Other Sunday and Holy Day Readings
THE COMMEMORATION OF ALL SOULS
Even when November 2nd falls on a Sunday, the Commemoration of All Souls is celebrated with the following readings from Mass 1, Mass 2, or Mass 3. Other possible readings other than those listed for Masses 1-3 are possible. Second Reading alternatives: Rom 5:5-11; 6:3-9; 8:14-23; 8:31b-35, 37-39; 14:7-9, 10c-12; 2 Cor 5:1, 6-10; 2 Tim 2:8-13. Gospel alternative readings: Mt 5:1-12a; 11:25-30; 25:31-46; Lk 7:11-17; 23:44-46, 50, 52-53; 24:1-6a, 13-16, 28-35; Jn 5:24-29; 6:51-59; Jn 11:32-45. See the Appendix at the end of this document for the teachings on these passages.
All Scripture passages are from the New American Bible unless designated NJB (New Jerusalem Bible), IBHE (Interlinear Bible Hebrew-English), IBGE (Interlinear Bible Greek-English), or LXX (Greek Septuagint Old Testament translation). CCC designates a citation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The word LORD or GOD rendered in all capital letters is, in the Hebrew text, God's Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh).
The Theme of the Readings for the Commemoration of All Souls:
Life is Eternal
As Christians we have faith that death is not the end. For the faithful, death is only a door into the eternal beatitude which is life with God. By His death and resurrection, Jesus has freed mankind from the fear of death so that our faith and hope is in God (1 Pt 1:21). He has promised that as long as we have faith and trust in Him by acknowledging Him as our Lord and Savior that we can "fear no evil" (Psalms 23). That is why the Gospel of salvation "was preached even to the dead that, though condemned in the flesh in human estimation, they might live in the spirit in the estimation of God" (1 Pt 4:6). The destiny God has planned for us is to be resurrected to eternal life (1 Cor 15:51-57; 1 Tim 2:3; 2 Pt 9), but of our own free will we must accept that gift. If we accept Jesus as the Son of God and believe in Him we will be raised to eternal life (Gospel Reading and Second Reading). He will purify our souls (1 Cor 3:12-15) and give us new life in the waters of Baptism. He will anoint our head with the oil of salvation, and He will fill our cups to overflowing with His divine grace and welcome us into the Banquet of the Just.
The First Reading Wisdom 3:1-9 ~ The Righteous Belong to
1 The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. 2 They seem, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction 3 and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace. 4 For if in the sight of others, indeed, they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality; 5 chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself. 6 As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself. 7 In the time of their visitation they shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble; 8 they shall judge nations and rule over peoples, and the LORD shall be their king forever. 9 Those who trust in him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love: because grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and his care is with his elect.
The First Reading describes the condition of the righteous after death:
The third point in verses 5-6 sounds like Purgatory: "All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven" (CCC 1030)... "The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect ..." (CCC 1031; also see 1032). Wisdom 3:5-7 is one of several texts in Scripture that speaks of purifying fire (1 Cor 3:15; 1 Pt 1:7). In the Old Covenant, however, both the righteous and the wicked that died went to the abode of the dead to await the coming of the Redeemer-Messiah; a state called "the grave/netherworld," in Hebrew, Sheol and in Greek, Hades (not the "hell" of the damned which Jesus refers to as Gehenna. Their conditions were not the same, however. Those who needed to atone for their sins were purified of their sins with fire while those who were entirely righteous waited in the presence of father Abraham (see Jesus' description of Sheol in Lk 16:19-31 and CCC 633-34). It is similar to the condition described by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 in which, after death, bad works are burned up and only good deeds survive the fire that tests one's works. After His sacrificial death, Jesus descended to Sheol/Hades to preach the Gospel of salvation to the dead and to lead those who accepted God's gift of grace into the gates of Heaven (1 Pt 3:18-10; 4:6). Sheol ceased to be the abode of both the righteous and the wicked at this time. In the New Covenant both blessings and punishments became eternal and therefore, the righteous went to Heaven, the unrepentant wicked to Hell of the damned, and those who were saved but still in need of purification went to Sheol as a place of purification only for those who were judged worthy of salvation, now called by the Church "purgatory." Sheol/Hades/Purgatory will have a role in God's divine plan and will not be destroyed until the Last Judgment (Rev 20:11-14).
The fourth point in verse 4 speaks to the power of the communion of saints to intercede for those of us still on earth (see 2 Mac 12:46; Heb 12:1). The fifth point speaks to God's all-encompassing love and is reminiscent of what St. John wrote: "for we shall see him as he is" (1 Jn 3:2); meaning that we will see God face to face, an intimacy that was denied even the most righteous Old Testament saint like Moses (Ex 33:18-20). We will know God as He knows us (1 Cor 13:12) and we will live within the love of the Most Holy Trinity forever in the heavenly paradise (1 Thes 4:17b).
Responsorial Psalm 23:1-6 ~ The Lord takes care of His
The response is: "The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want" or "Though I walk in the valley of darkness, I fear no evil, for you are with me."
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 In verdant pastures he gives me repose; beside restful [still] waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul.
