5th Week of Lent, Friday, March 26
Jeremiah 20:10-13 / John 10:31-42
The Jews rebuke Jesus; "You, a man, are making yourself God.”
One night the Philadelphia Orchestra, under the baton of Leopold Stokowski, was performing a Beethoven overture. In it, a part for a trumpet is played offstage. When the time came for the offstage trumpet, there was no sound. Stokowski was furious. Again, the time came for the offstage trumpet. Again, there was only silence. After the overture ended, Stokowski stormed off the stage to find the trumpet player. There he was, his arms pinned to his side by a burly security guard who said, "This nut was trying to play his horn while your concert was going on out there." In a similar way, the people were frustrating God's plan by failing to recognize Jesus' role in it.
Do we sometimes frustrate God's plan in an ignorant way, as the security guard did? "We get no deeper into Christ than we allow him to get in us." John Henry Jowett
Jesus, the Son of God, showed in his life and actions that he was no ordinary human being, even in the face of contradiction. Christians, sons and daughters of God without a capital s or d, who take their faith seriously will also meet contradiction. They cannot compromise if this would be tantamount to betrayal or dishonesty with themselves, with their faith, or with others. But they know that they are in God’s hands. And their deeds will speak for themselves. With Jesus, God’s Son, may we do the work the Father has entrusted to us.
One of the most amazing things in the life of Jesus is the fact that so many people rejected him. Jesus is the personification of all that is good and holy and desirable, and he wishes to draw all men to himself to make them perfectly and eternally happy. Not only did he preach the goodness and love of his Father for men, but he himself revealed that goodness and love by his actions. When some wanted to stone him, he protested, "Many good deeds have I shown you from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?" They then accused him of blasphemy because he made himself God, and yet he was but speaking the truth, and his claim to be divine was confirmed by signs and miracles.
The rejection that Jesus suffered was nothing new. Jeremiah, who did nothing but speak the truth in God's name, was likewise rejected (first reading). When he warned the people about the destruction of Jerusalem unless they repented, he was arrested, beaten, and put in stocks.
Yes, it is amazing that Jesus, as well as Jeremiah and other prophets in Israel, were rejected by so many people when they spoke the truth. Why were they rejected? There are many complicated reasons, but one reason is that sometimes the truth can hurt. When the truth makes us face our own failures and inadequacies, the easiest way to escape our responsibilities and the need to change is to ignore or deny the truth. When a teacher informs irresponsible parents that their child is both a scholastic and a disciplinary problem in school, that evaluation is a judgment of the parents as well as the child. Rather than face their own failure and the need to do something about the child, the parents take the easy way out and refuse to accept the teacher's report.
The truth can hurt, even the truth preached by Jesus. The truth of Jesus demands that we be different from others, it requires that we accept suffering and self-denial, and that we abandon our selfishness to be generous in our love and service of others. Let us pray in the mass that we will never take the easy way out by rejecting Jesus and his truth.
1. In Control: Unlike the synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of John is highly theological and loaded with symbolism intent on convincing the reader that Jesus is God. In these verses, Jesus was accused of blasphemy because he told the Jews that he and the Father are one. Blasphemy was a sin punishable by death. When they tried to stone him and arrest him, Jesus, full of divine power, simply walked away from the angry mob and back to the river Jordan to continue his work. Jesus was in full control. He knew exactly when and where his ultimate sacrifice would be made, and it was not to be this day. He had more work to do.
2. Never Wavered: Christ showed by his words and actions that he was aware of who he was—the one whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world. He had been given a mission from the Father and would carry it out until his last breath. This consciousness of his divine Sonship led him to confidently and courageously stand up to attacks against his person. We received a new identity at our baptism. We became, once and for all, children of God. Having confidence in our filial relationship to God, we too can courageously face life’s obstacles. “But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name...” (John 1:12).
3. Works versus Words: Christ invited the doubting Jews to look at his body of work and not what he had said. Words can often be argued with, but actions speak for themselves. It was almost as if Christ was pleading with them to acknowledge the truth of his message. Their response? They stepped forward to arrest him. Sometimes we’re called to speak out, and sometimes we’re called to act on behalf of the Gospel. Like Jesus, even when we have been completely docile to the Holy Spirit, the souls we’re trying to reach, of their own free will, may reject us and the mission we attempt to fulfill.
Lord our God, you are a loyal God, ever faithful to your promises. Strengthen our faith, that with Jesus we may always keep trusting in you in spite of prejudices, ridicule or contradiction. Give us the firm conviction that you are irrevocably committed to us in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen