Intention: For justice in our world, especially for all who are forgotten or excluded, abandoned or abused, persecuted or exploited, that good people everywhere will rise to their defense and come to their aid.
Today’s Gospel | John 8:31-42
Jesus said to those Jews who believed in him, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains.
So if the Son frees you, then you will truly be free. I know that you are descendants of Abraham. But you are trying to kill me, because my word has no room among you. I tell you what I have seen in the Father’s presence; then do what you have heard from the Father.”
They answered and said to him, “Our father is Abraham.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works of Abraham. But now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God; Abraham did not do this. You are doing the works of your father!” So they said to him, “We were not born of fornication. We have one Father, God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and am here; I did not come on my own, but he sent me.”
A Lenten Reflection
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is questioning his opponents about their take on their own realities. They insist that they know that they are righteous in the eyes of God. Jesus challenges them, saying that they rationalize away the truth of what they know about themselves, and that their hypocrisy is enslaving them in sin. They argue that they have never been slaves, missing Jesus’ point that there is more to being free than being able to do as one pleases. It is an exchange that can speak powerfully to us and our times as we struggle to understand the meaning of freedom.
Freedom is the face of human dignity. It is the way we express our God-given identity as part of an interdependent creation that is meant to complete and to celebrate itself. When we fail to recognize the difference between independence and selfishness, we confuse being free with being responsible only to and for ourselves. Disconnected from the community and experiences that define us, we are no longer free to be ourselves and can only be whatever our egocentricity allows us to be. This is what the slavery of sin looks like.
Abolitionist Harriet Tubman once reflected, “I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they’d known that they were slaves.” During Lent, we are called to confront the ignorance that takes us away from God. This includes whatever causes us to lose touch with the truth about ourselves. It is important that we never allow ego or fear to stand in the way of living our lives honestly and humbly. By opening ourselves to God’s voice, we can find the wisdom to walk away from the illusion that is sin, free to live and grow in the realization that there can be no freedom outside of truth.
Eternal Father, you sent to us your son to loosen from us the chains of our own sinfulness. During this holy time of Lent, we give you thanks for always being our rescue. You deliver us from our ignorance, fears, and despair. You call us to you to be restored and redeemed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Grant that as you seek to make us free, we open our hearts and hands to receive this freedom that you give to us through your constant love. We ask this of you who lives and reigns with your Son and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.