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Friday – Fourth Week – Lent
Readings: Wis 2:1a, 12-22; Jn 7:1-2, 10, 25-30.
Reading 1 (Wis 2:1a, 12-22):
The wicked said among themselves,
thinking not aright:
“Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings,
Reproaches us for transgressions of the law
and charges us with violations of our training.
He professes to have knowledge of God
and styles himself a child of the LORD.
To us he is the censure of our thoughts;
merely to see him is a hardship for us,
Because his life is not like that of others,
and different are his ways.
He judges us debased;
he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure.
He calls blest the destiny of the just
and boasts that God is his Father.
Let us see whether his words be true;
let us find out what will happen to him.
For if the just one be the son of God, he will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes.
With revilement and torture let us put him to the test
that we may have proof of his gentleness
and try his patience.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death;
for according to his own words, God will take care of him.”
These were their thoughts, but they erred;
for their wickedness blinded them,
and they knew not the hidden counsels of God;
neither did they count on a recompense of holiness
nor discern the innocent souls’ reward.
Gospel (Jn 7:1-2, 10, 25-30):
Jesus moved about within Galilee;
he did not wish to travel in Judea,
because the Jews were trying to kill him.
But the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near.
But when his brothers had gone up to the feast,
he himself also went up, not openly but as it were in secret.
Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said,
“Is he not the one they are trying to kill?
And look, he is speaking openly, and they say nothing to him.
Could the authorities have realized that he is the Christ?
But we know where he is from.
When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.”
So, Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said,
“You know me and also know where I am from.
Yet I did not come on my own,
but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true.
I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.”
So they tried to arrest him,
but no one laid a hand upon him,
because his hour had not yet come.
Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P.
I. THEME: People shall live according to what they believe in.
Knowledge is very important in reasoning and making decision because people shall live according to what they believe in. If people know the truth, there is a good chance that they shall do the right thing; in opposition, if people don’t know the truth or wrongly know, they can’t do the right thing. Therefore, people need to learn and to be educated so that they can make a difference between the truth and the falsity.
Today readings rotate around the wrong understanding of God and the Messiah. In the first reading, the author of the Book of Wisdom displayed the absurdity and the wicked action of those who didn’t believe in God and the next life. They wanted to persecute and to maltreat the righteous to see if the righteous’ faith can overcome their wicked persecution! In the Gospel, the Jews looked for the opportunity to seize and to kill Jesus because they didn’t understand his true identity and the way of salvation.
1/ Reading I: The wrong understanding about God and life
1.1/ The atheist’s wrong understanding led to their wicked actions.
(1) The atheist’s wrong understanding: They thought: “Brief and troublesome is our lifetime; neither is there any remedy for man’s dying, nor is anyone known to have come back from the nether world.” According to Jewish tradition, their belief in the next life was vague; the majority of them believed that the rewards which God bestows on those who kept His law, are a long life, many children and happiness in this world. The belief in resurrection and the eternal life appeared late at the time of the prophet Daniel and Maccabean brothers (3rd to 2nd BC). The Book of Wisdom was also written at this time. To the atheists, they believe that death is the end, and there is no eternal life. They don’t believe in God, who can set the righteous free and punish sinners and the wicked.
(2) Their wicked actions: They live according to what they believe. Since they don’t believe in the next life, all of their effort is for the present life. They hate the righteous, not because the righteous harm them; but the righteous’ lifestyle trouble their conscience. They said: “Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training.” They didn’t recognize that it is due to their conscience’s awareness that they could recognize their sins and return to the right path. Since they stayed in darkness for too long, they lost the power to come to light.
The wicked wanted not only to follow their lifestyle but also to apply this lifestyle on everyone. They felt irritated and unrest when they saw someone who lived a different lifestyle, they said of the righteous: “He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the Lord. To us he is the censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us, because his life is not like other men, and different are his ways. He judges us debased; he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure. He calls bless the destiny of the just, and boasts that God is his Father.”
This is the attitude of many atheists today. They misuse of the right “freedom of speech” to make people to live like them; for examples: not to pray or to have silence before class, to teach sex education and to distribute condoms for students, to make the faithful to assist abortion or to sell pills for abortion, etc.
1.2/ Human beings need to have correct knowledge about God: To avoid wrong understanding and wicked action between human beings, all need to learn about God, who creates and controls all things in the universe. The first thing people need to know is God’s existence through His creation and providence. Next, people need to find out who is He and His will when He creates all things, especially His will for man in this life and the next life.
People also need to learn their relationship with God. The prophet Isaiah declared there is a great difference between God and human beings: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa 55:8-9). Therefore, to see if there is God by maltreating the righteous is absurd. God has a plan for human beings to follow, and He shall not change His plan due to human challenging of Him.
Moreover, even the wicked persecution of the atheists used to test the righteous might also be in God’s plan; it is necessary for the righteous to show their faith in Him. The atheist wanted not only to see God’s existence but also to change the righteous’ faith, as they said: “With revilement and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.”
2/ Gospel: The wrong understanding of the Messiah led to the Jews’ wicked action.
2.1/ The wrong understanding of the Messiah: The first wrong understanding of the Jews was that they paid too much attention to his human origin and forgot his divine origin. The second wrong one was that they confused Christ’s birthplace and his grow-up place which shall be reported on tomorrow passage. What people said in today passage showed that they didn’t know the Scripture: “We know where he is from. When the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.” The prophet Micah foretold the Messiah’s birthplace: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days” (Mic 5:2).
2.2/ The need to know the Messiah’s true identity: Jesus said to the Jews: “You know me and also know where I am from. Yet I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.”
Yesterday we already mentioned five witnesses for Christ; through these five witnesses, people should believe in Christ because they already had more than two witnesses which is required by the law. The next few days, Jesus continued to reveal God’s plan of salvation through his Passion, Death and Resurrection.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– The knowledge of God, Christ and their wills for human beings are necessary for us to reach the ultimate goal which God destines for us. If we don’t know His will and way, we shall follow our own plan.
– All this knowledge has been revealed to us in Scripture. We need to spend time to learn before we can follow God’s plan of salvation according to His way.