March 29, 2012
Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent
I will give to you and to your descendants after you the land in which you are now staying, the whole land of Canaan, as a permanent possession; and I will be their God." God also said to Abraham: "On your part, you and your descendants after you must keep my covenant throughout the ages." Genesis 17:8-9
Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad." So the Jews said to him, "You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM." So they picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid and went out of the temple area. John 8:56-59
Father, take away of stones of obstacles that keep us from following your Word. Jesus, help us to come out of our comfortable lives and keep your word. Holy Spirit, unbind us from our selfishness so that we can be worthy of the promises of eternal life.
Sometimes in direct encounters, when Jesus is confronting the people with difficult concepts, they understand him and other times they do not.
Take the woman at the well earlier in John's Gospel. Jesus makes her a promise that is almost as hard to believe as eternal life. He offers, "Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst." Standing in the scorching mid-day sun (the only time the Samaritan women could use the well), she readily would want to avoid thirst and asks Jesus to give her this endless relief from the heat. The encounter ends not only with her conversion but also with her bringing people to Jesus.
Today's crowd is much harder to reach. Jesus offers to them no miracles or signs but only the hard-to-understand promise that "Whoever keeps my word will never see death." They are not convinced.
When Abraham is invoked, the combined effect is not only a statement they don't understand, but also a physical reality that they do not see as possible. How could this Galilean who is barely thirty years old have seen Abraham? How could Abraham who dies despite this promise have seen Jesus?
Several times in the Gospel the people turn to physical violence when they do not understand the message Jesus gives. Usually this happens when he is preaching without offering a miraculous sign. They pick up stones again in John 10:31. They tried to thrown him off a cliff but he escaped. The last straw comes when the death plot is hatched following the miracle of Lazarus at Bethany.
In his words and deeds, Jesus threatens their power, security and place in society. As he rocks the core of their existence healing the sick and raising people from the dead, they see physical evidence of his divine nature. But to those who do not see and do not hear, they want to protect the life they lead and rid themselves of this challenging carpenter's son from Nazareth and the message of eternal life without death.
We construct comfort zones for our own reality in our culture of death. Then Lent comes along and asks us to move out of our comfort zone with prayer, fasting and alms-giving. We sacrifice but probably are not approaching the giving level exhibited by the widow's mite. In these last few days of Lent, what final steps can you take to bring yourself closer to Jesus as he readies himself for the triumphant walk into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and the physical violence of the torture and painful walk to the execution on the cross?