Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent
(Exodus 32:7-14; John 5:31-47)
The Reformation of the sixteenth century brought forth both good and evil. It did helpfully emphasize the centrality of Scripture and faith in the Christian tradition. It also ushered a period of intense division, even religious warfare. Now it seems that Pope Francis is effecting a new era. He may become “the reformer of the reformers.” He seems to be unifying many Christian groups in giving testimony to the Lord with fraternal love and charity. This stance resembles that of Jesus makes in today’s gospel.
The Pharisees are harassing Jesus. Believing in their own righteousness, they accuse Jesus of breaking the Law by healing on the Sabbath. They do not see that he is – quite the contrary -- fulfilling God’s will. In the first reading the Lord criticizes the people of Israel for being “stiff-necked.” He gives them the Law as a way to reform themselves. The Pharisees have embraced the Law but are likewise becoming “stiff-necked.” They stubbornly refuse to see that they worship an idol of their own making – not a material object but proprieties that substitute for virtue. Jesus calls their attention to what is truly important – love of God that is expressed by assistance to the needy.
We have left behind the superficial gods of power, pleasure, and prestige. Now we must press on by engraving ever deeper in our hearts the need to honor God by doing His will. It is no mean task in a world whose values often seem like a gale blowing against us. But we will accomplish our objective if we rely on the grace offered us through Jesus Christ in this Eucharist.