The Gospel according to John (8:21-30)
Jesus said to the Pharisees:
“I am going away and you will look for me,
but you will die in your sin.
Where I am going you cannot come.”
So the Jews said,
“He is not going to kill himself, is he,
because he said, ‘Where I am going you cannot come’?”
He said to them, “You belong to what is below,
I belong to what is above.
You belong to this world,
but I do not belong to this world.
That is why I told you that you will die in your sins.
For if you do not believe that I AM,
you will die in your sins.”
So they said to him, “Who are you?”
Jesus said to them, “What I told you from the beginning.
I have much to say about you in condemnation.
But the one who sent me is true,
and what I heard from him I tell the world.”
They did not realize that he was speaking to them of the Father.
So Jesus said to them,
“When you lift up the Son of Man,
then you will realize that I AM,
and that I do nothing on my own,
but I say only what the Father taught me.
The one who sent me is with me.
He has not left me alone,
because I always do what is pleasing to him.”
Because he spoke this way, many came to believe in him.
Today’s encounter between Jesus and the Pharisees hits right at the core of the tension that existed between them throughout the Gospels. For Jesus, it was always about sharing the love of His Father, and not limiting oneself to just doing the “minimums” of the Jewish Law. For the Pharisees, it was all about the Law. If one missed even a minor aspect of the Law, that person was not holy or worthy, in the opinion of the Pharisees. There was no thought of going “beyond” the Law.
It highlights one thing that I always have at the back of my mind during the season of Lent – that it is about more than what I give up, or how I stick to this guideline about fasting or that guideline of not eating meat on Fridays. It is about how I am using this sacred season to change my heart and ultimately to change my life to be more in line with my call as a follower of Jesus. Now, I’m sure there are many good “observant” Catholics out there who religiously give up something for Lent and just as religiously make sure they don’t eat meat on Fridays. But, how many of those “observant” Catholics see those sacrifices as just items on a scorecard? That’s the challenge for each of us – we are called to do these sacrifices not just to be in line with the guidelines our Church has set for us – we are called to try to orient our hearts more in line with Jesus.
We’re nearing the end of Lent. No matter how well (or poorly) you may have done with your Lenten promises, today is a new day, one in which you can make a new start. But, I would advise you to look at it not as merely abiding by the rules – look at it as a new chance to shed something from your life that may be keeping you from the close relationship with Jesus that He wants with you. Look at it as an opportunity to focus a little bit more on Jesus today. Then, try to do it again tomorrow! You’ll be amazed at how God will work with that!
Action for the Day: Pause today and think about what you have done this Lent to grow your relationship with God. Take a few minutes to ask God to show you what you can do to deepen that friendship, and how you can share His love with someone who needs it today!
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