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Friday, fifth week of Lent

March 18, 2005

Blessed St. Cyril of Jerusalem’s Day! (look for his story in a neighboring post)

Jeremiah 20:10-13 (Jeremiah is threatened, but he trusts God to protect him)
Psalm 18:2-7 “In my distress I called upon the Lord, and He heard my voice”
+John 10:31-42 (the Jews want to kill Jesus for claiming to be God)

Jeremiah and Jesus are both suffering persecution for daring to proclaim God’s Word. Both are in constant danger of death. Jeremiah has just been scourged, locked in stocks overnight and taunted. Terror and persecution stalk him on every side. Even his friends have turned against him. And it’s all because of his vocation, because of his identity as a prophet. God has called him to say things people don’t want to hear and they’re taking out their anger on the messenger.

Jesus, having already dodged several attempts to arrest or stone Him, also faces another attempt on His life. He too is being threatened because He speaks God’s Word, because He is God’s Word. He’s in the temple area again, during the feast of Hanukkah, and this time the mob has rocks in their hands.

Jesus is still trying to get the message through their thick skulls that He really is God, but all they can hear is that He claims to be God. They refuse to acknowledge that the works Jesus does are the works God told them to look for in the Messiah. “Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy” (Isaiah 35:5-6). Jesus has just opened the eyes of the man born blind (John 9), given a deaf-mute the power of hearing and speech (Mark 7:32-35) and cured a man who had been unable to move (John 5:1-9, among others), but that’s not enough for them. Neither are they willing to see the connection between the manna God gave them in the desert and the multiplication of the loaves in the deserted place (John 6:4-13). They don’t want to see in Joshua’s rescue of the harlot of Jericho (Joshua 6:25) a precursor of Jesus’ salvation of prostitutes and tax collectors. The list goes on. As the old saying goes, there are none so blind as those who will not see.

Jesus keeps pointing His fellow Jews back to His works (John 5:36, John 10:25, John 10:37-38, John 14:10-12). “Many good works have I shown you from My Father. For which of these works do you stone Me?” (John 10:32). Again, they dismiss His point. “Not for a good work do we stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a man, make Yourself God.” (John 10:33). Jesus isn’t about to let His point be dismissed. If they want to argue about words, they’ll have to explain away Psalm 82:6, which refers to human leaders as “gods” and “sons of the Most High”. If mere mortals can be called gods, how much more the Second Person of the Trinity! Then Jesus returns to the point. “If I do not perform the works of My Father, do not believe in Me. But if I do perform them, and if you are not willing to believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me and I in the Father” (John 10:37-38).

There are a number of lessons we can learn from these readings. Most importantly, they confirm yet again Jesus’ identity as the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. If we had any doubts concerning that fact (and many today do), we need to take up Jesus’ challenge to study the meaning of His works, to come to believe that God sent Him and that He is God.

In addition, we’re reminded that those who belong to God can expect to suffer for it in this world. That’s just one of the consequences of original sin. However, the suffering of this world can’t even be compared to the glory of the next. “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). And when he spoke of “sufferings”, St. Paul knew what he was talking about. This is the man who was scourged and beaten multiple times, stoned, shipwrecked and in constant danger of imprisonment and death (see II Corinthians 11:25-28)!

Lest the promise of suffering make us draw back in fear, we’re also reminded that we’re not in this alone. We will suffer, yes, but God has everything in hand. He will not allow us to suffer more than we can bear and He will redeem every bit of suffering that we offer back to Him. Jeremiah, in the midst of his torment, praised God for the eternal deliverance he anticipated (Jeremiah 20:13). Jesus, rebuffed at the temple, went back to the Jordan, where His ministry had begun, and found open-hearted hearers among the common people. “And many believed in Him” (John 10:42).

Even when terror stalks us on every side, may we boldly live out the identity to which God has called us as children of God.

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