3 He guides me in right paths for his name's sake. 4 Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage.
5 You spread a table before me in the sight of my foes; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come.
The 23rd Psalm is probably the best loved of all the 150 psalms. It is attributed to David, God's anointed king of Israel and the ancestor of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus Christ (Mt 1:1-16, 19-20; Lk 1:30-33). This psalm expresses a personal reflection of the relationship between the psalmist and the nearness of his God. The psalm is framed around two metaphors: The Lord as the Divine Shepherd (verses 1-4), and the Lord as Divine Host of the sacred meal (verses 5-6). In the Bible and in the ancient Near East, the role of a shepherd was often used as a metaphor for the king (2 Sam 5:2; Is 44:28; etc.). It is the same metaphor that is used to express the role of God the Divine King who is the protector and judge of His covenant people (Ps 28:9; Is 40:11; Ez 34:11-16).
Describing the aspects of shepherding, perhaps from David's perspective as a shepherd in his youth, the inspired writer provides a picture of his relationship with God as he seeks to live a life of holiness (verses 2-3). Under the Divine Shepherd's constant guidance, the psalmist and his people, who are the sheep of God's flock, are led with tenderness and compassion. The Divine Shepherd takes into consideration the fears and weakness of His people, leading them not by the fearful raging rivers but by the quiet waters (sheep have a fear of drowning and will only drink from still waters). His tender care gives the psalmist confidence that with God's shepherding he will reach the green pastures of God's heavenly kingdom (1 Pt 5:4; Rev 7:17). Even in the midst of trials and sufferings, the psalmist feels a sense of security as he trusts in God to lead and protect him because, despite his enemies, God the Divine Host has prepared a table for him when the time comes for him to enter into God's eternal rest. The psalmist is overwhelmed by the abundance of God's mercy and covenant love.
For Christians this psalm takes on its full meaning in Jesus' statement "I am the Good Shepherd" (Jn 10:11, 14; Heb 13:20) and in the Eucharist. The host metaphor of the psalm is fulfilled in the table of the Last Supper where Jesus, the host of the sacred meal, offered His disciples the sacred banquet of the Eucharist for the first time and where He continues to offer His faithful the Eucharist on the altar table at every celebration of the Mass. It is a banquet that looks back in time to the Last Supper and forward in time to the heavenly banquet in God's eternal kingdom when the righteous enter into God's eternal rest (Rev 19:5-9). It is the banquet of the just and the wedding supper of the Lamb and His Bride that we hope to share in the presence of all the saints, including the faithful David.
The Second Reading 1 Corinthians 15:51-57 ~ The Promise
of Bodily Resurrection
51 Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For that which is corruptible must clothe itself with incorruptibility, and that which is mortal must clothe itself with immortality. 54 And when this which is corruptible clothes itself with the incorruptibility and this which is mortal clothes itself with immortality, then the word that is written shall come about: "Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
In this passage, St. Paul gives a description of the Second Advent of Christ and the resurrection of the dead that is very similar to what he wrote to the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17. He speaks of the "mystery" of when the last event in God's plan for mankind will unfold. The "secret" that Paul discloses is that death is not the end when he says "we shall not all fall asleep," referring to physical death and that some will still be alive when the event occurs. Paul uses the word "sleep" for death in the same way Jesus used the same word when referring to the death of the child of the Synagogue official that He raised from the dead (Mt 9:24; Mk 5:39; Lk 8:52) and the way Paul refers to death as sleep three times in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15.
According to this passage and 1 Thessalonians 6:13-17, there will be a sequence of events that will announce the Second Advent of Jesus and the resurrection of the dead:
*since it is written that all men must die, it is assumed
that those still alive will die a human death as they are carried away and will
instantly be transformed into an immortal body and soul.
God has the power to transform life and in this event He will exercise that power.
54b then the word
that is written shall come about: "Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O
death, is your sting? 56 The sting
of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.
In referring to Scripture in these verses Paul is probably alluding to God's promise to destroy death in Isaiah 25:8 and quoting from Hosea13:14:
St. Paul cites these Old Testament passages in defense of the fulfilled promise of the ultimate victory of life over death in the resurrection of the body on the "last day" that is brought about through the merits of Christ's Passion and Resurrection! It is the day the Church will be united to all our brothers and sisters in the faith from every age of mankind in the communion Supper of the Lamb and His Bride the Church.
The Gospel of John 6:37-40 ~ The Promise of Eternal Life
for Those who Believe in the Son
37 Jesus said to the crowds: "Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, 38 because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who send me. 39 And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day."
Jesus makes a three-part claim in John 6:37-40:
But what action must a person take to claim the gift of eternal salvation? Jesus says "anyone who comes to me" He will not reject in verse 37. To come to Jesus in faith is to make the commitment to personally accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. Jesus is speaking of those who have been "begotten by the Holy Spirit" through the Sacrament of Baptism as sons and daughters of God and who are now collectively "one" in Christ.
"and I will not reject anyone who comes to me"
Some Bible scholars suggest the more literal translation could be the very strong negation: "I shall surely not cast out anyone who comes to me" (The Gospel According to John, Raymond Brown, page 276). The assurance is that such a one will never be "cast out" from Heaven and deprived of the gift of eternal life.
38 because I came
down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who send me.
The human will of Jesus and the divine will of the Father are in perfect accord without tension or competition between them (Jn 4:34; 8:29; Mk 14:36; CCC 475, 2824).
