A guide from Patrick Fitzgerald-Lombard O.Carm
The Lectionary now omits chapter 6 of John's Gospel. Here at Passover, the crowds are fed by Jesus with just a few loaves and fish. This leads into the great Bread of Life discourse.
Not surprisingly perhaps, this discourse was thought to be more suitable for the Easter Season.
Parts of chapter 7 of the Gospel are read on Friday and Saturday.
On Friday: Jn 7,1-2.10.25-30
On Saturday: Jn 7,40-52
In order to put the readings into context, we need first to read the whole chapter, 7,1-52, and so have an overview.
The setting is the Jewish feast of booths or Tabernacles, the time when Jews even today recall the experiences of their people in the desert following the exodus from Egypt. Water and light are both important in the symbolism of this feast, both seen as being life giving.
This is not an easy chapter to summarize. One approach is to follow the changes of audience. This has the advantage of gauging their different reactions to Jesus, an important starting point for Lectio Divina:
7,1-10: Jesus and his (disbelieving) brothers (who may be taken as his extended family).
7,11-19: Jesus and the Jews with Jesus' response in verses 16-19
7,20-31: The crowd answered with Jesus reply in verses 21-24 and, to the Jerusalem part of the crowd, in verses 28-29
The rest of the chapter centres on the Pharisees and the Temple Police (verses 32 and 45-52). From this comes Saturday's reading so we will consider it tomorrow.
The Gospel for today is therefore a carefully edited selection from the first half of the chapter, verses 1-2.10 and 25-30.
Omitted is the disagreement between Jesus and his bothers. There is just one mention of them, though their presence needs explanation as above to a Catholic congregation.
The first part of the chapter therefore gets Jesus to Jerusalem for the feast of Tabernacles.
The core of the reading is therefore 7,25-30. Verse 31 is omitted with its conclusion that many in the crowd believed in Jesus. In this verse, signs are mentioned because, as I have said, signs are works (verse 21) which lead to believing in Jesus.
The result is a focus on those from Jerusalem who reject Jesus because they think they know his origins (verse 27). In all the Gospels, it is Jerusalem which rejects Jesus.
Jesus replies in verses 28 and 29 that there is more going on than they realise. Jesus' unknown origins are from the one who sent him, the one who is true (mistranslated in the Lectionary). That truth makes Jesus the unique revealer of God and truth is an important theme of this Gospel, with its climax in Jn 18,37-38.
This claim of his origins leads to the rejection of Jesus in verse 30 as it has done before, Jn 5,19.
However, the hour of Jesus has not yet come, as it will in Jn 13,1.
Today, the Gospel is the last scene in the chapter, Jn 7,40-52.
The second half of chapter 7 is framed by two scenes involving the Pharisees and their officers. The officers are sent to arrest Jesus in verse 32 and report their failure in verses 45-46.
In between, there is the great proclamation by Jesus that all who are thirsty can come to him, 7,37-39. From his heart will flow living water as it will after his death (Jn 19,34) referring to the giving of the Spirit. This is a Gospel proclaimed at Pentecost therefore.
This is followed by the different reactions of the crowd. The crowd is an important character in all the Gospels, often fickle.
Today's Gospel then indicates that the officers were among those convinced by Jesus, verse 46. This is then rejected by the Pharisees as a whole. There is a reaction from Nicodemus who came to Jesus by night in chapter 3. Here, he continues to refuse to commit himself one way or another.
The Lent presentation of chapter 7 is therefore edited to highlight the continuing controversy and rejection which Jesus is causing by his teaching. The plot thickens as we head towards Holy Week.