Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Daniel 3:14-20, 91-92, 95
The Struggle to Believe
Our Gospel setting is the feast of Tabernacles. In the background are the symbols used for the feast – water, light and the temple. Jesus offers us the water of life; he is the light of the world. There is ceremony described as part of the Feast of Tabernacles where the priests take their place outside the temple before sunrise. They face the east and as the sun appears before the horizon they turn to face the temple. Their prayer recalls that in the past the people turned their back on the temple and faced the sun and worshiped it. But now their eyes are fixed upon the Temple.
The fight between Jesus and the "the Jews who believed in Him" is fierce. We can imagine the disputants, faces distorted with anger, yelling and shaking their heads, agitatedly arguing with Jesus. And these are the Jews who believe in him! They say they are Abraham’s children, but Jesus challenges them. The children of Abraham would not reject him and plan to do violence against him. Jesus says to them, you are indeed doing the work of your father. They protest that God Himself is their father. But if God were your father, you would love me for I came forth from God and am here….it was He who sent me. Children of the same Father love one another. Such hatred shows that Jesus and the Jews cannot be children of the same Father.
When Jesus left and the force of the argument subsided, did those who heard Jesus ponder his words?
Like the three young men of our reading from the Book of Daniel, those arguing with Jesus must have felt great loyalty to God and reverence for their heritage from Abraham.
The Feast of Tabernacles celebrated the Exodus and the Covenant and on this feast Jesus is challenging them, revealing to them the Father’s love in a new way.
Like our Lenten journey this journey to faith in Jesus is not an easy one as John shows us.
We move to the Book of Glory where the great sign that will help us believe in Jesus will take place That sign will give meaning to these words of Jesus.
For those celebrating Tabernacles, perhaps for many involved in today argument, they would in their near future see Jesus also as the New Temple to whom they would turn and face, the one worthy of our worship.
Perhaps Psalm 84, a psalm of pilgrimage that praises God who welcomes us to His Temple, may move us in prayer as our Lenten pilgrimage continues? The people who argued with Jesus needed rest and peace as they labor in coming to faith in Jesus who is the Temple. We do too.
‘How lovely is your dwelling place Lord of Hosts! My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. The sparrow has found its home at last, the swallow a nest for its young. A single day in your courts is worth more than a thousand elsewhere; merely to stand on the steps of God’s house is better than living with the wicked. O God, happy those who put their trust in you!
Fr. William Murphy, CP is the pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Jamaica, New York.