39 And this is the
will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave
me, but that I should raise it on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the
Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the
In John 6:44 Jesus says: No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. In this passage of the Gospel of John, the words "the last day" are repeated three times in five verses (39, 40 and 44).
"The last day" refers to the days of divine judgment in salvation history that will end in the final Day of Judgment when all believers who have come to Christ Jesus will be raised to eternal life. It is what the prophet Amos describes in Amos 5:18-20 NJB: Disaster for you who long for the Day of Yahweh! What will the Day of Yahweh mean for you? It will mean darkness, not light, as when someone runs away from a lion, only to meet a bear; he goes into his house and puts his hand on the wall, only for a snake to bite him. Will not the Day of Yahweh be darkness, not light, totally dark, without a ray of light? This is a day of retribution against people hardened in sin. It must be remembered that in judgment God brings salvation and wrath, darkness and light. The Glory-Cloud of Exodus was light and salvation to the children of Israel but darkness and death to Egypt. It was vindication and protection to the faithful and destruction to God's enemies. In that sense, the Glory-Cloud of Exodus was the Day of Yahweh in action. Down through history the Day of Yahweh comes upon unfaithful nations like Old Covenant Judah in 587/6 BC and 70 AD, to each of us when our faith journey is completed, and in a final and complete judgment at the end of time which is marked by the resurrection of the dead when some will be raised to eternal life and the others to eternal damnation. All the dead were judged according to their deeds. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the pool of fire. This pool of fire is the second death. And anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the pool of fire (Rev 20:13b-15).
But for the righteous that experience the Second Resurrection (the first resurrection to "new life" is the Sacrament of Baptism) the outcome is quite different. The righteous will be reunited body to soul and will experience the unveiling of the new heaven and new earth (Rev 21:1). Then, as the Bride of Christ, the righteous in Christ will see the river of life-giving water, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb (Rev 22:1): The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come." Let the hearer say, "Come." Let the one who thirsts come forward, and the one who wants it receive the gift of the life-giving water; that "life-giving water" is the abundance of God's grace (Rev 22:17).
THE COMMEMORATION OF ALL SOULS
The First Reading Wisdom 4:7-15 ~ The Just are with God
7 The just man, though he die early, shall be at rest. 8 For the age that is honorable comes not with the passing of time, nor can it be measured in terms of years. 9 Rather, understanding is the hoary crown for men, and an unsullied life, the attainment of old age. 10 He who pleased God was loved; he who lived among sinners was transported, 11 snatched away, lest wickedness prevent his mind or deceit beguile his soul; 12 for the witchery of paltry things obscures what is right and the whirl of desire transforms the innocent mind. 13 Having become perfect in a short while, he reaches the fullness of a long career; 14 for his soul was pleasing to the LORD, therefore he sped him out of the midst of wickedness. 15 But the people saw and did not understand, nor did they take this into account.
The Old Covenant people of God interpreted a long life and many children as signs of God's divine favor, while an early death was seen as a sign of God's punishment for sin. The Book of Wisdom corrects this view. A virtuous life is more important than living to advanced old age or having many descendants. An early death can be a sign of God's love in that God accepted the young person's life of righteousness as an offering and rewarded that person by preserving him/her from a sinful world and its temptations and afflictions (Wis 4:7, 10-14).
There are a number of youthful Catholic saints who fall into this category: St. Philomena, St. Maria Goretti, St. Theresa of Lisieux, Bl. Chiara Badano, St. Pier Giorgio Frassatti, St. Dominic Savio, Bl. Francisco Marto, St. Tarcisius, Blessed Jose Sanchez del Rio, to name only a few.
Responsorial Psalm 25:6-7, 17-18, 20-21 ~ Preserve My
Life, O LORD
Response: "To you, O Lord, I lift my soul" or "No one who waits for you, O Lord, will ever be put to shame."
6 Remember that your compassion, O LORD, and your love are from old. 7 In your kindness remember me, because of your goodness, O LORD.
17 Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distress. 18 Put an end to my affliction and my suffering; and take away all my sins.
20 Preserve my live, and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. 21 Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, because I wait for you, O LORD.
Psalm 25 is a lament that is formulated as an acrostic psalm in which each verse begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In the psalm the psalmist makes heartfelt pleas with expressions of faith in God who loves, forgives, and guides him through the struggles of his life.
In verses 6-7 the psalmist asks the Lord to forgiven him out of God's mercy, love, and goodness. Fear of offending God leads the psalmist to continually turning back to God in prayer and to asking God for forgiveness of all sins (verse 18). Only when the psalmist knows that he has received God's forgiveness can he be free of personal anguish (verses 17-18).
The psalmist has confidence that God protects the life of the person who petitions Him with a clean heart. He professes his belief that God will rescue him and protect him from the perils of life. The psalmist knows that if he submits himself to God that he will live in integrity and in righteousness within his community until the time when the Lord calls to him at the conclusion of his life (verses 20-21).
The Second Reading Philippians 3:20-21 ~ Citizenship in
20 Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself.
All Christians are aliens and temporary exiles here on earth. Our true citizenship is in the Kingdom of Heaven; therefore, Christians are called to live lives that are joyful and full of hope as children of a divine Father. Our hope is founded upon the promise of Christ's return in glory, which the Church calls His Parousia or Second Coming.
