11th April. Friday in Week 4 of Lent
Saint Stanislaus, bishop and martyr.
Stanislaw of Szczepanow (1030-1079), from 1072 bishop of Krakow, Poland, excommunicated the Polish king Boleslaw “the Bold” (in a conflict like that between King Henry II and Thomas a Becket in 1170). Boleslaw had Stanislaw murdered,in 1079. The cult of Saint Stanislaw the martyr began immediately upon his death.
First Reading: Jeremiah 20:10-13
(Though many plot against God’s servant, he is safe in God’s hands.)
For I hear many whispering: “Terror is all around! Denounce him! Let us denounce him!” All my close friends are watching for me to stumble. “Perhaps he can be enticed, and we can prevail against him, and take our revenge on him.”
But the Lord is with me like a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble, and they will not prevail. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonour will never be forgotten.
O Lord of hosts, you test the righteous, you see the heart and the mind; let me see your retribution upon them, for to you I have committed my cause. Sing to the Lord; praise the Lord! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hands of evildoers.
Gospel: John 10:31-42
(Amid growing danger to Jesus’ life, he withdraws to a quiet place.)
The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus replied, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God.” Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, “I said, you are gods”? If those to whom the word of God came were called “gods” — and the scripture cannot be annulled — can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, “I am God’s Son”? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Then they tried to arrest him again, but he escaped from their hands.
He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing earlier, and he remained there. Many came to him, and they were saying, “John performed no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” And many believed in him there.
Learning to respect our prophets
Both Jeremiah and Jesus were hounded by friends and even close relatives who turned against them. Erstwhile companions feel betrayed when their own personal interests and security are threatened. Jeremiah speaks of the Lord who “has rescued the life of the poor” and Jesus cures the helpless — the blind and the crippled, the deaf and the mute — and returns them to full vigour on the Sabbath. Both were condemned because each of them upset the comfortable, legal system by their shifting of concern from ritualism to caring for actual people. The opponents of Jeremiah and Jesus are not bad but are deeply misguided. They know their Bible and its laws; they can quote them from memory. Yet these had become just sounds, no longer meaningful truths that must accord with the mercy of God.
If taken rigidly, even the commandments of God can become like idols that are worshipped in place of God. They can be quoted to control God and to dictate how God must act in the future. Religious people can find sanctimonious security in unchangeable rules. Our present pope Francis has warned against falling into this trap. “To be ruled by Christ” he said “means always reaching out what lies ahead.” And Jesus clearly condemned a hidebound view of the commandments when he compared the legalist Pharisees to “white-washed tombs” (Matt 23:27). Such rigidity is prompted by “their father the devil” (John 8:44).
We can offset this judgmental tendency which lurks in so many good people, first by an outgoing, common-sense awareness of the needs of others. Then we must root ourselves in God, trying to discern his will in compassion and truth. Jeremiah calls the Lord, “you who probe mind and heart.” Jesus is rooted in the source of his existence, “the Father who is in me and I in him.” We must echo Peter’s prayerful question, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life”