Monday of the Fifth Week in Lent
(Daniel 13:1-9.15-17.19-30.33-62; John 8:12-20)
Once a rabbi gathered his disciples round him. He then asked, “How does one know when night ends and day begins”? “When you can distinguish between the olive and the fig trees in your garden?” answered one disciple. “No,” the master said, “that is not right.” Another student tried, “When you can tell the difference between a cow and a dog on the horizon.” Again the rabbi said, “I am sorry. You don’t have the correct answer either.” The disciples, a bit frustrated, raised their voices together. “Tell us,” they said, “when does the night end and the day begin?” The rabbi replied, “All right, the night ends and the day begins when you can look into a stranger’s eye and see a brother. Until then, you are walking in darkness.”
In today’s gospel, Jesus presents himself as the light of the world who enables humans to see strangers as sister and brothers. He commands love for all – friend or foe – so that people may live in solidarity. He shows himself wiser than Daniel in the first reading who ferrets out the truth to save the innocent Susanna. Jesus is wiser because he goes beyond justice to reconciliation with one’s enemies.
As Lent winds down, we might take a personal inventory. Let us ask ourselves if we have grown in love through our Lenten sacrifices. Do we pray that those who persecute others may reform? Do we affirm the good in those whom we dislike? Are we patient with the shortcomings of those with whom we live? Like the forty-year journey of the Israelites through the desert, the purpose of Lent is to mold us into God’s holy people. We have arrived at our destination when we love all people from the heart.