The Passion, death, resurrection, and return of Christ in glory are constant themes in the preaching of the inspired writers of the New Testament epistles, as in this passage from St. Paul's letter to the Christian community in Philippi in Macedonia. The reality of Jesus' resurrection from the dead is the cause of our promised resurrection. As St. Paul wrote to the Christians at Corinth: But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the Firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead came also through a human being. For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order: Christ the Firstfruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ; then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power (1 Cor 15:20-24). He also wrote to Saint Timothy: This saying is trustworthy: If we have died with him we shall also lie with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him (2 Tim 2:11-12a).
It is this promise that gives us the courage to resist the secular world and its misguided and perverted understanding of what is righteous and just. We must stand firm in our faith and in obedience to the teachings of Mother Church, knowing that our exile will one day come to an end and we have eternity to look forward to in the heavenly Kingdom of our Lord and Savior.
The Gospel of John 11:17-27 ~ The Resurrection of the
17 When Jesus arrived in Bethany, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away. 19 Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you." 23 Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise." 24 Martha said to him, "I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day." 25 Jesus told her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, even if he dies, will live, 26 and he who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" 27 She said to him, "Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world."
The detail in verse 17 that Lazarus had been dead for four days is significant. It makes it clear that Lazarus was truly deceased. According to the cultural traditions of the Jews, it was believed that the soul hovered near the body for three days but after that time there was no hope of resuscitation and decay would begin (Anchor Bible: Gospel According to John, Brown, 424).
18 Now Bethany was
near Jerusalem, only about two miles away.
The literal translation reads "fifteen stadia". According to Fr. Brown, this is about 1 3/4th miles and agrees with the location of El 'Azariyeh, the modern Arabic name of the site of the old village of Bethany (Brown, page 422).
19 Many of the Jews
had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she
went to meet him; but Mary sat at home.
It was then, and still is now, the custom of the Jews to bury the dead as soon as possible after death. Those who die a natural death, like Lazarus from illness, would have their bodies washed in preparation for burial and would be anointed with oils and herbs and wrapped in burial cloths. Those who die violent deaths, however, are not washed because their blood must accompany them to the grave; Jesus will not be washed after His death. The ritual of mourning began immediately following burial. According to the customs of 1st century AD, Judea men and women walked separately in the funeral procession and after burial and the women returned alone to begin the mourning, which customarily lasted for 30 days. This mourning ritual included loud wailing and dramatic expressions of grief.
20 When Martha heard
that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been
here, my brother would not have died. 22 But
even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you."
Martha offers a mild reproach, which is followed by a statement of faith in Jesus. She believes if Jesus had been by her brother's side before his death that Jesus could have healed him. She also expresses the belief that whatever He asks God the Father will be granted. But why doesn't she ask for Lazarus' resurrection at this time if she believes in the power of Jesus as the Son of God? Some scholars suggest that her faith was imperfect but according to St. Augustine, Martha illustrates the perfect example of Christian faith. She places herself and her brother entirely in God's hands and in submission to His will. St. Augustine writes: "...she will not say, 'But now I ask you to raise my brother to life again. [...] all she said was, I know that you can do it; if you will do it; it is for you to judge whether to do it, not for me to presume" (In Ioannis Evangelium , 49.13).
Notice that there are similarities in the description of the
sisters in this passage compared to the same two women that Luke records in
Luke 10:38-42. Martha rushes out to meet Jesus while Mary is at home. Martha
is the woman of "action" while Mary is the quiet, reflective sister.
Also notice the similarity between Martha's statement in verse 22 and the Virgin Mary's instructions to the waiters in John 2:5. In each there is the same indirect expressed hope that Jesus will act despite what appears to be an impossible situation. There is a desire and a delicate suggestion but no direct request.
23 Jesus said to
her, "Your brother will rise." 24 Martha
said to him, "I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day."
Notice how Martha responds to Jesus' statement in verse 23. She apparently thinks He is offering only words of comfort affirming the doctrine of the resurrection of the body in the final judgment that He has taught and that is advocated by the Pharisees but not the Sadducees (see Mt 22:23; Mk 12:18; Acts 23:8).
In Mark 12:18-27 Jesus upheld the doctrine of the final resurrection: Then some Sadducees, who deny that there is a resurrection, came to him and they put this question to him.[..]. They proceed to tell Jesus a story supporting their claim of no resurrection. Jesus responds rather severely by saying: Surely the reason why you are wrong is that you understand neither the scriptures nor the power of God. For when they rise from the dead, men and women do not marry; no, they are like the angels in heaven. Now about the dead rising again, have you never read in the Book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him and said, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. He is God, not of the dead, but of the living. You are very much mistaken.
The Old Testament Scriptures to which Jesus refers which promise a bodily resurrection are found in Job 19:25-26; in David's thanksgiving psalms in Psalms 16; Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2-3; and 2 Maccabees chapters 7 and 12 and 14:
Wisdom 3:7-9 may also be a reference to the final resurrection. This passage implies a later or altered condition of the just sometime after death and could refer to the final glorification of the righteous.
Martha also held the belief of a bodily resurrection, but
Jesus will put her faith in a bodily resurrection in a radical new context in
the next verse.
25 Jesus told her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, even if he dies, will live, 26 and he who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" 27 She said to him, "Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world."
