Gospel: JN 10:31-42
The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus.
Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from my Father.
For which of these are you trying to stone me?”
The Jews answered him,
“We are not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy.
You, a man, are making yourself God.”
Jesus answered them,
“Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, ‘You are gods”‘?
If it calls them gods to whom the word of God came,
and Scripture cannot be set aside,
can you say that the one
whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world
blasphemes because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?
If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me;
but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me,
believe the works, so that you may realize and understand
that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”
Then they tried again to arrest him;
but he escaped from their power.
He went back across the Jordan
to the place where John first baptized, and there he remained.
Many came to him and said,
“John performed no sign,
but everything John said about this man was true.”
And many there began to believe in him.
The Jewish Feast of Dedication is also called the Festival of Lights or Hanukkah. This feast was held in December, near the time we celebrate Christmas. This is the time of the year when the day is the shortest and the night the longest. Jesus used this occasion to declare that he is the true light of the world (John 8:12).
In this light we can see who God truly is and we can find the true path to heaven. Jesus teaches us of his tremendous trust in God his Father, and the kind of trust we should have in him, our Good Shepherd. Jesus offers us an abiding relationship with the Father as members of his flock. He promises us security of peace and protection from evil and the greatest harm than can happen to us: eternal destruction.
God does not spare us from problems in this life. In this life we will experience pain, suffering, and death. However, through these sufferings, Jesus will lead us to final victory and safety when he will welcome us into his everlasting home. Even in the midst of suffering we can find peace and assurance which no one can give except God alone.
The gift of faith enables us to follow Jesus with confidence wherever he leads us. It is trust in his promise that nothing can keep us from God that enables us to accept whatever crosses that may come our way.
Today, I will reflect on this question: Will I place my life securely where it belongs – in the hands of a loving Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Reflect on why Jesus was charged with blasphemy when he claimed that he is the Son of God. Blasphemy, according to the Law of Moses meant the death penalty. When I am accused of wrong doing, can I like Jesus pose the question he did to his accusers: “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, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Unlike Jesus, we may not be able to escape as he did, but we need to remember that in the end he did face the death penalty. He offered his life so that we may have life in him – life eternal. Just before he was sentenced to death he prayed for his disciples that his Father would keep them in his love – not only for them did he pray, but for all who would come to believe in him.
How many people are on Death Row for a crime that have not committed! How few are declared innocent after 30 or 40 years in prison! It may be a good thing to pray for those condemned to Death Row unjustly that their innocence may be known. We pray also for anyone who suffers injustice.
We adore you, O Christ and we praise you, because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world!
Gospel: JN 8:51-59
Jesus said to the Jews:
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever keeps my word will never see death.”
So the Jews said to him,
“Now we are sure that you are possessed.
Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say,
‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’
Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died?
Or the prophets, who died?
Who do you make yourself out to be?”
Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is worth nothing;
but it is my Father who glorifies me,
of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’
You do not know him, but I know him.
And if I should say that I do not know him,
I would be like you a liar.
But I do know him and I keep his word.
Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day;
he saw it and was glad.”
So the Jews said to him,
“You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
before Abraham came to be, I AM.”
So they picked up stones to throw at him;
but Jesus hid and went out of the temple area.
Who Does He Think He Is?
It seems Jesus finds himself in a tough place when trying to pass on the promise of eternal life, but he ends up causing a riot. Jesus answers the questions of the crowd accurately, but because of their confusion and inability to comprehend that a young man standing before them could be the Messiah, they are ready to stone him.
It seems like the tipping point for the Israelites within this passage is “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.” It’s not just the fact that Abraham is such a great father, a leader, a prophet and a priest to them and Jesus is saying he came before him, but the fact that he used the very words that God gave to Abraham to prove God’s very own existence, that causes a scandal! How dare this young man, Joseph’s son, come before us and preach about eternal life? Who does he believe he is? He must be possessed!!
What more does Jesus need to do for them to believe that he is the chosen one? Drive out more demons, raise another man from the dead, heal more sick, allow more people to see and walk?
