Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent
(Jeremiah 20:10-13; John 10:31-42)
Today’s gospel looks forward to next Friday when the Passion of the Lord will be celebrated. The action takes place on the Feast of the Dedication, known as Hanukkah today. The Jews are celebrating the rededication of the temple altar that was defiled during the despotic reign of Antiochus Epiphanes. In the vision of John the Evangelist the Jews do not realize that they are committing a more serious crime in trying to kill Jesus.
The Jews pursue Jesus because he has called himself the “’Son of God.’” They rightly conclude that making such a claim Jesus is equating himself to God. Jesus defends himself by observing that Scripture itself calls some people “’gods.’” He says that he has even more right to the title because God has consecrated him and sent him into the world. Being consecrated or dedicated like the temple altar, Jesus’ body becomes the place of true sacrifice when he dies on the cross.
Although we anxiously await now the annual commemoration of Jesus’ paschal sacrifice, we celebrate the same sacrifice today. In every Eucharist Jesus’ body becomes the locus of the perfect sacrifice where our sins are forgiven and we receive the blessing of eternal life. We do not need any church structure, much less the Jewish temple, to realize these benefits. All that is necessary are bread and wine, the words and actions of a priest, and our faith.