This is Jesus' 5th "I AM" statement using a predicate nominative. In all the previous "I AM" statements, Jesus uses a predicate nominative to reference the themes of the resurrection and eternal life.
Jesus identifies Himself with the significant and symbolic words: I AM, ego ami, which reminds us of Yahweh's revelation of Himself to Moses 3 times as I AM in Exodus 3:13-14. In John's Gospel, Jesus will use these words 26 times and in 7 different metaphors (each used with a predicate nominative):
|1. 6:35||"I AM the bread of life"|
|2. 8:12||"I AM the light of the world"|
|3. 10:7||"I AM the gate for the sheep"|
|4. 10:11||"I AM the good shepherd"|
|5. 11:25||"I AM the resurrection and the life"|
|6. 14:6||"I AM the way and the truth and the life"|
|7. 15:1||"I AM the true vine"|
|Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2003 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.|
St. John will also record 4 "I AM" statements in which Jesus does not use a predicate nominative. See the chart on the website: Seven Days and Seven I AMs in John's Gospel.html.
But what is the significance of Jesus' statement in light of Martha's previous understanding? The life that Jesus gives is a present reality and not just a future promise! There are two principal ideas here:
The believer in Jesus Christ has triumphed over death forever and this victory will be demonstrated in Lazarus' resurrection which is a foreshadowing of Jesus' own resurrection from the dead.
THE COMMEMORATION OF ALL SOULS
The First Reading Isaiah 25:6-9 ~ Death will be Destroyed Forever!
6 On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples. 7 On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations; 8 he will destroy death forever. The Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces; the reproach of his people he will remove from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken. 9 On that day it will be said: "Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us! This is the LORD for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!"
Yahweh isn't just the God of Israel. He is the Creator of all men and women and God of all nations. It was Israel's mission to be a light to the Gentile nations and to call them out of a world of sin and into covenant with the One True God. When they failed in that mission, God Himself came to gather the lost sheep of the house of Israel and to call the nations into one covenant family (Ez 34; Is 65:7; 66:18).
After reflecting on the justice of God who has chosen Jerusalem as the place to manifest His glory in Isaiah 25:1-5 (1 Kng 11:36), the inspired writer then offers a song of thanksgiving and praise to God. In verses 6-8, the Lord promises through His prophet that He has prepared a sacred feast for all nations on "Mount Zion." Mount Zion was a mountain ridge in the oldest inhabited part of the city of Jerusalem that was also called the "city of David." But the term came to symbolize both God's sacred Temple and the covenant people as a whole. In the sacred banquet God will provide "succulent food and fine wine" that is a symbolic reference to the food of divine grace God will provide that will surpass anything mankind has enjoyed on earth. This promise prefigures the sacred banquet of the Eucharist that Jesus instituted on the literal Mount Zion in Jerusalem on the night of the Last Supper. It is the Eucharistic Banquet that has a present and a future dimension. In the Eucharist God provides divine nourishment from His own Body and Blood which both feeds the soul in the present with God's divine grace as the faithful continue their journey to salvation. But the Eucharist is also the promise of a future glory: "To share in the Lord's Supper is to anticipate the eschatological feast of the 'marriage of the Lamb' (Rev 19:9), celebrating this memorial of Christ, risen and ascended into heaven, the Christian community waits in joyful hope for the coming of our Savor, Jesus Christ" (Pope St. John Paul II, Dies Domini, 38).
8 he will destroy
death forever. The Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces; the
reproach of his people he will remove from the whole earth; for the LORD has
spoken. 9 On that day it will be
said: "Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us! This is the LORD for whom
we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!"
St. Paul quotes from verse 8 when he writes that the resurrection of Christ is the definitive victory over death (1 Cor 15:54-55), and the same words are found in the Book of Revelation where it is proclaimed that salvation has been won by the Lord who has died and risen from the dead (Rev 21:4; also see 7:17). The force of the words in verses 8 and 9 are echoed by the Church in its prayer for the dead in whom the unity of the "Body of Christ" petitions God to receive the soul of the dead into His heavenly kingdom: "There we hope to share in your glory when every tear will be wiped away. On the day we shall see you, our God, as you are. We shall become like you and praise you forever through Christ our Lord, from whom all good things come" (roman Missal, Eucharistic Prayer III).
The Responsorial Psalm 27:1, 4, 7, 8b, 13-14 ~ Union with God
Response: "The Lord is my light and my salvation" or "I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living."
1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The LORD is my life's refuge, of whom should I be afraid?
4 One thing I ask of the LORD; this I seek: to dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, that I may gaze on the loveliness of the LORD and contemplate his temple.
7 Hear, O LORD, the sound of my call; have pity on me and answer me. 8b Your presence, O LORD, I seek! Hide not your face from me.
13 I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD in the land of the living. 14 Wait for the LORD with courage; be stouthearted and wait for the LORD!
The psalm begins with an assertion framed in two rhetorical questions in which the psalmist announces that God is both his salvation and his refuge (verse 1). It is because of this sense of protection that the psalmist feels his life is secure in the Lord. Next, he speaks in praise of the joy and salvation he finds in worshipping in the Lord's holy Temple (verse 4). He makes a petition, probably during Temple worship, asking the Lord God to hear him when he cries out and to "hide not your face from me" (verses 7 and 8b). In verse 13 he expresses his belief that at the end of his life, he will be ushered into the divine Presence of the Lord in the "land of the living" that is heaven. Finally, he offers advice to others to "wait for Yahweh" who will come for the righteous at the end of their earthly lives.