It makes one wonder, how many times has the Lord shown answers to questions, paths we’re suppose to take and yet we do not choose to recognize them. How many times have we been outraged by something that truly is the work of God, but we just do not believe that God could possibly use that time or that place to give us a message. Such disbelief.
How can we use these last days of lent to see Christ more fully in life and not be “blind” to his message?
Gospel: JN 8:31-42
Jesus said to those Jews who believed in him,
“If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples,
and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham
and have never been enslaved to anyone.
How can you say, ‘You will become free’?”
Jesus answered them, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.
A slave does not remain in a household forever,
but a son always remains.
So if the Son frees you, then you will truly be free.
I know that you are descendants of Abraham.
But you are trying to kill me,
because my word has no room among you.
I tell you what I have seen in the Father’s presence;
then do what you have heard from the Father.”
They answered and said to him, “Our father is Abraham.”
Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children,
you would be doing the works of Abraham.
But now you are trying to kill me,
a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God;
Abraham did not do this.
You are doing the works of your father!”
So they said to him, “We were not born of fornication.
We have one Father, God.”
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me,
for I came from God and am here;
I did not come on my own, but he sent me.”
Change is Hard, but the Truth is Worth It
When Jesus tells the people, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free,” the people pretend to not understand what he is saying. For every nugget of truth he gives them -- “you will be free if you follow the Father. . . I’m from the Father” -- they protest -- “we’re not slaves . . . we are children of Abraham” -- like children who don’t want to hear. Why don’t they understand? He couldn’t be more clear: He’s using words of one syllable!
But because we have to first SEE the truth and then KNOW it, we get scared and pretend what He’s saying probably doesn’t apply to us. The truth can be scary, especially when it contradicts what we think we know. To make a change, we have to move beyond the comfortable, the known, and into new territory. We might make mistakes. We might not be good at it.
As a parent and a writing teacher, I tend to see things through the lenses of my experience. So to me, learning to acknowledge the truth is like learning a new skill -- argumentative writing, for instance. We take what we already know and expand it, stretch it, and take a risk. Did I do it right? Is this what I was supposed to do? The directions are right in front of us, but we still worry. It’s much easier to keep doing what we’re used to doing. But once we stop protesting that we’re fine, thank you, no change needed here, wonderful things happen. We learn. We grow.
Jesus wants us to know Him. He’s the Truth. He’s the Way. So the lovely thing about knowing the truth is that we just need to know Jesus. Follow the directions He’s given us; stop protesting, and listen to the truth.
Gospel: JN 8:21-30
Jesus said to the Pharisees:
“I am going away and you will look for me,
but you will die in your sin.
Where I am going you cannot come.”
So the Jews said,
“He is not going to kill himself, is he,
because he said, ‘Where I am going you cannot come’?”
He said to them, “You belong to what is below,
I belong to what is above.
You belong to this world,
but I do not belong to this world.
That is why I told you that you will die in your sins.
For if you do not believe that I AM,
you will die in your sins.”
So they said to him, “Who are you?”
Jesus said to them, “What I told you from the beginning.
I have much to say about you in condemnation.
But the one who sent me is true,
and what I heard from him I tell the world.”
They did not realize that he was speaking to them of the Father.
So Jesus said to them,
“When you lift up the Son of Man,
then you will realize that I AM,
and that I do nothing on my own,
but I say only what the Father taught me.
The one who sent me is with me.
He has not left me alone,
because I always do what is pleasing to him.”
Because he spoke this way, many came to believe in him.
Jesus is God’s love for us. Yes, it’s that simple. But sometimes it’s the simplest things that hardest for us to digest. The Pharisees fail to not only recognize Jesus, but also God the Father. But are they even trying? Well, maybe they are. One line that has caught my attention is when Jesus says to the Pharisees, “…you will look for me.” Of course literally one can take it that this to mean that Jesus knows they will wonder what happen to his body after the resurrection and so will “look for him.” But also, maybe Jesus is recognizing that even the Pharisee (and indeed all of us) are, underneath it all, trying to search for God’s love. Even though we are of this world below, we are programed to yearn for that warmth, to seek what is true and good. St. Augustine described this yearning best when speaking to God he wrote, “My heart is restless until it rests in thee.”
