Friday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
(Jeremiah 20:10-13; John 10:31-42)
People whose memories extend to the years before Vatican II’s liturgical reforms may remember a gospel passage very similar to today’s being read on the Fifth Sunday of Lent. That Sunday was called “Passion Sunday,” and the remaining time in Lent, “Passiontide.” On that day crucifixes and other images in Catholic churches were covered with purple cloth because the gospel proclaimed that Jesus went into hiding when the Jews sought to kill him (see yesterday’s gospel passage).
Presently, the Holy See leaves the covering of sacred images during the last part of Lent to national Episcopal Conferences. Although American bishops have decided not to mandate it, individual parishes may do so. The reason for veiling the images today would be less a reference in the gospel to hiding and more the solemnity of the season. Veiling would aid the faithful in focusing their thoughts on the suffering Christ endured for their salvation.
Today’s gospel indicates that his suffering was not random or arbitrary. Rather, as John’s gospel intimates from its beginning, it conforms to God’s plan made before time. Earlier in the gospel Jesus says, ANo one takes (my life) from me...I have the power to lay it down, and power to take it up again@ (10:18). Here we see the prophecy fulfilled. The Jews cannot kill Jesus at will. He will die when he is ready when, as he says in another place, he calls all people to himself. We who recognize him as God’s son and ourselves as accomplices in his death can only marvel and give thanks that we are included in God’s gracious plan for salvation.