What Exactly Does Jesus Mean in John 14:12?


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 22, 2017.


I was sitting in the pew of Saint Lambert’s Catholic Church listening to our priest deliver the Gospel reading for the 4th Sunday of Easter—this is rare since I am usually out in the hallway with my finicky 1 year old! —when I noticed a strange verse in the reading. St. John quotes Jesus as saying, “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father (John 14:12 New American Bible). Throughout the rest of that Mass and every day since I have pondered Jesus’ meaning. Today I want to share some of my thoughts on how I interpreted this peculiar passage!

peculiar

Greater in Quantity Not Quality

According to the dictionary, the word greater is defined as large in number, notable, highly significant, and distinguished to name a few definitions. I want to highlight the first definition—large in number. It makes senses for the works of Christians done in Jesus’ name to be larger than Christ’s miraculous deeds done on Earth simply because 33 years is significantly shorter than the over 2,000 years in Church history. It is also important to read verse 12 in context with the rest of the passage.

Immediately following Jesus’ odd statement in John 14:12, he talks about the sending of the Holy Spirit after he ascends to the Father. Jesus declared, ““If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate* to be with you always, 17 the Spirit of truth,* which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you (John 14:15-17 NAB). It is through cooperation with the Third Person of the Holy Trinity that Apostles and saints are graced through the ages to produce miraculous works.

Father, Son, Holy Spirit= Distinct but Equally God

God is ultimately above humanity’s total comprehension. St. Thomas says that man must have a certain type of agnosticism about the full knowledge of God. According to John Courtney Murray in The Problem of God, “In the end, our presence to him, which is real, is a presence to the unknown; ‘to him we are united as to one unknown,’ says Aquinas (p. 71).  Because of this ineffable complete understanding of God, it makes sense that some peculiar and seemingly paradoxical passages in the Scriptures exist.

John may have struggled with how to properly describe the relationship of the Trinity. He might even have shared similar questions as myself. However, despite this struggle, as a Catholic I believe John to be a trustworthy firsthand witness to the teaching of Jesus.

John makes it crystal clear in his prologue to his Gospel that though the Persons of the Trinity as Distinct they are equally God. Knowing this religious truth, when I go back to read John 14:12 I know that Jesus cannot possibly mean the works done by the Holy Spirit as greater than His works since the Son and the Holy Spirit are equally God!

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Think about the Holy Trinity

Now the feast of the Holy Trinity (my favorite liturgical feast 😊) is arriving soon, and I hope to be sharing more of my thoughts and reflections on the mystery of the Holy Trinity leading up to that Sunday. Until then, I will leave you to ponder Jesus’ mysterious words again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father”.  

May we all be grateful for the gifts of knowledge and understanding given to us by the Holy Spirit and pray for a deepening of these gifts especially as we draw nearer to the Feast of the Holy Trinity

Related Links

Reflections on the Most Holy Trinity

3 Things about the Holy Trinity I Learned from Elementary Students

Toddlers: An Adorable Trace of the Trinity!

Catholic Doctrine on the Holy Trinity

The Glory of the Most Holy Trinity: ROMAN CATHOLIC SPIRITUAL DIRECTION

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Jesus and Mary Talk about the Role of Peter Before Dinner

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Here’s an imaged conversation between Our Lord Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary shortly after Peter’s Confession in Matthew 16:13-20.


Mary: Good Evening, Son. How did your preaching go today? Did those Pharisees change their attitude about you yet?

Who do you say that I am

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus: No. This still cling to their rigid judgment. Today, I asked them [the Apostles] who they thought I was. Elijah? John the Baptist? A new prophet?

Those were common answers given by the public. I told them I did not what others thought, but what they thought.

Can you guess who answered my question Mother?”

Mary: Was it that bold and ambitious fisherman? Simon is his name, right?

Jesus: You say so and it is true. Simon recognized me as the “Messiah, Son of the living God.” His name is now changed to Peter meaning “rock”.

I also entrusted to him authority to lead my disciples.

Mary: Do they know?

Jesus: That I must suffer, die, and be raised on the third day? Yes. Peter’s rashness surfaced again. His great passion and love for his teacher made him overprotective of me.

I directly called out his actions as that of the Adversary.

Mary: Though I know your suffering will be a great pain for me, I trust in the will of God.

Jesus: I know. Mother you are most holy.

