HOMILY LENT WEEK 04 06 – Year I
Transcending Justice in Jesus
(Jer 11:18-20; Ps 7; Jn 7:4—53)
Have you ever had an attitude problem?
Today’s liturgy invites us to have an open attitude towards Jesus and to accept him into our lives as the Messiah.
In the first reading, Jeremiah continues the Old Testament refrain of a just person struggling with injustice and mistreatment. His writing continues be prophetic in foreseeing the treatment Jesus would receive, but there is a shortcoming – his writing also reflects the Old Testament mentality of retributive justice, evident especially in the comment “Let me see your retribution upon them.” It is this common Old Testament attitude that would be totally transcended by Jesus, who was like a lamb led to slaughter, and in whom there was no hint whatsoever of punishment or retribution.
For its part, Psalm 7 continues the refrain of the psalms earlier this week, along the same line of Jeremiah – a just person who is afflicted unjustly by others – but with a slightly more positive slant, of one who not so much cries out for retribution, but trusts in and relies on God for help and deliverance.
In the gospel, the chief priests and the Pharisees, all religious leaders who should have been the first to recognize and accept Jesus as the Messiah, continue along that same Old Testament line of thinking, only in more legal terms. First, they want to arrest Jesus for implying that he is the Messiah. Then, when the temple police exclaim “no one has ever spoken like this man before,” displaying an openness to Jesus, they ridicule them, and judge the general population “accursed” because they do not know the law. Therein lies the irony – those who do not know the law are the ones most open to accepting Jesus, while the experts in the law categorically reject him. Instead of stepping into the life-giving, flowing water of the Spirit of Jesus, they are firmly planted on the hard shore of the Law, and they figuratively “miss the boat!”
Jesus as the Messiah came with a two-fold mission – to redeem and to sanctify; to forgive and to heal. He came to forgive us of all our sins, the hurtful ways we have fallen short and hurt others. Even more important, he came to heal us of our sinfulness, that which makes us sin – our painful emotions like anger and resentment, as well as our negative attitudes like false pride, self-righteousness, stubborn self-will and judgmentalism. That is good news indeed!
What is our response to the presence of Jesus in our lives? Are we totally open to how he might come to us through his Word, in the Eucharist, or through other people and the events of our lives, or are we hindered in our faith by those attitudes of superiority, stubbornness, and false pride? Are we coming to him for forgiveness, especially through the sacrament of reconciliation, humbly confessing our sins that he won’t even remember and will cast as far from the East as is the West? Even more significant, are we coming to him for healing of our negative attitudes and defects of character?
The 12 Step Program is a great help in this precise regard for those fortunate enough to be utilizing it for their own growth and healing. Steps 4 and 5 are all about receiving forgiveness from God, one other person and ourselves; Steps 8 and 9 are all about receiving forgiveness from all we have hurt in any way by our sinful actions. But the core of the program, Steps 6 and 7, are all about experiencing healing, as we “get ready to have God remove all our defects of character” and “humbly ask God to remove them all.” That is also great, good news indeed.
The Eucharist is an experience of the merciful, gratuitous, unconditional love of God as forgiveness and healing, if we celebrate it with faith. May our celebration today deepen our faith in Jesus as the Messiah, help us experience and receive his forgiveness and healing, and empower us to share this good news with others.