But why do we so often fail to recognize God; why are we often are so spiritually restless? Well, why did the Pharisees fail to recognize God? It’s because they don’t understand the immensity of God’s love. First off they miss it in the incarnation of God in Jesus. “Yahweh, the God of our ancestors,” think the Pharisees, “is in heaven managing everything. Who is this loony blasphemy chap think he is?” If it doesn’t occur to you that we have a God who wants to be so close to us that he would take on human flesh in the person of Jesus, the Son of God, then you’ll miss the incarnation. And if doesn’t occur to you that we have a God that loves us so immensely that this Son of God would die for us, then you’ll miss the cross.
But fortunately, isn’t it true that love often awakes us; it jolts us. When I encounter selfless acts of love or mercy in my own life I constantly find myself thinking, “wow, I still can’t believe she did that. That was so kind. Why?” It’s love that quiets our hearts to where we can more clearly feel that yearning for God that permeates our being. And while the cross is a direct window into the vastness of God’s love, our day to day loving can grant others glimpses of who God is. I almost like to think of it as all of our acts of love being road signs or arrows that point to God’s love. They are approximations admittedly, but yet still very real acts of selflessness. This Lent let us not just pray, give alms and be perhaps more charitable than usual, but let’s actually share the good news of God’s love by loving people like Jesus.
Please pray with me throughout today: “Jesus, help me to love people like you do.”
Gospel: JN 8:12-20
Jesus spoke to them again, saying,
“I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.”
So the Pharisees said to him,
“You testify on your own behalf,
so your testimony cannot be verified.”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“Even if I do testify on my own behalf, my testimony can be verified,
because I know where I came from and where I am going.
But you do not know where I come from or where I am going.
You judge by appearances, but I do not judge anyone.
And even if I should judge, my judgment is valid,
because I am not alone,
but it is I and the Father who sent me.
Even in your law it is written
that the testimony of two men can be verified.
I testify on my behalf and so does the Father who sent me.”
So they said to him, “Where is your father?”
Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father.
If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”
He spoke these words
while teaching in the treasury in the temple area.
But no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.
"I know where I came from and where I am going." (8:14) This passage in John's Gospel is important for me in 2016. I have so many decisions to make each day and each of these decisions should reflect, for me, who I am and what I value. Every action and all I say should speak of my faith and my understanding that I am created in the image of a God who loves me and loves every person my decisions involve. The decisions also reflect my ultimate goal in life, which is to be with God eternally in heaven.
Jesus also says, "If you knew me, you would know my Father also." (8:19) An important way I can get to know God more intimately is to take time each day to develop my relationship with Jesus. Reading and praying with the Gospels and being open to the graces God offers to me each day, helps me to get to know Jesus who teaches me about his Father.
St. Edith Stein reminds us how important daily prayer is and how important it is to begin our day with being aware of God's presence in our lives. "Let go of your plans. The first hour of your morning belongs to God. Tackle the day's work that he charges you with, and he will give you the power to accomplish it." (E. Stein) Don't spend the hour worrying with God. Just present your day to God and if something comes to you, simply place it in his hands. Be trusting, be receptive.
All love, all good, is offered to me each day, each moment of the day. I have only to spend time being open. That is the gift of Lent - time to slow down, reflect, practice mercy and compassion. Live like Christ. Take time to learn more about who Jesus is and who he leads me to, his Father.
I have to ask myself:
1. Jesus is the light of the world. How do I reflect that in my relationships with family, friends, teachers?
2. How do I show that I know and love God in my interactions with others on social media? Through my face-to-face interactions? Do I use electronic communication at times when face-to-face communication would be more loving? DO I turn off my electronic devices during the day?3. How do I trust the power of God to accomplish good through me when I don't stand up for a student who may be experiencing bullying or abuse?
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