Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
(Numbers 21:4-9; John 8:21-30)
Many Catholic children, even those in parochial schools, do not attend mass on Sunday. If you would ask them why, they say that they sometimes have a soccer game or go out of town. Their parents, of course, are not attending either. They may find themselves one day like the Jews in today’s gospel unable to understand Jesus. They may think that he suffered a needless death that was tantamount to suicide.
We are probably mistaken if we think of the dialogue in the gospel as an actual conversation. More likely it is the evangelist’s rebuttal of the Jewish denial of Jesus as the Messiah. He uses ideas and phrases from Jesus but directs himself to Jewish critics of Christianity a generation or two later. These Jews, the evangelist is saying, cannot appreciate what Jesus said and much less did. They think in worldly ways that Jesus was an imposter who claimed to be God. They cannot accept that he spoke and acted as God’s real representative. They also think that they did away with Jesus on the cross. But the evangelist knows that the crucifixion was the supreme sacrament of divine love. Because he did His will, the Father has raised Jesus from death to glory.
Jesus’ sacrifice is memorialized in the mass, especially on Sunday. It is not just a lesson in recall but a re-enactment of the sacrifice for our advantage. Somehow we must draw both children and their parents to this sacrament. Only in this way will they transcend worldly ways to participate in Christ’s glory.