Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
(Daniel 3:14-20.91-92.95; John 8:31-42)
In Shakespeare’s Hamlet the young prince is looking for evidence to convict his uncle of murdering his father. He gets an idea when a troupe of actors comes to town. He will devise a play that shows how the murder took place. When his uncle watches the action, his visible reaction should betray his guilt. Something similar is taking place in today’s gospel passage.
John’s Gospel not only tells the story of Jesus but contains hidden in the action the fate of the Christian community he left behind. The controversy in today’s passage shows how part of that community -- “those Jews who believed in him” – lack a firm faith. They accept Jesus as a prophet but do not see him as the only source of freedom which is equivalent to salvation. They think that they are free by virtue of being children of Abraham. Their opposition to Christians who find Jesus as the only way to salvation is dramatically portrayed when Jesus says that “are trying to kill” him. The Judaizers who incurred St. Paul’s wrath by insisting that the Galatians be circumcised are equivalent to these half-hearted Christians.
We live in a time when many see other ways to salvation besides Jesus. Some believe that freedom comes from not being bonded to other people. Others think that freedom is the right to do whatever one wants short of physically hurting others. We believe that Jesus’ way of selfless love for others brings the freedom of the children of God. Next week we will celebrate the bestowal of that freedom in the paschal mysteries.