Friday of the Fifth Week in Lent
(Jeremiah 20:10-13; John 10:31-42)
Among the gestures made in church we bow to the altar. Some perhaps think that they are reverencing the tabernacle which is often placed behind the altar. But the altar itself is a symbol of Jesus. We bow to him. The gospel today indicates the association.
The setting is the Jewish feast of the dedication of the temple altar. Jesus has come to Jerusalem to celebrate. In the ensuing discussion with the Jews, he says that God has consecrated him as well. In fact, he will replace the temple altar as the locus of true worship. His crucifixion becomes the only perfect sacrifice which redeems humanity. It atones not just of individual sins but the multiplication of guilt through the ages.
The Jews understandably have difficulty accepting Jesus’ claims. We, however, have the benefit of numerous testimonies to his resurrection from his apostles and from saints throughout the ages. Following in their way, we find that in joining him we have not given up our freedom but are actually freed from the attractions that undermine our desire for eternal life.