4th April. Friday in Week 4 of Lent
Saint Isidore of Seville.
Isidore (560-636) from Cartagena on the east coast of Spain, served as Archbishop of Seville for more than thirty years and was involved in the conversion of the royal Visigothic Arians to Catholicism. For his wide learning he was considered “the last scholar of the ancient world”. In his Etymologiae he preserved extracts of many books from classical antiquity that would have otherwise been lost. He died in Seville on 4 April 636.
First Reading: Wisdom 2:1, 12-22
(“Lying in wait for the righteous man” — a prediction of the Passion of Jesus.)
For they reasoned unsoundly, saying to themselves, “Short and sorrowful is our life, and there is no remedy when a life comes to its end, and no one has been known to return from Hades. “Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law, and accuses us of sins against our training. He professes to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a child of the Lord. He became to us a reproof of our thoughts; the very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange. We are considered by him as something base, and he avoids our ways as unclean; he calls the last end of the righteous happy, and boasts that God is his father. Let us see if his words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life; for if the righteous man is God’s child, he will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries. Let us test him with insult and torture, so that we may find out how gentle he is, and make trial of his forbearance. Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected.”
Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray, for their wickedness blinded them, and they did not know the secret purposes of God, nor hoped for the wages of holiness, nor discerned the prize for blameless souls;
Gospel: John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30
(Jesus goes up privately to Jerusalem for the feast; the crowds wonder about his authority.)
After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He did not wish to go about in Judea because the Jews were looking for an opportunity to kill him. Now the Jewish festival of Booths was near. So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea so that your disciples also may see the works you are doing; for no one who wants to be widely known acts in secret. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” (For not even his brothers believed in him.) Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify against it that its works are evil. Go to the festival yourselves. I am not going to this festival, for my time has not yet fully come.” After saying this, he remained in Galilee.
But after his brothers had gone to the festival, then he also went, not publicly but as it were in secret. Now some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, “Is not this the man whom they are trying to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, but they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Messiah? Yet we know where this man is from; but when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.” Then Jesus cried out as he was teaching in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I am from. I have not come on my own. But the one who sent me is true, and you do not know him. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.” Then they tried to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come.
Near to all who are in trouble
The innocent victim in the first reading, persecuted and tested by malicious people, seems to provoke opposition for professing to know God and for claiming to be a child of God. A similar, mysterious origin is claimed by Jesus. When his own relations took a very limited view of him he replied: “I was sent by One whom you do not know. I know him because I come from him.” While the “innocent one” in Wisdom is humiliated and oppressed, no one dared lay a finger on Jesus because “his hour had not yet come.”
Serious problems can result when people attempt to use power and prestige for self-indulgent projects, doubt the motives of everyone else, and refuse to believe that anyone is genuinely dedicated to what is right. What the Book of Wisdom recounts about persecution from the wicked can be said of the struggles each of us must undergo at times. In the response after the first reading we say: “The Lord is near to broken hearts.” Unjust accusations are painful to bear, but they can enable us to reach more deeply into our roots, where God is very near with his mysterious loving providence. “Many are the troubles of the just, but from them all the Lord delivers them.”