Friday, February 23, 2012

Friday of the Fourth Week in Lent

(Wisdom 2:1a.12-22; John 7:1-2.10.25-30)

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is credited with having saved the American banking system and hence the world economy from ruin. However, at the same time he is being criticized by both right and left for undermining America’s economy.

Today’s first reading from the Book of Wisdom soberly assures that righteous people like Ben Bernanke suffer persecution. Certainly the Gospel of John portrays Jesus as being so persecuted. By healing the hopelessly infirm, Jesus shows himself to be sent from God. By performing such acts on the Sabbath, he further reveals that the age of the Law, prohibiting Sabbath work, has ended. The upshot of all this is that since the Messiah has now arrived in person, belief in him and not following the Law, leads to salvation. Today’s gospel reading pictures Jewish rulers, threatened by their loss of authority to Jesus, plotting to kill him.

When we pursue what is good, we will sometimes find our efforts criticized and our intentions misconstrued. It happened to Jesus, and as his followers, we can expect it to happen to us. But suffering persecution is no reason to give up doing what is right. We might check our work and question our motives to assure that they are properly ordered. If they are, then there is reason to stay the course. After all, Jesus promises the Kingdom of heaven to those who suffer persecution for the sake of righteousness.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent

(Exodus 32:7-14; John 5:31-47)

A successful lawyer was once asked to name the most essential factor for a winning case. The alternatives were something like a fair judge, a sympathetic jury, or a truthful client. The lawyer responded that none of these were as important as a credible witness. In the gospel today Jesus presents various credible witnesses to the Jews that he is the Son of God.

Specifically, Jesus points to John the Baptist, his miracles, the Father, and the Scriptures as witnesses to his claim. John said earlier in the gospel (1:34) that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus has also performed mighty works like turning water into wine. The Father testifies within the hearts of Jesus’ own disciples who follow him unreservedly. Finally, the Scriptures give testimony to Jesus by such statements as “Zeal for your house will consume me” (see John 2:17) when he throws out the merchants from the Temple.

The Jews are not to be blamed for not believing in Jesus. If they were truly objective observers, they would have seen that he is divine. But perfect objectivity is not to be found. The Jews were committed to their religion which viewed the Messiah as a mighty king who would command political wonders. We, who do not share that expectation, can accept Jesus as the one who brings about social change through creating inner harmony. The result is a more thorough accomplishment that bespeaks a God who is love.