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Wednesday – Fourth Week – Lent
Readings: Isa 49:8-15; Jn 5:17-30.
Reading 1 (Isa 49:8-15):
Thus says the LORD:
In a time of favor, I answer you,
on the day of salvation, I help you;
and I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people,
To restore the land
and allot the desolate heritages,
Saying to the prisoners: Come out!
To those in darkness: Show yourselves!
Along the ways they shall find pasture,
on every bare height shall their pastures be.
They shall not hunger or thirst,
nor shall the scorching wind or the sun strike them.
For he who pities them leads them
and guides them beside springs of water.
I will cut a road through all my mountains,
and make my highways level.
See, some shall come from afar,
others from the north and the west,
and some from the land of Syene.
Sing out, O heavens, and rejoice, O earth,
break forth into song, you mountains.
For the LORD comforts his people
and shows mercy to his afflicted.
But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me.”
Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you.
Gospel (Jn 5:17-30):
Jesus answered the Jews:
“My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.”
For this reason, they tried all the more to kill him,
because he not only broke the sabbath
but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God.
Jesus answered and said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you, the Son cannot do anything on his own,
but only what he sees the Father doing;
for what he does, the Son will do also.
For the Father loves the Son
and shows him everything that he himself does,
and he will show him greater works than these,
so that you may be amazed.
For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life,
so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes.
Nor does the Father judge anyone,
but he has given all judgment to the Son,
so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.
Whoever does not honor the Son
does not honor the Father who sent him.
Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word
and believes in the one who sent me
has eternal life and will not come to condemnation,
but has passed from death to life.
Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here
when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God,
and those who hear will live.
For just as the Father has life in himself,
so also, he gave to the Son the possession of life in himself.
And he gave him power to exercise judgment,
because he is the Son of Man.
Do not be amazed at this,
because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs
will hear his voice and will come out,
those who have done good deeds
to the resurrection of life,
but those who have done wicked deeds
to the resurrection of condemnation.
“I cannot do anything on my own;
I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just,
because I do not seek my own will
but the will of the one who sent me.”
Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P.
I. THEME: God loves and cares for His people.
Many authors of Scripture compared God’s love for people with other kinds of love; but none could wholly express God’s love. For examples, Hosea compared God’s love as intimate as the love between husband and wife; but the Israelites betrayed God’s love. Isaiah compared God’s love as mother’s love for her children; but a mother can forsake her children and her children can reject her love for them. St. John used the image of the vine and the branches to express the importance of unity; but couldn’t express other aspects such as education and love.
Today readings center on God’s love. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah wanted to tell the Israelites who were miserably living on the exile that God still loved and cared for them. He already had a plan to liberate them from the exile and to bring them back to their nation to rebuild everything. God shall be their shepherd to guide and to care for them. In the Gospel, God, out of His immense love for humankind, sent His Only Son to love, to care for and to heal people.
1/ Reading I: God constantly cares for His people.
1.1/ The vision about the day in which God sets people free: Today passage belongs to the Deutero-Isaiah; this Book was written during the Exile. Even though the Israelites were miserably lived on the Exile, God already had a plan to liberate people and to lead them back to their native land, as the prophet announced: “In a time of favor I answer you, on the day of salvation I help you, to restore the land and allot the desolate heritages. Saying to the prisoners: Come out! To those in darkness: Show yourselves!”
Isaiah used the image of the Good Shepherd to express God’s loving care for His people: “Along the ways they shall find pasture, on every bare height shall their pastures be.They shall not hunger or thirst, nor shall the scorching wind or the sun strike them. For he who pities them leads them and guides them beside springs of water.” This is the image of the Messiah whom God will send to His people to care for them. We can find the fulfillment of this passage in the Gospel of John, when Jesus announced he is the Good Shepherd, he comes so that his flock can live, and fully live (cf. Jn 10:10-11).
1.2/ God never forget His people.
(1) God still watched over His People during the Exile: When the Israelites lived a suffering life during the Exile, they thought that God forgot them, as many cried out: “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.”
In reality, God still watched over and cared for His people’s life. One thing which showed this care was that God unceasingly sent His prophets to console, to encourage and to give them a hope that the Exile is only temporary. If they recognized their sins and repented, God shall set them free from the Exile. People hoped for that day to come; God looks for that day more than His people. That day shall be joyful as the prophet said, “Sing out, O heavens, and rejoice, O earth, break forth into song, you mountains. For the Lord comforts his people and shows mercy to his afflicted.”
(2) God’s love is deeper than mother’s love: There is no love which is deeper than mother’s love; but there are still mothers who wickedly kill the child in her womb. God guarantees the everlasting of His love for the Israelites: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even she should forget, I will never forget you.”
2/ Gospel: God gave His Only Son to people.
2.1/ God controls everything on the Sabbath: The Jews accused Jesus that he violated the Sabbath law when he commanded the paralytic for thirty-eight years to carry his mat on the Sabbath. Jesus answered them: “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.”
God doesn’t completely rest on the Sabbath; this fact is so obvious to all Israel’s scholars. Philo, an Israel’s philosopher, said: “God never cease to work; as the character of fire is to burn, the character of snow is to freeze, God’s character is to work.” Another wrote, “The sun still shines, rivers flow; all progresses of producing and dying are still happening on the Sabbath as on other days; and those are God’s works.” The truth is that God stopped to create on the Sabbath; but other works such as: to judge, to love, to have compassion, to control the universe, etc., must unceasingly continue. What Jesus wanted to say to the Jews was: Even on the Sabbath God still loves and heals. He must do the same because he was sent to love and to heal. For this reason, the Jews tried all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath, but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God.
2.2/ God bestowed on Jesus the two powers:
(1) Power to give life: “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes.”This power was manifested through miracles in which Jesus raised the dead. In John’s Gospel, chapter 11, Jesus raised Lazarus after three days in the tomb to show that he has the power to give life.
The life which Jesus has isn’t about the physical life, but also the divine life which he was received from the Father, as he said: “For just as the Father has life in himself, so also he gave to his Son the possession of life in himself.” People could take away his physical life; but can never take his divine life away. It is the divine life which he can raised the dead and resurrected himself after three days in the tomb.
(2) Power to judge: “Nor does the Father judge anyone, but he has given all judgment to his Son. Nor does the Father judge anyone, but he has given all judgment to his Son, so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.”
The Father and the Son don’t actually judge people, but people judge themselves when they must face Jesus (Jn 3:18). If they don’t believe Jesus as sending to them by the Father, they already judged themselves; but if they believe in him, they shall not be judged, as Jesus declared, “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation but has passed from death to life.”
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We should believe in this absolute truth: None loves us like God. God’s love was deeply expressed through giving His Only Son so that he could express God’s love in action: to teach, to heal and to die for us.
– God not only loves but also has power to do all things. He desires and has power to bestow all good things for human beings. With such a lovely and powerful God, we should completely entrust our life in His hands.