These readings are a case of a feast replacing a Sunday. Prior editions of Personal Notes call attention to Quarterly citations for the Psalm, Epistle, and Gospel. Cross is the word for these readings.

 

Numbers 21:4b-9

 

verse 9           Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole,

                                    and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent

                                    looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.

 

As the Gospel of John points out, this serpent prefigures Christ.

 

Psalm 78:1-2, 34-35, 36-37, 38

 

The antiphon and personal theme for these readings is Do not forget the Works of the Lord!

 

Reading 113B, attached as file Bible Study030803_Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.doc, includes scholarly comments on this Psalm. See footnotes 5, 6, and 7. Reading 113B uses the following verses: 3-4, 23-24, 25, 54. Psalm 78 refers to the Exodus, an escape from Egypt through water, anticipating the waters of Baptism and the baptism of the Cross.

 

Philippians 2:6-11

 

Reading 37ABC, attached as file Bible Study030413Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion.doc, includes scholarly comments on this passage. See footnotes 17, 18, and 19. Reading 38ABC uses exactly the same verses. In Rosarium Virginia Mariae, Pope John Paul II uses Phil 2:8 to enable Christians to stand at the foot of the Cross, “beside Mary, to enter with her into the depths of God’s love for man and to experience its life-giving power.”

 

verse 8                       he humbled himself,

                                    becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

 

Commenting on what Raymond E. Brown writes about John, a scholar observes:[1]

 

My major difficulty lies in Brown’s acceptance of the widely held idea that the determining feature of the Johannine Son of Man is his ascent into and descent from heaven. The only place where the theme of ascent and descent of the Son of Man is present is 3:13 unless one takes the Johannine use of uywqhnai, as Brown does, to embrace not only crucifixion but also ascension and return to the Father. This is certainly the meaning of the expression in Phil 2:9; but John 3:14 insists that just as (kaqwV) the serpent was lifted up, so also (outwV) must the Son of Man be lifted up (3:14) John 12:33 explains 12:32 by “footnoting” that the lifting up of the Son of Man indicates the way in which he was to die (12:33): poiw qantw hmellen apoqnhskein).”

 

What this means to these Personal Notes, is that as Jesus accepted his Cross, his Father lifted him up, a type of ascent, realized eschatology, into heaven. These Notes lack the depth required to appreciate the difficulty the scholar has with Brown.

 

John 3:13-17

 

Reading 32B, attached as file Bible Study030330_Fourth_Sunday in Lent.doc, includes scholarly comments on this passage. See footnotes 15 and 16. Reading 32B uses verses 14-21.

 

verse 13         “No one has gone up to heaven

                        except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man.

 

verse 14         And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,

                                    so must the Son of Man be lifted up,

                                    so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

 

A scholar argues that water in John has a threefold theological symbolism of first principles, epistemology. These principles include revelation, testimony, and faith. The symbolism of water is so self-evident that precise scientific meanings are unsuited to the original proclamation. The scholar includes verses 3:1-17 among the places to find clear use of water symbolism. Other places re less clear. Water, here, in verses 3:1-17 symbolizes the “old rites” in anticipation of the coming of Christ.[2]

 

Water is part of a threefold, water, food, and harvest, overarching theme in John. In Chapter 3 water “symbolizes not only one’s physical need but also one’s dependence on earthly resources…not just a personal eternal life given by Jesus but (pointing to) the eschatology [last things] profoundly developed in John” (p. 97). In this way, John becomes a christological interpretation of the First Testament with “three inner thematic connections: the christological theme of `who Jesus is,’ the missionary emphasis that binds the whole passage together, and the use of symbolism—specifically, imageries of water, food, and harvest.”[3]

 

Water contains a deep reference to the presence of the Holy Spirit anticipated by the prophets. Prophecies are difficult. The scholar is not entirely convincing to other scholars because of ‘the elusiveness of symbolism and her claims of implicit allusions.”[4] These Notes present her ideas not so much as food for thought as food for prayer.

 

As a reminder from the Fourth Sunday in Lent:

 

verse 17         For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,

                                    but that the world might be saved through him.

 

In the Fourth Sunday, a scholar notes that the world may substitute for the Jews. These notes assert that both the world and the Jews  implicitly include the Faithful. Such are the works of the Lord.

 

Do not forget the works of the Lord! refers to the works of the Father with the medical serpent on the pole and with the forgiveness of lack of steadfastness in Israel; the works of the Son “becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8); and the works of the Spirit “so that everyone who believes in him [the Son of Man] may have eternal life.” (John 3:15). These days more than ever people near and dear to me are crumbling physically as I get to enter their souls and behold their Faith and the Faith of Jesus through them on their variety of crosses.

 

 

For sources, see the Appendix file.



[1] Francis J. Moloney, S.D.B., “Raymond Brown’s New Introduction to the Gospel of John: A Presentation—And Some Questions,” the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 65, No. 1 (January 2003) 8-9.

[2] Dennis M. Sweetland, review of Wai-Yee Ng, Water Symbolism in John: An Eschatological Interpretation in the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 65, No. 1 (January 2003), 133.

 

[3] Dennis M. Sweetland, review of Wai-Yee Ng, Water Symbolism in John: An Eschatological Interpretation in the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 65, No. 1 (January 2003), 133-134..

 

[4] Dennis M. Sweetland, review of Wai-Yee Ng, Water Symbolism in John: An Eschatological Interpretation in the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 65, No. 1 (January 2003), 134.