by Fr. Francis Martin
John 5:39-40: 39 ”You search the scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf. 40 But you do not want to come to me to have life.”
Jesus challenges the notion that one can have eternal life through the scriptures. They are not the source of eternal life: they are witnesses to its source, Jesus. In order to have the life to which the scriptures witness, we must come to Jesus. In John’s gospel, the word “come” often indicates an act of belief in Jesus. Jesus promises the first two disciples who ask where he abides: “Come and (you will) see” (Jn 1:39), and Philip promises the same to Nathanael (Jn 1:46). Later in chapter 6, Jesus states on three occasions that coming to Him is a work of the Father (Jn 6:37,44,66). In this passage Jesus is challenging his audience to act on the witness of the scriptures and believe in the One who can give them life.
This is not to imply that the sacred scriptures cannot bring life. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said in his homily at the opening of the 2004 Synod: “Only the Word of God can profoundly change man's heart, so it is important that individual believers and communities enter into ever increasing intimacy with his Word.” St. Thomas once said that for those who study the scriptures with an open heart, there are “unspeakable delights.” This occurs when believers go to Jesus with a desire to learn about him and to learn from him.
The Blessed Virgin Mary is our model. We read of her that, “she kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19). Then too, St. Paul speaks of the word at work in us: “And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving the word of God from hearing us, you received not a human word but, as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13-14).
Lord, you are the divine Word who works in us with power. Please make us active disciples. Amen.