Friday 31 March 2023 5th week of Lent
Jeremiah said: I hear so many disparaging me, ‘“Terror from every side!” Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’ All those who used to be my friends watched for my downfall, ‘Perhaps he will be seduced into error. Then we will master him and take our revenge!’ But the Lord is at my side, a mighty hero; my opponents will stumble, mastered, confounded by their failure; everlasting, unforgettable disgrace will be theirs. But you, O Lord of Hosts, you who probe with justice, who scrutinise the loins and heart, let me see the vengeance you will take on them, for I have committed my cause to you. Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord, for he has delivered the soul of the needy from the hands of evil men.
Psalm 17 In my anguish I called to the Lord, and he heard my voice.
The Jews fetched stones to stone him, so Jesus said to them, ‘I have done many good works for you to see, works from my Father; for which of these are you stoning me?’ The Jews answered him, ‘We are not stoning you for doing a good work but for blasphemy: you are only a man and you claim to be God.’ Jesus answered: ‘Is it not written in your Law: I said, you are gods? So the Law uses the word gods of those to whom the word of God was addressed, and scripture cannot be rejected. Yet you say to someone the Father has consecrated and sent into the world, “You are blaspheming,” because he says, “I am the son of God.” If I am not doing my Father’s work, there is no need to believe me; but if I am doing it, then even if you refuse to believe in me, at least believe in the work I do; then you will know for sure that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.’ They wanted to arrest him then, but he eluded them. He went back again to the far side of the Jordan to stay in the district where John had once been baptising. Many people who came to him there said, ‘John gave no signs, but all he said about this man was true’; and many of them believed in him.
Jesus is the perfect model of union with the Father, and we too pray to attain that same union. The Shema, from Deuteronomy 6, is the centerpiece of the Jewish morning and evening prayer. It states clearly: “Hear, O Israel. The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might”. This loving union is the key to living lives that are whole. When we are united with God, we are like gods says, Psalm 82:6, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you.”
Both Jeremiah and Jesus had friends and relatives who turned against them. Former companions can change their attitudes when they feel their own personal interests or security threatened. Jeremiah spoke of God who “has rescued the life of the poor” and Jesus cures the helpless, the blind, crippled, deaf, and mute, and returns them to full health on the Sabbath. Both were condemned because they each crossed accepted legal limitations by shifting concern from ritualism to caring for actual people. Their opponents were not bad people. They knew their Biblical laws by heart. But the practice of those laws had lost connection with the people they were meant to serve and protect, and they no longer provided meaningful connection to the mercy of God.
If taken rigidly, commandments become like idols. Worse still is that following the rule is equivalent to seeking God. Religious people sometimes find a false security in rules. Pope Francis has warned against this trap. He said, “To be ruled by Christ means always reaching out what lies ahead.” Jesus clearly condemned a narrow view of the commandments when he compared the legalist Pharisees to “white-washed tombs” (Matt 23:27).
“Hurt people, hurt people” is a sad truth.
Hurt people hurt others because they themselves have been hurt. As that damage causes us to become self-protective, we may use the law as a shield to protect our vulnerabilities from harm, but we not only block out the undesireable; we also block out the desireable. Vulnerability isn’t good or bad. It is the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe vulnerability is weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness. To shut off our emotional life out of a fear is to walk away from the very thing that gives purpose and meaning to living. Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path. [Brene Brown]
God can help us break that cycle. He offers His healing and hope. And Jesus’ ‘works’ of healing and hope reveal to us the works of God. Let us deeply discern the ways of God and trust the signs of what is prophetic and hopeful. To do this means we must lower our shields and courageously face our vulnerabilities, always reaching out to find where God is present in what lies ahead. And there we may just get a glimpse of Psalm 82 “I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.”