The Advocate will guide Peter, John, James and the rest once I go back to The Father.

Help Peter in his mission. Be a consolation for him when he experiences distress.

Mary: Yes, my Son. Behold, I am the handmaiden of the Lord. May it be done according to your word.

Jesus: You are indeed most blessed among all women!

I am hungry from the day’s walk. I brought home fish for dinner. Do you want to start the grill fire or should I cook?

Mary: Let’s cook together. You work is mine and mine is yours.

Jesus: Amen!

Grilling fish

[Mary and Jesus end their day with a tasty meal followed by praying the Scriptures before they go to sleep to prepare for another day telling the Good News.]

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How Fasting in Lent Will Help You Climb a Spiritual Mountain

Lent fasting meme

The half way point of  Lent is a time period when  many people begin to cave into their Lenten promises. I know for me it is a struggle. I gave up negativity and fast food. Though in giving it up I find myself with a lot of extra time. I have spent more time in prayer with God during these forty days.

The Latin word for Lent, quadragesima, literally means forty days! However, this number does not mean much to the average person unless they understand the significance of the number forty in Scripture.  

God and Geography 

The number forty is  also attached to particular geography: mountains and deserts. When one thinks of these places words such as desolate, barren, alone, and harsh might come to mind.

God seems to have a close presence to individuals in the Bible in these settings. Take Moses for instance, in Exodus 24:18 when he stays on the peak of Mount Sinai for forty days and nights. It was here that Moses met God and received the Ten Commandments.

Elijah and Mountain

Elijah also met God upon a mountain, after traveling for forty days and nights. On the mountain, Elijah faced strong winds and an intense earthquake. But he continued to hold steadfast in faith and met God in a quite whisper.

How often do we let the “noises” of daily life distract us from God?

In this modern world, people hate the quiet and constantly surround themselves with “things” (cellphones, internet, television, etc.) to keep from silence. 

Importance of Fasting

During Lent we are called to a life of fasting. While Christians should always be fasting in some degree throughout the year, the Church urges us to reflect upon it more deeply.

The first thing Jesus does after His Baptism is to fast in the desert for forty days and nights. Probably weak from hunger, He is tempted by the devil. But Jesus fails to give into worldly pleasures. It is this example that all Christians are called to in Lent. By giving up things from this world, we can center our life back onto Christ.  
Mount Sinai 

Though it may feel like you are on a mountaintop or in a desert thirsting, know that Lent is not a time for punishing yourself with guilt. In fasting one learns to give up unnecessary and sometimes harmful objects or habits and grow into a closer relationship with Jesus.

Hopefully at the end of Lent, we can all say that we truly experienced God in a deeper way, like Moses and Elijah did on the mountaintop! 

Related Links

Elijah flees to the mountain and speaks to God

The Call of Lent: Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving

The Link Between Lent and Confession—by Guest Blogger William Hemsworth

Reflections on Saint John Henry Newman’s Lenten Sermon

 

 

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3 Ways to Stay Relevant as a Catholic Blogger


Editor’s Note: Post originally published on November 28, 2017.


“The soul’s true greatness is in loving God and in humbling oneself in His presence, completely forgetting oneself and believing oneself to be nothing; because the Lord is great, but He is well-pleased only with the humble; He always opposes the proud,” St. Maria Faustina wrote in Divine Mercy in My Soul. I am a proud man. Proud in the sense that I strive for greatness daily. I’m proud of my accomplishments and growth as a writer.

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There are periods in my life when pride is healthy—I am confident in the gifts and blessings God gave me to lead others to Christ. Lately, I have been veering closely to the sin of pride. I look inward at my accomplishments as if I am the sole reason for my successes. I need to be constantly reminded through Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the Mass that humility of heart and mind leads to true success. My best writing does not stem from my intellect.

From my experiences I have learned that listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit along with relying on the wisdom of Mother Church and Her saints provides the greatest fruits in my writing and personal satisfaction. I want to share three ways that one can remain relevant as a Catholic blogger [or really a Catholic evangelizer in general!]

helpful tips

Testify to the Truth

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2465-2466,

The Old Testament attests that God is the source of all truth. His Word is truth. His Law is truth. His “faithfulness endures to all generations.”255 Since God is “true,” the members of his people are called to live in the truth.256

In Jesus Christ, the whole of God’s truth has been made manifest. “Full of grace and truth,” he came as the “light of the world,” he is the Truth.257

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This seems like an obvious statement. Of course, any Catholic needs to testify to the truth. It should go without saying…right!? Perhaps, testifying to the truth is a self-evident statement. Regardless of whether it is obvious or not, it is always good to be clear with our mission as followers of Christ. I am as guilty as anyone of preaching the Word of God, but not living it to its fullest extent. I struggle with anger, pride, gluttony, greed, doubt, and sloth daily. I need to renew my mission as an evangelizer of the Good News, and it starts with me being reminded to remain steadfast to the truth that has been safeguarded and passed down by the Catholic Church.

