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Saturday, fourth week of Lent

March 28, 2009

Blessed Saturday!

Lord, guide us in Your gentle mercy,
for left to ourselves we cannot do Your will.
Grant 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)

Jeremiah 11:18-20 (Jeremiah’s life is threatened)
Psalm 7:2-12 “Lord, my God, I take shelter in you”
+John 7:40-53 (the people are divided over Jesus, but nobody arrests Him)

Things are not always as they seem…especially with God.

“Surely the Messiah is not to come from Galilee? Does not Scripture say that the Messiah, being of David’s family, is to come from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?” (John 7:41-42). So how did they know He was a Galilean? Probably the same way the servant girl knew Peter was a Galilean when she said, “You are certainly one of them! Even your accent gives you away!” (Matthew 26:73). They were content to object, not willing to uncover an uncomfortable truth by asking Jesus for an explanation.

Nor was it obvious who was really in danger. On the surface, one might reasonably assume that Jesus was at risk. “The chief priests and Pharisees together sent temple guards to arrest Him (John 7:32). Yet it was the guards themselves who were arrested–by Jesus. “Why did you not bring Him in?” “No man ever spoke like that before” (John 7:45-46).

Here again we have layers of implications. These guards have failed in the line of duty…and they’re subsequently taunted by their bosses as fools, duped like the rest of the unwashed masses. Their jobs, their credibility were on the line and they just blew it…or did they? They had gotten a taste of the living water Jesus had promised (see John 7:37-38). They had believed, even if just a little bit. Eternal life was within their reach.

Not so the Pharisees. “You do not see any of the Sanhedrin believing in Him, do you? Or the Pharisees?” (John 7:48). With the exception of Nicodemus, no, we don’t. And therein lies the greatest danger of all. “Whoever does not believe is already condemned for not believing in the Name of God’s only Son” (John 3:18). Eternal death, eternal condemnation was just a heartbeat away. “Even now the ax is laid to the root of the tree” (Matthew 3:10).

For Jeremiah, too, appearances were deceiving. “I had not realized that they were hatching plots against me: ‘Let us destroy the tree in its vigor; let us cut him off from the land of the living, so that his name will be spoken no more’” (Jeremiah 11:19). But this doesn’t tell the whole story either. “A sword the wicked draw; they bend their bow to bring down the afflicted and the poor, to slaughter those whose path is right. But their swords shall pierce their own hearts, and their bows shall be broken” (Psalm 37:14-15). “You set them, indeed, on a slippery road; You hurl them down to ruin. How suddenly they are made desolate! They are completely wasted away amid horrors” (Psalm 73:18-19).

Even when the wicked succeed in killing the body, they cannot destroy the soul (see Matthew 10:28). The bodies of the godly will be resurrected, glorified, reunited with their souls forever in eternal life (see I Corinthians 15:52, I Thessalonians 4:16, etc.). Even as it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Christ (see Acts 2:24), “if we have been united with Him through likeness to His death, so shall we be through a like resurrection” (Romans 6:5).

On the contrary, anyone whose name is not found inscribed in the book of life will ultimately be cast into the pool of fire which is the second death (see Revelation 20:14-15), where “their worm shall not die, nor their fire be extinguished; and they shall be abhorrent to all mankind” (Isaiah 66:24).

We naturally sympathize with the persecuted, with those who are the prey of the wicked. Yet they are the victors! The wicked, the persecutors, are the ones who are in greatest need of rescue, in greatest danger of eternal horror.

“But if you are still grieving and bowing down, I should like to show you the soul of the wrongdoer after his victory, how it is become ashes. For truly sin is that kind of thing: while one commits it, it affords a certain pleasure; but when it is finished, then the trifling pleasure is gone, one knows not how, and in its place comes dejection. And this is our feeling when we do hurt to any: afterwards, at any rate, we condemn ourselves. So also when we over-reach we have pleasure; but afterwards we are stung by conscience. Do you see in any one’s possession some poor man’s home? Weep not for him that is spoiled, but for the spoiler: for he has not inflicted, but sustained an evil. For he robbed the other of things present; but himself he cast out of the blessings which cannot be uttered. For if he who gives not to the poor shall go away into hell; what shall he suffer who takes the goods of the poor?” -St. John Chrysostom, Homilies On First Corinthians

May we pray for the grace to see as God sees, rejoicing in the sufferings of the just, pleading for mercy on the souls of their tormentors.

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