The Second Reading 2 Corinthians 4:14-5:1 ~ Our
14We know that the One who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and place us with you in his presence. 15 Everything indeed is for you, so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God. 16 Therefore, we are not discouraged; rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal. 5:1 For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands, eternal in heaven.
St. Paul expresses his firm belief in the Christian's future resurrection in glory which is based on the event of Jesus Christ's resurrection. He also looks forward to sharing this joy with all the faithful with whom he has shared the Gospel of salvation (verses 14-15). In verse 16 Paul speaks of one of the paradoxes of Christian life: our perishable earthly bodies contrasted with our glorified bodies. Our perishable bodies are "wasting away" due to the process of earthly corruption, but the inner, spiritual self is growing and being renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul advises that we must not focus on the material that is perishable, but on the spiritual that is eternal (verse 18).
In 5:1, Paul expresses his confidence in the future resurrection of the dead and in the reality of heaven. He feels a sense of security while he struggles with earthly difficulties and uses several similes to show the contrast between the present, fragile earthly existence and the eternal future life. In our present body we live as though it was a temporary, flimsy dwelling place like a tent. What matters is not the temporary structure but the eternal "building" that is our future reality (5:1). In heaven our bodies will be glorified by God and transformed into an eternal mansion for the soul. Paul's teaching is repeated in one of the prefaces of Masses for the dead: "Lord, for your faithful people life is changed, not ended. When the body of our earthly dwelling lies in death we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven" (Roman Missal).
The Gospel of John 14:1-6 ~ Jesus Will Prepare the Way
1 Jesus said to his disciples: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. 2 In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. 4 Where I am going you know the way." 5 Thomas said to him, "Master, we do not know where you are going: how can we know the way?" 6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
This is part of Jesus' last homily to His disciples on the night of the Last Supper. He gave this farewell address after the meal and just prior to leaving for the Mount of Olives and His appointment with His destiny according to God the Father's divine plan.
1 Jesus said to his
disciples: "Do not let your hearts be troubled [tarassein].
Tarassein is the same verb used to indicate Jesus' distress when confronted with Lazarus' death in John 11:33 as well as in Jesus' distress when He gave the prediction of His betrayal by one of His Apostles in John 13:21.
1b You have faith in
God; have faith also in me.
These words can be translated "believe" or "have faith!" In Hebrew the word for faith comes from the root 'mn and has the concept of firmness. In the Hebrew concept then, to have faith is to participate in God's firmness. Jesus is urging them to have that same "firmness" of faith in Him that they have in God the Father.
2 In my
Father's house there are many dwelling places.
The Greek word for "dwelling places" is mone and can refer to a night stop or resting-place for a traveler on a journey. St. Jerome in his Latin translation used the word mansio, meaning "halting place." The most likely meaning Jesus is using in this passage is that in heaven there is a prepared final resting-place for the disciples and for all believers when we come to the end of our faith journey.
If there were not, would I have told you that I am going
to prepare a place for you? 3 And
if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to
myself, so that where I am you also may be. 4 Where I am going you know the way."
These words are not only addressed to those in the Upper Room but also to all faithful believers of every generation and every age. The "coming back" that Jesus speaks about has a double meaning. He is speaking of His Second Advent or Parousia at the end of the world (see 1 Cor 4:5; a href ="http://www.usccb.org/nab/bible/1corinthians/1corinthians11.htm#v25">11:25; 1 Thes 4:16-17; 1 Jn 2:28) and His greeting of each soul after their individual journeys of faith have been completed. Jesus' announcement of preparation is reminiscent of the preparation a 1st century bridegroom must make after the acceptance of the betrothal contract. While the bride remains in the home of her family, the bridegroom returns to his father's house to make the arrangements for their marriage. When the father of the groom has approved the preparations and has announced the time has come, then, and only then, can the groom go to collect the bride and bring her to the place he has prepared. In the same way Jesus will come, when the Father tells Him it is the time, to collect His Bride, the Church, but only the Father knows the day and time (Mt 24:36).
5 Thomas said to
him, "Master, we do not know where you are going: how can we know the way?"
You may recall that in John 13:33 Jesus told the disciples that where He is going they cannot follow and Peter responds to this statement by asking in verse 36 "Master, where are you going?" To which Jesus answered: "Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later." In this passage, Jesus is providing more information about what they will find when they are able to follow Him.
6 Jesus said to him,
"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except
Thomas is perplexed, just as the rest of the disciples must have been perplexed. He asks for clarification by picking up the challenge of the preceding verse, and Jesus responds by telling him that He is Himself the Way to the Father. St. Augustine writes: "It was necessary for him to say 'I AM the Way' to show them that they really knew what they thought they were ignorant of, because they knew him..." (St. Augustine, The Gospel of John, 66.2).