My former self used to fall into theological rabbit-holes of speculating random questions about Catholicism that did not truly lead me to an authentic love of the Triune God. I removed myself from occasions to unhealthy theological speculation by leaving groups on social media that did not lead me to greater love of the Catholic faith!

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Trust in the Truth

Along with testifying to the truth professed by Jesus Christ and passed on down through Apostolic succession, I need to TRUST in that truth. My penchant toward rationalism and analysis sometimes leads me to scrupulosity in matters of challenging Catholic doctrine. I desire to know all. That is quite prideful! The desire for knowledge about God and Catholicism is not bad in and of itself. When I fall into the extreme of seeking knowledge for the sake of knowledge that it becomes problematic. Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman’s famous quip helps give me perspective. He stated, “Regarding Christianity, ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt.”

I do not have all the answers. In fact, the Catholic Church does not have all the answers either! Some things are left to ponder. God is ultimately a mystery beyond our total comprehension. However, the Catholic Church does have answers to all the most important questions like: what is the purpose of this life? Can we know God? How can we grow in relationship with God and our neighbors?

Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us one of the most important things Catholics should ponder daily: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely; In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths.”

Be Creative

Truth housed within and safeguarded by the Catholic Church is universal. It applies to everyone across the globe—and across time. Different approaches need to be made to teach the truth to different audiences. I have learned that people are at different stages of belief. Even in my own life I need to read various passages of Scripture and diverse writings of saints to help me growth in my spiritual life. Variation in teaching and communication applies to writing as well. I have developed my tone of writing to be less severe.

When I become a father and learning that our children have special needs opened my eyes to the message of the Parable of the Lost Sheep. Our youngest son has cognitive delays and requires weekly special education. This challenged my previous waying of looking at the world in black and white.

You Gather What You Sow

So was my Catholic faith. I believe the Holy Spirit provided me these difficulties to plant—and later harvest—a creative spark in my writing! The Good News is akin to an acorn that develops from a small seed to a magnificent and beautiful oak tree. The Church wants the world to realize that truth is able to develop, and we are still in the process of learning about how to fully describe God’s revelation.

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According to Dei Verbum 8 the Council Fathers declared,

The tradition which comes from the apostles develops in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down. This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts, through a penetrating understanding of the spiritual realities which they experience, and through the preaching of those who have received through episcopal succession the sure gift of truth. For, as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her.

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Change is inevitable. Since I started blogging several months ago, my writing and approach to publicizing my message has changed. Saint John Henry Newman wrote, “To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.” I have to constantly shift my gaze upward to God. My successes come through the power of the Holy Spirit not my own power.

Thank you for sharing!

Why the Man Climbed Up the Sycamore Tree 🌳

Zaccheus

Here’s a fictional episode of Zaccheus before, during, and after him seeing Jesus in Luke 19:1-10.

This is purely from my imagination and is no way meant to be an addition to Scripture nor an official interpretation of the aforementioned passage.


[A short Jewish man knocked on the door of house in the city of Jericho.].

Zaccheus: Anyone home?! Taxes are due. Time to collect.

Elderly Jericho citizen: I already used my last denarii for food. Payday is not until next week.

Zaccheus: [scowling] Fine. But be prepared when I make my next collection round.

[This was the final stop on this daily route. He stopped. This was tough work. Great money. But trying on his conscience. Zaccheus didn’t originally plan on getting into this sort of work. He felt there was no other way to support himself in this economy.]

Zaccheus: [seeing a crowd ahead he asked the nearest person on the street] What is going on?

Standerby: This miracle worker is getting everyone’s attention. Talking about the Kingdom of God. I believe his name is Jesus.

Zaccheus: Jesus?  Maybe he is the one all the scribes and Pharisees were concerned about.

