12Apr Friday of Week 5 of Lent

12 April 2019.

1st Reading: Jeremiah 20:10-13

Though many plot against him, 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.

Responsorial: Psalm 18

Response: In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice

I love you, O Lord, my strength,
O Lord, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer. (R./)

My God, my rock of refuge,
my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold!
Praised be the Lord, I exclaim,
and I am safe from my enemies. (R./)

The breakers of death surged round about me,
the destroying floods overwhelmed me;
The cords of the nether world enmeshed me,
the snares of death overtook me. (R./)

In my distress I called upon the Lord
and cried out to my God;
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears. (R./)

Gospel: John 10:31-42

When his life is in danger, Jesus goes off to a quiet place

When 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.


Valuing our prophets

Both Jeremiah and Jesus were attacked for their beliefs, but the mission of both was real. It’s not unusual for prophets to be resisted and rejected. An audience can turn hostile if they feel their personal interests or security threatened. Rich people were irritated when Jeremiah spoke of God who “rescues the life of the poor.” And devotees of the Sabbath rest were angry when Jesus cured sick people on the Sabbath. Both were condemned because they each shifted concern away from rituals and legalism, to focus on caring for actual people. Their opponents were not bad or mad, but they were deeply misguided. The stone-throwers knew their Biblical laws by heart. But these had become ossified, set in stone, rather than meaningful guidelines to show what God wants from us.

If taken rigidly, religious rules can become like idols, worshipped in place of God. Even good, sincere people can be tempted to see life as governed by unchangeable precepts. “If you step over that line, you’ll be in sin.” “Stay within the law and you’ll be all right.” Pope Francis has warned against 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). Their heartless, unbending rigidity, he suggests, was prompted by “their father the devil” (John 8:44).

To offset any judgmentalism in ourselves, We need to have a common-sense awareness of today’s culture and of how our neighbours see their own lives. We need to root ourselves in God, trying to discern his will, in a spirit of compassion and truth. Jeremiah calls God the One who probes mind and heart. Jesus is rooted in his intimate awareness of that God: “the Father is in me and I in him.” We can echo Peter’s prophetic awareness, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Contrasting estimates of Jesus

The Jews angrily opposed Jesus because of the claims he made for himself. “You are only a man and you claim to be God,” they said. Jesus had said, “I am the Son of God. the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” He claims a unique relationship with God, such that whoever sees him sees God, the Father. The fourth gospel puts it graphically: the Word who was with God “became flesh and dwelt amont us.” Jesus is truly God in human form. That conviction is at the core of our Christian faith.

Because Jesus is the revelation of God, the healing works he does are the work of the Father. God’s recreative work is shown Jesus. God will always be a mystery to us, but Jesus has unveiled that mystery to draw us into the life of God. He has revealed that God is, ultimately, the fullness of Love. In the words of the first letter of John, “God is Love.” In his gospel John says, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” That is the wonderful mystery that we will be celebrating this coming Holy Week.

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