This is the sixth use of "I AM" with a predicate nominative (also see 6:35; 8:12; 10:7; 10:11; 11:25). The use of I AM is a clear reference to the divine name "Yahweh." Every time Jesus uses this expression He is stating His divinity and His oneness with God the Father. Once again Jesus expresses His oneness and unity of will with the Father in the three-fold expression of His identity as "the Way, and the Truth, and the Life." In this statement Jesus has effectively summed up His entire Messianic mission as the promised Messiah, fulfilling His mission to the Covenant people as God's holy anointed Prophet, Priest, and King.
But how is Jesus "the Way" to the Father? The Old Covenant prophets, priests and kings of Israel/Judah, as God's anointed representatives, were responsible for showing "the way" the people of the Covenant must follow to continue in communion with Yahweh. The Navarre Commentary lists 5 ways in which Jesus is "the Way" to the Father:
What then is the destination of "the Way"? The destination of "the Way" is eternal life with the Father. This "life" is a gift the Father has given to the Son (5:26), and the Son alone can give it to those who believe in Him (10:28). Jesus' gift of natural life to Lazarus was a sign of the eternal reality behind Jesus claim: I AM the resurrection and the life (11:25-26).
St. Augustine writes that in this passage it is as though Jesus was asking all of us: "By which route do you want to go? I am the Way. To where do you want to go? I am the Truth. Where do you want to remain? I am the Life. Every man can attain an understanding of the Truth and the Life; but not all find the Way. The wise of this world realize that God is eternal life and knowable truth; but the Word of God, who is Truth and Life joined to the Father, has become the Way by taking a human nature. Make your way contemplating his humility and you will reach God" (De verbis Domini sermones, 54 as quoted from the Navarra Commentary - St. John, page 185).
No one comes to the Father except through me.
In this statement Jesus is clearly affirming that there is no other path linking heaven and earth. He is the only means of salvation. Reflecting on this passage from John 14:6, St. Josemaria Escriva writes in Friends of God: "Jesus is the way. Behind him on this earth of ours he has left the clear outlines of his footprints. They are indelible signs which neither the erosion of time nor the treachery of the evil one have been able to erase" (Friends of God, page 127). What we must do in order to know "the Way" is to faithfully follow those footprints.
Is there any other way or means to salvation expect through Jesus of Nazareth? The answer is NO! There is no other way except Jesus Christ. St. Peter will affirm this truth in his great homily before the High Priest and the Sanhedrin in Acts 4:11-12, referencing Psalms 118:22, Peter will testify: "He is the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved" (emphasis added). God would never condemn those ignorant of Christ's gift of salvation to an eternity of damnation. Those who never had a chance to hear the Gospel of salvation will be saved by righteously living the natural law in obedience to the dictates of their conscience which calls all men to a life of justice and mercy (see Rom 1:16-32, 2:14-16 and CCC 847-48). However, even those souls will be saved through the redeeming work of Christ the Savior.
Is it fair of God to demand this exclusivity by making Jesus the only means to salvation and for the Catholic Church to declare Outside the Church there is no salvation (see CCC page 224, at the end of #845)? While it is true that in this teaching Christianity is indeed, in a sense, exclusive since it denies that other religious leaders like Buddha or Mohammed can provide through their teaching a means of salvation. Christianity does not accept the premise of ecumenism that "on the mountaintop all paths meet." According to the teachings of the New Testament and the Catholic Church, while other religions can provide sound teaching on moral living and a sincere search for God, only Jesus' path provides salvation. This exclusiveness is, however, mitigated by several factors:
The "Way" of Jesus is God's one true path. He has declared it as such and so rather than complaining about exclusivity and attempting to "play God" by suggesting alternatives to God's one plan to provide a remedy for sin and salvation, we should be grateful to the Most Holy Trinity for providing a way out of the sinful condition that is the inheritance from Adam of every human being. The "Way" is the New Covenant; it is the Covenant of Peace Yahweh promised in Jeremiah 31:31 and Ezekiel 37:24-26.
Note: Before the title "Christian" is adopted by the believes at the Church of Antioch in the first century AD, New Covenant believers will refer to the New Covenant Church of Jesus Christ as "the Way." The title "The Way" is used for the New Covenant Church 7 times in Acts of Apostles: Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, and 22.
Why is Jesus the Truth? How are we called to the Truth? The Old Testament states that God is the source of all truth (see Psalms 119:142; Proverbs 8:7; 2 Samuel 8:7; etc.). In Jesus the Messiah, the complete truth of God has been made manifest to man. As Disciples of Christ we promise to "live in the truth", in the sincerity and simplicity of a life that conforms to Jesus' life and to remain in His "Truth". If we say that we share in God's life while we are living in darkness, we are lying, because we are not living the truth. But if we live in light, as he is in light, we have a share in one another's life, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin (1 Jn 1:6-7; also see CCC# 2465-70).
Why is Jesus the Life? Because it is only through Him that we have the promise rebirth into the family of God through our Baptism and the gift of eternal life at the end of our journey to salvation (Jn chapter 3:1-21).
