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 came to Jerusalem to celebrate. His cure of the man born blind created a controversy among the Jews. Now he is being besieged. He is to say whether or not he is the Messiah. He tells the Jews that God has consecrated him just as He consecrated the Temple altar. In fact, he implies, he will replace the temple altar as the locus of true worship.
We see the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy in the crucifixion. On the cross Jesus offers himself as the perfect sacrifice which redeems humanity. It makes up not only for our individual sins but also for the multiplication of guilt oppressing humanity. As we enter Holy Week, we want to contemplate the meaning both of Jesus’ sacrifice and of our following him.