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Friday, Fifth Week of Lent

March 30, 2007

Blessed Friday!

Did you know that the Church offers us a special gift every Friday
during Lent?  It’s called a plenary indulgence, which pays the debt of
the earthly damage we’ve caused by our sin (Jesus’ death paid for the
eternal debt we owed, but our sin causes damage here on earth too).
There are various ways to ask God and the Church for an indulgence, but
an easy one during Lent is to pray the following prayer before a
crucifix on a Friday of Lent after having received Holy Communion,
prayed for the pope’s intentions (an Our Father and a Hail Mary
suffice), renounced any attachment to sin & gone to Confession
(Confession can be up to a week before or afterward).  It’s a good way
to get our souls “sqeaky clean” for our celebration of Easter!

Prayer Before a Crucifix

Look down upon me, good and gentle Jesus,
while before Your Face I humbly kneel;
and with burning soul, pray and beg You to fix deep in my heart
lively sentiments of Faith, Hope and Charity,
true contrition for all my sins and a firm purpose of amendment;
while I contemplate with great love and tender pity Your five wounds,
and call to mind the words which David, Your Prophet,
said of You, my Jesus: “They have pierced My hands and My feet,
they have numbered all My bones!”
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 bring good out of 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).

The maxim of illusory religion runs:
“Fear not; trust in God
and He will see that none of the things you fear will happen to you.”
That of real religion, on the contrary, is,
“Fear not; the things that you are afraid of
are quite likely to happen to you,
but they are nothing to be afraid of.”
-John MacMurray

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.

May God bless your Lenten proclamation of is Word

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