Jesus: The first shall be last and the last first. Love God with your whole heart and love your neighbor like yourself. This is the path to union with God.

Zaccheus: [talking to himself] I need to hear more of what this man, Jesus, is saying. Too bad I am so short and can barely see over a child. Lord, I need a sign.

[A gust blew swiftly past the tax collector.  Zaccheus thought he heard the words, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

Suddenly a brilliantly white light, shaped like a dove, descended from the sky and nestled on a bough of the giant sycamore tree ahead.]

Holy Spirit

Zaccheus: [Thinking to himself] “Lord, you want me to climb that mighty tree? I will look like a fool. I’m too short. Surely, I cannot reach that first limb. It’s too high.”

Zaccheus walked closer. He passed the crowd and arrived at the trunk of the sycamore.  Another amazing thing happened. He noticed smaller branches at the base winding their way up the tree as to form a natural ladder.

He scampered up the leafy ladder. Finally, he reached the giant limb the light-dove landed on. The bird still was perched there.

Jesus: Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.

[Faster than he climbed, Zaccheus descended the tree]

Zaccheus:  Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.

Jesus: [smiling at Zaccheus] Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.

I see you met the Advocate. He will guide you when I return back to my Father.

You will meet a doctor many years later. He will ask about me. Remember our meeting Zaccheus. Tell him everything that has happened.

Zaccheus: Yes, my Lord!

[Zaccheus left a changed man.  In his old age, he met a doctor named Luke. The former tax collector told the physician all that he witnessed in his encounter with Jesus.]

Related Link

Jesus and Mary Talk about the Role of Peter Before Dinner


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Why Death is Not the End


Editor’s Note: Post originally published on January 16, 2018.


Benjamin Franklin once declared, “The only guarantee in this life is taxes and death.” References to our mortality is oftentimes an uncomfortable topic for humanity in modern Western civilization. We do not want to hear, nor discuss, that all things eventually die. Decay of our bodies and deterioration of our minds is a sinister notion. Because of the fall, death [and sin] entered the world. God’s original plan for His greatest creation—mankind— did not involve dying and eventually being buried six feet under.

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Bleakness, death, and despair hounded me over the few months. My wife and I suffered another miscarriage in December and my grandfather suffered a heart attack at the end of 2017—he passed on from this life on January 15th.

Along with my personal encounters with suffering, I attended a funeral Mass for a stranger—my first such event! Our parish priest during the close of the Sunday liturgy told the congregation of a tragic story about a young military mother who died of brain cancer. He notified us of the funeral time to see if anyone wanted to attend to support her family.

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The School of Suffering

Such macabre normally causes me pause—and even fright—however, the school of suffering taught me that death is not the greatest fear in this world. Grounded in my faith combined with the teacher of experience, I learned that death is not the end! While moments of despair linger daily, hope persists. Earlier in 2017, I read Fr. Michael Gaitley’s book ‘You Did it to Me’: Divine Mercy in Action. In hindsight, picking up his work at the Lighthouse Catholic Media kiosk in my church’s atrium was a turning point in my spiritual life. For those that have not heard of this title, the premise of the book involves providing practical ways to infuse divine mercy into our daily living.

Chapter Two of Divine Mercy in Action focused on the corporeal works of mercy of paying our respects to the deceased and welcoming strangers. Fr. Gaitley provided pages at the end of each chapter for practical tips to grow in holiness. Attending a stranger’s funeral—one of the suggestions— piqued my interest. I thought I would have to wait until my children were grown-up in order to actualize the corporeal work of “burying the dead” in my own life.

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The Curious Work of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit works a mysterious and curious manner. Heeding my priest’s words, I scarified my time, something of myself. In a sense, I died—died to my fear—fear of showing up to an event where I knew no one aside from the presiding priests at the funeral. One caveat on this point, I actually did not stay for the entire Mass, and I never was able to enter the church! Instead, I roamed the church vestibules as I brought my two young children with me. Frequently chasing my runaway two-year old eventually got the better of me. Mother Teresa once said, “God doesn’t require you to succeed, he only requires that you try.”

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Death is Not the End

The saint of Calcutta’s wisdom provides us hope. Hope in a better tomorrow. Hope that death is not the end.  The sainted nun stated, “I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.” Hearing those words always helps to re-orient my gaze toward hope and aids me in trusting the Lord. Jesus urged his apostles [and us today] in Matthew 16:24-26 to plunge headlong into the suffering of the Cross in order to fully follow Him.

