The Seal of Approval by Rev. Paul Saclia
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. And when they found him across the sea they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you get here?" Jesus answered them and said, "Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal." So they said to him, "What can we do to accomplish the works of God." Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent." So they said to "What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat." So Jesus said to them, ":Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."
So they said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always." Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst"
In the "electronic age" we may not grasp the significance of a seal. After all, we will more likely hit the "send" button than seal and post a letter. We will sooner click "open" than break the seal of an envelope. Nevertheless, even we the children of the Internet and e-mail are not completely without an understanding of a seal. We still know that certain documents must bear an official seal (your diploma is not much good without it). And in the supermarket we still seek out the good housekeeping seal of approval. We still understand that a seal indicates two thing: authenticity and authority.
In Our Lord's day a seal was most often made by impressing an image (for example, from a signet ring) on hot wax. The dried wax then bore the image, the likeness of the seal itself. It communicated to the recipient the authenticity and authority of the document. Our Lord uses the image of the seal to describe Himself. He instructs the crowds in Capernaum, "Do not work for food that perishes but for the good that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal." (Jn 6:27)
The seal indicates, first of all, the authenticity of the Son's witness. It guarantees that He is the "genuine article," as we might say. The Father has indeed "set his seal" on Christ - but not in an external, extrinsic manner. Rather, this image of the seal describes the intimate union between the Father and the Son. The Son shares perfectly in the divinity of the Father. He lacks nothing of the divine nature. He is "God from God," as we say every Sunday. Our Lord's sacred humanity communicates the Father perfectly - not as a representative, an angel or a prophet but as "the image of the invisible God," (Col 1:15), "the very imprint of his being." (Heb 1:3) The Father has "set his seal" on Jesus in such an intimate and profound way that our Lord can say, "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father" (Jn 14:9) and "The Father and I are one." (Jn 10:30) If we want to discover the authentic witness to the Father, we need only look the Christ's sacred humanity.
The seal also indicates authority. And this flows, of course, from authenticity. Because Christ is the authentic witness to the Father, His words and actions possess authority. An authentic witness is also an authoritative witness. But the authority here comes from the one who has set the seal. And so Christ says, "The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does His works." (Jn 14:10 cf. Jn 5:27, 30;8:28) Hid teaching are authoritative because on Him the Father has set His seal.
Our Lord's seal teaches us something also about ourselves - because we are to be "other Christs," Christians. God "has put his seal upon us" (1 Cor 1:22) and we have been "sealed with the promised Holy Spirit" (Eph 1:13) We must strive to live according to this baptismal truth, to grow into it. We must become like that hot wax: impressionable, capable of receiving an imprint. In our culture the word "impressionable" usually has negative connotations. But we must become impressionable in a good sense - capable of being impressed with the likeness of Christ in our very person, able to receive the imprint of Christ within us. The clearer and deeper His seal is set within us, the more authentic will be our witness to Him. And the more authentic our life to Christ, The more authoritative that witness will be.
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