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Friday – Fifth Week – Lent
Readings: Jer 20:10-13; Jn 10:31-42.
Reading 1 (Jer 20:10-13):
I hear the whisperings of many:
“Terror on every side!
Denounce! let us denounce him!”
All those who were my friends,
are on the watch for any misstep of mine.
“Perhaps he will be trapped; then we can prevail,
and take our vengeance on him.”
But the LORD is with me, like a mighty champion:
my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph.
In their failure they will be put to utter shame,
to lasting, unforgettable confusion.
O LORD of hosts, you who test the just,
who probe mind and heart,
Let me witness the vengeance you take on them,
for to you I have entrusted my cause.
Sing to the LORD,
praise the LORD,
For he has rescued the life of the poor
from the power of the wicked!
Gospel (Jn 10:31-42):
The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus.
Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from my Father.
For which of these are you trying to stone me?”
The Jews answered him,
“We are not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy.
You, a man, are making yourself God.”
Jesus answered them,
“Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, ‘You are gods?'”
If it calls them gods to whom the word of God came,
and Scripture cannot be set aside,
can you say that the one
whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world,
blasphemes because I said, ‘I am the Son of God?’
If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me; but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may realize and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”
Then they tried again to arrest him;
but he escaped from their power.
He went back across the Jordan
to the place where John first baptized, and there he remained.
Many came to him and said,
“John performed no sign,
but everything John said about this man was true.”
And many there began to believe in him.
Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P.
I. THEME: God’s prophets are persecuted and stoned.
Power and authority come from God. When people have power, they should use the bestowed power to judge with justice, to punish the wicked and to defend the right of the righteous. Many people didn’t do so. They thought that they can make people to obey their command, regardless of truth and justice.
Today readings concentrate on the misuse of power to persecute the righteous. In the first reading, the priest Pathhur used his power to seize, to scourge and to put the prophet Jeremiah in prison, because the prophet accused sins and pronounced punishments for the people of Jerusalem. In the Gospel, the Jews picked up stones to throw at Jesus because they accused Jesus of blasphemy, “You, a man, are making yourself God!” Jesus used Scripture to explain and used his miracles to prove that he is consecrated and sent to the world by God; but they were stubborn and refused to believe in him.
1/ Reading I: The prophet Jeremiah was persecuted.
1.1/ Jeremiah was persecuted by Pathhur, a priest: Be a God’s prophet, Jeremiah must announce what God commanded him to say to the king of Judah, priests and people of Jerusalem. The priest Pathhur, Immer’s son, who was chief officer in the house of the Lord, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things. Then Pathhur beat Jeremiah the prophet and put him in the stocks that were in the upper Benjamin Gate of the house of the Lord. The name “Terror on every side” was given to Pathhur by Jeremiah after he was beaten and punished by this priest (Jer 20:3).
Jeremiah prophesized about the fate of Pathhur and the whole people as follows: “For thus says the Lord: Behold, I will make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends. They shall fall by the sword of their enemies while you look on. And I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon; he shall carry them captive to Babylon and shall slay them with the sword. Moreover, I will give all the wealth of the city, all its gains, all its prized belongings, and all the treasures of the kings of Judah into the hand of their enemies, who shall plunder them, and seize them, and carry them to Babylon. And you, Pathhur, and all who dwell in your house, shall go into captivity; to Babylon you shall go; and there you shall die, and there you shall be buried, you and all your friends, to whom you have prophesied falsely” (Jer 20:4-6).
1.2/ Jeremiah found his strength on God: Jeremiah alone must fight against adversaries from his family, priests and royal leaders; he knew that he couldn’t fight against them without God’s power and strength. So, he prayed to God: “But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph. In their failure they will be put to utter shame, to lasting, unforgettable confusion. O Lord of hosts, you who test the just, who probe mind and heart, let me witness the vengeance you take on them, for to you I have entrusted my cause.”
The prophet believed that God has power to punish and strength to liberate the righteous, so he prayed: “Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord, for he has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked!”
2/ Gospel: Jesus was stoned by the Jews.
2.1/ The reason of stoning: Jesus asked the Jews the reason of their stoning him, the Jews gave a reason, “We are not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy. You, a man, are making yourself God.” The words that the Jews based on to stone Jesus was when Jesus declared “I and the Father are one” (Jn 10:30). Jesus knew that it is very difficult to explain for them this sentence, so he chose to explain by Scripture and his works.
Jesus used Psalm 82:6, which states: “I say, “You are gods (elohim), sons of the Highest (benê Elyôn), all of you.” In the Old Testament, God chose the judges and sent them to people to judge people with justice. These judges were considered as gods. This idea is more clear in the Book of Exodus, when God said to Moses, “See, I make you as god (elohim) to Pharaoh; and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet (Exo 7:1).
And Jesus concluded: “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods”‘? If it calls them gods to whom the word of God came, and scripture cannot be set aside, can you say that the one whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world blasphemes because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?”
2.2/ Jesus used his mighty works to show the Jews he was sent by God: Jesus didn’t only show them Scriptural argument but also his miraculous works he did amongst them, such as: multiplication of the loaves, healing all kinds of diseases, expelling demons and raising the dead. These works showed that he has God’s power. Jesus interrogated them: “If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me; but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may realize (and understand) that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father.”
They couldn’t argue with him in words, nor found fault with him in deeds, they should recognize the truth and believe in him; instead, they chose to use power to suppress him, as the passage reported: “They tried again to arrest him; but he escaped from their power.”
After that, Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John first baptized, and there he remained. Why did Jesus come to this place? He knew his hours in the world are coming to an end and he wanted to find the strength where he began his ministry so that he can face all his adversaries. This is the place of his baptism and the Father witnessed for him by the voice from heaven: “This is my beloved son! Listen to him.”
Many came to him and said, “John performed no sign, but everything John said about this man was true.” They recognized the difference between Jesus and John Baptist. John Baptist told them about Jesus but didn’t do any miracle. Jesus showed them what John Baptist talked about him is the truth and he did many miracles to back up that. Combination of both witnesses and deeds, “many there began to believe in him.”
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We must be clever to recognize the truth, even though the truth can hurt and cause damages because only the truth can set us free.
– God’s prophets must confront the devil and worldly power. We can’t be afraid and yield to these power to the point that we don’t dare to speak and to witness for the truth.
– We must respect those who speak and witness for the truth. Never use power to seize, to suppress or to kill them. God is the Just Judge. He shall protect and render justice for them.