Alternative Second Readings
Romans 5:5-11 ~ God Proves His Love for Us and
Saves Us from the Last Judgment
5 And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. 6 For Christ, while we were still helpless, yet died at the appointed time for the ungodly. 7 Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. 8 But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. 9 How much more then, since we are now justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath. 10 Indeed, if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, once reconciled, will we be saved by his life. 11 Not only that, but we also boast of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
5 And hope does not
disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through
the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
This line evokes the powerful image of God's life-giving Spirit in the visual image of water being poured out upon humanity as prophesized in Isaiah 44:3 and fulfilled at the second great Pentecost in the Upper Room in 30 AD. It also evokes Jesus' cry in the Temple in Jerusalem on the Feast of Tabernacles in John 7:38 when Jesus said: "Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture says: 'Rivers of living water will flow from within him.'" He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive. But this visual image also looks forward to the eschatological event of the outpouring of the Spirit prophesied in Ezekiel 47:1-12 and the vision given to St. John in Revelation 22:1-5; it is a vision that will be given to St. John years after Paul's letter to Rome was written.
Paul's point is to remind the Romans that the pouring out of God the Holy Spirit was a manifestation which is distinctive to the New Covenant Church and not part of the Old. He is the Spirit who dwells in the circumcised heart of the New Covenant believer from the moment of baptism and makes the believer a true child of God. See John 15:26; 16:5-15; Romans 8:8-11; 14-16; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Timothy 1:14.
6 For Christ, while
we were still helpless, yet died at the appointed time for the ungodly. 7 Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for
a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to
die. 8 But God proves his love for
us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.
In Romans 5:6-8 Paul speaks of the proof of God's love. That proof is that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Paul identifies the condition of the unjustified person as one incapable of doing anything on his own to achieve righteousness in the site of God apart from Jesus Christ. But God in His infinite love does for us what we could not do for ourselves. The Son's death is the mode in which God's love has been manifested:
9 How much more
then, since we are now justified by his blood, will we be saved through him
from the wrath.
Paul returns to the theme of retribution that he first raised in Romans 1:18. In Romans 4:25 Paul wrote that our justification is ascribed to Christ's Resurrection but now he writes in 5:9 that it is also attributed to the shedding of His precious blood and to His death. Paul does not separate the saving work of Jesus into categories: His Passion, death, and Resurrection are all one saving act applied to the salvation of mankind. It is this saving act that will save us from God's retribution/wrath. Notice that in Romans 5: 9 Paul also writes of another salvation beyond justification by Jesus' death. In addition to our initial justification through Jesus' Passion, death, and Resurrection applied to our baptism into the family of God, a great favor or grace of justification will be manifested to the believer in the eschatological salvation that is to come in the Final Judgment where we will be saved from the retribution of God. Once again we have evidence that justification is not only a state but an on-going process—just as salvation is an on-going process to be consummated at the end of time as we know it when we will face "the wrath" of God in His judgment against a sinful humanity in the Final Judgment. It is an event the faithful Christian need not fear, as Paul assures us in the next verse.
10 Indeed, if, while
we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how
much more, once reconciled, will we be saved by his life.
Paul's statement in verse 10 should bring us to a whole series of questions, the first being: But when were we enemies of God? As a sinner man is not just "weak" or "godless" but has made himself "the seed of the serpent." God cursed the serpent in Genesis 3:15, saying: "I shall put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel" (literal translation). Those in sin become an enemy of God. See Romans 5:8; 8:7; and Genesis 3:15.
The next logical question is what brings about the reconciliation of sinners to God? The death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the only means by which sinners are reconciled with God (Acts 4:12). This is another way of repeating what Paul stated in Romans 5:1 when he wrote that Christians were "at peace" with God because reconciliation restores fellowship and intimacy with God and ends the alienation of sin and rebellion.
And finally you might ask: How are we saved by the Resurrected life of God the Son? Another effect of justification is a share in the risen life of God the Son. Although justification and reconciliation through the forgiveness of original sin happened when we came into the family of God through our Baptism and will continue as we are in communion with Him through the Sacraments, salvation in its fullest sense is still to be achieved in its future dimension. But as we journey toward salvation we anticipate that gift of salvation by knowing it is rooted in sharing the life of the glorified Christ as His life is continually communicated to us in the Sacraments of our faith, as we continue on our journey to reach the goal of eternal life.
11 Not only that,
but we also boast of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have
now received reconciliation.
The New American translation also used the word "boast" in 5:2 and 3: ... through whom we have gained access [by faith] to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God. 3Not only that but we even boast of our afflictions..." Paul has used this expression of exuberance or "boasting" kauchaomai [kow-khah'-om-ahee] three times in Romans 5:2, 3, and 11, and has used the same word a total of 5 times if you count from Romans 2:17 and 2:23. In previous passages in the letter "boasting" has been used in the negative, but there is a difference now in chapter 5. In the other verses "boasting" concerned our own initiative but in the context of this passage it is of God that we "boast". The effect of the Christian's justification in faith which is a gift from God is that the Christian can boast of God Himself in whom, through His love, salvation is now guaranteed in contrast to the covenant believer's condition before the atoning work of Christ where one stood in bondage to sin and in fear of God's retribution. But now, having experienced God's infinite love in what Jesus the Messiah accomplished for humanity through His sacrificial death and Resurrection, one can boast of God's great love for us! As St. John writes, Love comes to its perfection in us when we can face the Day of Judgment fearlessly, because even in this world we have become as he is. In love there is no room for fear, but perfect love drives our fear, because fear implies punishment and whoever is afraid has not come to perfection in love. Let us love, then, because he first loved us (1 Jn 4:17-19).
Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2014