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ provides all believers the hope that death is not the end! My grandfather was a humble man of steadfast faith. I confidently hope and pray for the repose of his soul that he is able to experience the joy of the Beatific Vision. I prayer for the souls of my unborn daughter and the young military mother whose funeral I attended as well.

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“Eternal rest grant unto them [these three beautiful souls], O Lord. And let the perpetual light shine upon them. And may the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.”

Related Links

Sufferings of The Simple Catholic

Death Is Not the End

Death Is a Veil — and Love Is Eternal

 

Thank you for sharing!

2 Ways I Relate to Max Lucado’s You are Special

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on November 14, 2017.


John Paul II in his 1995 encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae reminds us, “when the sense of God is lost, there is also a tendency to lose the sense of man, of his dignity and his life; in turn, the systematic violation of the moral law, especially in the serious matter of respect for human life and its dignity, produces a kind of progressive darkening of the capacity to discern God’s living and saving presence” (no. 21). Admittedly, I have seen the danger of the reduction of humanity which results in a loss of dignity of the individual person. Days when I struggle with patience, I sometimes reduce my children as tasks to be managed and the ultimate goal is getting them to bedtime by the arbitrary deadline I impose on the family.

Obsessing over Human Praise

As a person with OCD, it is a daily battle to combat my compulsive urges for order and stability. Unfortunately, my control-everything mindset does not simply reside in my home-life—it seeps into the workplace as well. I get to be so goal-driven and task-oriented that sometimes I miss the entire purpose of my job [and well, any job for that matter]—to help others! Over the past couple weeks, I sought out acknowledgement from the superiors in my department and I got a little frustrated when I did not constantly receive “corporate praise”.

Saint Teresa of Avila once said, “There is more value in a little study of humility and in a single act of it than in all the knowledge in the world.” I would do well to heed this advice. I am grateful I came across the saint’s words as I began a fresh week. Focusing on the virtue of humility got my mind thinking. Eventually, my thoughts landed on a book from our living room bookshelf—Max Lucado’s You are Special. This is a story that I relate to more and more with each passing year. God mysteriously stirred the story of the Wemmicks in my long-term memory bank to remind myself the true meaning of life! Let me explain:

god be merciful

God is a Merciful Judge

The tale begins with the average day for wooden creatures known as Wemmicks. Tirelessly, grey dots and golden stars are being placed on each individual. Dots represent a defect in a Wemmick whereas stars signify a positive attribute. All the Wemmicks were created by the same woodcarver—Eli. Punchinello is a Wemmick who receives only grey dots—and a lot of them! He encounters an unblemished Wemmick without the stain of either dots or stars. Punchinello learns that visiting Eli on his hilltop residence grants Wemmicks the knowledge that they do not have to be defined by the type of markings they gave each other. We even discover Eli’s love prohibits dots or stars from sticking to the wooden creatures!

An obvious allegory for the Christian life, I am reminded that any good reward [or lack thereof] I receive at work does not increase or decrease my dignity as a human person or as an adopted son of God. God is a merciful judge. He allows every day to be a new opportunity to love Him and to love my neighbor. The reception of confession is a powerful tool I have utilized in the past couple months to help combat my scrupulosity.

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Doors of Hell are Locked from the Inside

A second lesson gained from You Are Special is that it is my own pride and limited world outlook that prohibits me from experiencing a foretaste of Heaven in this life. I am reminded of the famous quip of C.S. Lewis about the Afterlife, “The doors of hell are locked from the inside!” What this means is that the misery and despair of hell—that is existing apart from God—is self-imposed. I certainly experienced a hellish existence over the past three weeks. I sought to gain control over both work and home. This caused me to veer off the road of holiness . Max Lucado’s book reminded me that despair may be cured with a visit to my Heavenly Father. I need only to give permission to the Holy Spirit to enter into me.

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You are special. I am special. It’s easy to forget God’s merciful love. I will conclude with the Act of Contrition to remind us of God’s mercy and forgiving nature:

O my God, I am sorry for my sins because I have offended you. I know I should love you above all things. Help me to do penance, to do better, and to avoid anything that might lead me to sin. Amen.


Related Links

7 Lessons from Max Lucado’s “You Are Special”

You Are Special: The Prindle Institute

Thank you for sharing!