what they need for a full life, and the potential of many young people goes untapped for lack of educational resources. We allow fear and greed to keep us protecting our own piece of turf! Lent could still purify us so as to live more aware of the wonderful grace of God, of the awesome gift of life, and of our good planet earth. The Lord is faithful in all his words and holy in all his works!
Jesus declares clearly, "my aim is not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me." His whole life was shaped by the will of his Father, and that will is that all men and women would find life through believing in Jesus. As the evangelist says a little earlier in his gospel, "God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." God wills life and that is why Jesus says, "I have come that they may have life and have it to the full."
This is also the image of God we find in today's first reading. Just as a mother cherishes the child of her womb and gives life to her child, even more so does God cherish us and work to bring us to fullness of life. God guides us to springs of water. When we pray in the Our Father, "your will be done," we are praying that a culture of life would prevail over a culture of death. We are also committing ourselves to doing God's will by protecting life, by bringing life to others, by helping others to life fully human lives, lives that are shaped by the Holy Spirit and lead to eternal life. [MH]