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Friday, fifth week of Lent

March 14, 2008

Blessed Friday!

Lord, grant us Your forgiveness,
and set us free from our enslavement to sin.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(Opening Prayer for today’s Mass)

Readings:
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)

“Terror on every side! Denounce! let us denounce him!
All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine.
‘Perhaps he will be trapped; then we can prevail, and take our vengeance on him’”
(Jeremiah 20:10)

“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”
(Psalm 18:5)

“Then some of the Jews again reached for rocks to stone Him…
they again tried to arrest Him” (John 10: 31, 39)

Death is looming ominously over Jesus’ every move, unable to bring Him down–yet–because His hour has not yet come. He is making the most of every moment, of every opportunity to lead these beloved, rock-hearted sheep to the faith that can save them.

“If I do not perform My Father’s works, put no faith in Me. But if I do perform them, even though you put no faith in Me, put faith in these works, so as to realize what it means that the Father is in Me and I in Him” (John 10:38).

Jesus had already told us, “You will know them by their deeds…You can tell a tree by its fruit” (Matthew 7:16, 20). That’s true of God as well. We will recognize Him by what He does. When St. John the Baptist had sent disciples to ask Jesus if He was the Messiah, Jesus had pointed to His works as His credentials: “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: the blind recover their sight, cripples walk, lepers are cured, the deaf hear, dead men are raised to life, and the poor have the good news preached to them” (Matthew 11:2-5). These are the very things God promised to do through His Messiah (see Isaiah 26:19, 29:18-19, 35:5-6).

Unfortunately, anger has rendered these particular sheep utterly incapable of rational thought, so Jesus withdraws to give them a chance to clear their heads before He tries again.

He withdraws strategically, going across the Jordan River to the place where St. John the Baptist–who’d since fallen prey to Herod’s sword–had baptized. Those who follow Him must go through the river, through Baptism. They must return to a place reminiscent of John’s testimony, “Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world!…This is God’s chosen One” (John 1:29, 34). Jesus leads His followers away from those who refuse to believe, even as He led the Children of Israel out of unbelieving Egypt. He leads them out into the desert. “So will I allure her; I will lead her into the desert and I will speak to her heart…She shall respond there as in the days of her youth, when she came up from the land of Egypt…She shall call Me ‘My husband,’ and never again ‘My baal’ [a play on words–“Baal” is the name of an idol, but it also means “master”]” (Hosea 2:16, 17, 18). “In that place, many came to believe in Him” (John 10:42).

Those who try to seize Jesus out of hatred must ultimately lose their grip. Those who persistently pursue Him in faith become His bride, purified in the bath of water by the power of the word (Baptism and Confession), presented to Him as a glorious church, holy and immaculate, without stain or wrinkle or anything of that sort (see Ephesians 5:25-27).

May we follow God’s chosen One through the waters of Baptism and Confession, through the desert of Lent, to the wedding banquet of the Lamb (see Revelation 19:9).

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