APRIL 3, 2014 - FOURTH THURSDAY OF LENT

EXODUS 32:7-14 ; JOHN 5:31-47

As we entered upon these last few weeks of Lent, the liturgy places before our attention the events that led up to our Lord's passion and death as presented to us in the Gospel of John. As early as Jesus' first public declaration of his mission from the Father in the synagogue at Nazareth, this Gospel introduces us to the hostility of his own people and their attempt to kill him.  The whole of his public life was lived out in the tense and violent atmosphere that eventually culminated in his crucifixion.  Saint Luke had prepared the way for expecting a hostile reception of the message of peace that God sent to our world at the birth of his beloved Son.  Only forty days after our Lord"s birth Simeon, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, had already predicted the sufferings that would be Mary's lot in life because of the trials that her Son would experience.  Not long after, when Jesus was still an infant in the arms of his mother, his life was so seriously threatened that he had to be carried into exile in Egypt for safety.  Though it was still rather early in his ministry as John narrates the public life, today's Gospel sets the stage for the final act of his short life on earth.  There is a strong hint of his coming death in the Greek original of the opening sentence of today's Gospel uses the word martyro ("I bear witness") and the noun martyria ("testimony") there is a strong hint of his death as well as an affirmation of his mission.  He states the case boldly:"If I bear witness concerning myself, my testimony is true."

And so the liturgy today is preparing us for the coming events that will be recounted in increasingly detailed descriptions of the growing hostility showed our Lord by the religious authorities as he witnessed by his preaching and numerous miraculous acts of healing to his mission as God's herald of mercy and reconciliation. That the Jewish leaders should be so rigidly attached to their own interpretation of the Sabbath Law as to object violently to an act of merciful healing clearly reveals the false concept they have formed of the God they claim to serve.  As Jesus, declares to his critics, God is the Father who sent him and who bears witness to his emissary by giving him the power of miraculous healing.

Not incidentally, the one healed here is given the gift of light by receiving the capacity to see.  Perhaps, the nature of this miracle is intended to be a significant feature of the lesson we are given by this Gospel today.  Lenten reading in the bible and the liturgy and fasting are practices intended not only as acts of penance but chiefly to create in our spirit a fresh way of seeing our world.  Gaining a new appreciation of our own self as being made whole and complete by focusing on the light of life who abides within us and whom we are about to receive in this Eucharist May he shine with ever brighter radiance from within our spirit as we advance with him to the sufferings of the cross and from there to the light of his resurrection.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger