Intention: For all of our educators and health care professionals who are working to respond to the challenges of COVID, that God will continue to strengthen them and that their efforts will find lasting success.
Today’s Gospel | John 7:40-53
Some in the crowd who heard these words of Jesus said, “This is truly the Prophet.” Others said, “This is the Christ.” But others said, “The Christ will not come from Galilee, will he? Does not Scripture say that the Christ will be of David’s family and come from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?” So a division occurred in the crowd because of him. Some of them even wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.
So the guards went to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why did you not bring him?” The guards answered, “Never before has anyone spoken like this man.” So the Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd, which does not know the law, is accursed.” Nicodemus, one of their members who had come to him earlier, said to them, “Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?” They answered and said to him, “You are not from Galilee also, are you? Look and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”
Then each went to his own house.
A Lenten Reflection
It is widely understood that modern technology, especially in the areas of travel and communication, have made the world “a smaller place”, at least in terms of our broadened interaction with its many peoples and places. One result of this has been a growing need for persons to be able to speak more than one language. This includes not only the spoken languages of nations or ethnicities, but also the symbolic ones of geopolitics and cultures. Take, for example, the language of power. This is the language that communicates what one has, what one wants, and what one is prepared to do in the interest of both. The use of power has long been one of our world’s central moral issues, one that Jesus would confront through his teachings and, ultimately, with his life.
In John’s Gospel, we can see in the chief priests and Pharisees a callous disregard for the Jewish people and their experiences. In their lust for and abuse of power, they willingly deprived people of religious and social freedom and dignity. For this, Jesus accused them of being the worst kind of sinners: those who both reject God’s grace and also attempt to keep it from others. Compare such use of power to that of Jesus, who used his authority to preserve and promote human freedom and dignity. One is the drive to control others by manipulating and exploiting them, while the other is the drive to serve others by accompanying and liberating them. For Jesus, the only legitimate use of power was to ensure people’s ability to live their lives as God intended.
Author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel wrote, “Ultimately, the only power to which man should aspire is that which he exercises over himself.” The season of Lent invites us to contemplate the ways in which our actions affect both us and others. This includes what we do to exercise whatever influence we can over the quality of life around us. Every day, we are in the position of being able to either lift or crush people’s spirits, stand with or against those who suffer, speak the truth or remain silent in the face of sin. We have the power to be the presence of God in the midst of the crowd, or to each go to our own house and close the door.
Eternal Father, you sent your son to bring your eternal truth to our world. Many did not accept the truth, just as many do not today. In this holy time of Lent, we pray that might simply open our hearts to you and your wisdom. As we make our way through each day, use every moment to help us see things as you do. Reveal to us the strengths and faults of our own thinking and fill us with no other desire than to accept and do your will. We ask this of you who lives and reigns with your Son and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.