Apr 1, 2022: Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent

1st Reading – Wisdom 2:1a, 12-22

The wicked said among themselves, thinking not aright:
“Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us;
he sets himself against our doings,
Reproaches us for transgressions of the law
and charges us with violations of our training.
He professes to have knowledge of God
and styles himself a child of the LORD.
To us he is the censure of our thoughts;
merely to see him is a hardship for us,
Because his life is not like that of others,
and different are his ways.
He judges us debased;
he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure.
He calls blest the destiny of the just
and boasts that God is his Father.
Let us see whether his words be true;
let us find out what will happen to him.
For if the just one be the son of God, he will defend him
and deliver him from the hand of his foes.
With revilement and torture let us put him to the test
that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death;
for according to his own words, God will take care of him.”
These were their thoughts, but they erred;
for their wickedness blinded them,
and they knew not the hidden counsels of God;
neither did they count on a recompense of holiness
nor discern the innocent souls’ reward.

In our first reading, evildoers put a just man to the test with abuse and torture. Many have understood Wisdom 2:12-20 as a direct prophecy of the Passion of Christ.

The wicked said among themselves, thinking not aright: “Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us;

The ungodly speak. Not content with enjoying the pleasures of life, they conspire against “the just one” because he is a living reproach to them.

he sets himself against our doings,

The wicked have three chief complaints against the just man:

1) He stands in opposition to the wrongdoings of the wicked.

reproaches us for transgressions of the law

2) He denounces them for their sins.

and charges us with violations of our training.

3) He accuses them of not being faithful to their upbringing, which presumably refers to their training in the law.

He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the LORD. To us he is the censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us, because his life is not like that of others, and different are his ways. He judges us debased; he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure. He calls blest the destiny of the just and boasts that God is his Father.

Interestingly, the just man calls himself a “child of God.” This is something new in Jewish thinking; prior to this, it was the entire people of Israel or their representative, the king, who was considered a “son of God” (Exodus 4:22; Deuteronomy 14:1, 32:6; Psalm 2; Isaiah 30:1; Hosea 11:1).

In the latter books of the Old Testament (for example, Sirach 23:4, 51:14), we begin to see the fatherhood of God towards every just person. The title of “child of God” is applied to all the righteous, and more properly to the Messiah, who is the Righteous One.

However, there is additional depth here. The Greek word pais which is translated here as “child” can also mean “servant.” The “servant” in the Old Testament acquires special significance from the Book of Isaiah forward, where the Suffering Servant appears (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). The Suffering Servant will, through his suffering, set Israel free of its sins.

This dual meaning of pais prepares the way for the revelation of Jesus Christ, Son of God and Servant of the Lord.

Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him.

The wicked decide to put the just one to the test.

For if the just one be the son of God, he will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes. With revilement and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience.

The wicked want to see if God will protect and rescue him. If God fails to come to his aid, they will be proved right, and the just man wrong.

They obviously do not believe the just man’s claims and do not expect to be held accountable for their actions.

Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.

The abuse being planned is extreme, even fatal. The just one, described as being gentle and patient, is now an innocent victim of their resentment.

The words of the wicked in this passage are echoed in the insults offered by scribes and Pharisees to Jesus when he was on the cross (Matthew 27:40-43; Mark 15:31-32; Luke 23:35-37).

These were their thoughts, but they erred; for their wickedness blinded them, and they knew not the hidden counsels of God; neither did they count on a recompense of holiness nor discern the innocent souls’ reward.

The mistake of the ungodly is to think that nothing lies beyond death. This way of thinking stems from the wickedness of their lives which prevents them from knowing God’s purposes and causes them to despise the way upright people live.

Psalm 34: 17-21,23

R. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.

Psalm 34 is less a prayer than an instruction. Its content teaches that the righteous will be blessed and the wicked will be punished.

The LORD confronts the evildoers, to destroy remembrance of them from the earth. When the just cry out, the LORD hears them, and from all their distress he rescues them.

The contrast between the just and the wicked is clearly drawn. God looks favorably toward the righteous; their cries for help will be heard and God will provide them with what they need. The fortunes of the wicked will be the exact opposite:  they will experience God’s hostility in the worst possible way. Remembrance of them will be wiped out.

In a society that doesn’t have a clear teaching about any afterlife, such a fate means that no trace of the person will survive, and it will be as if that person had never even existed.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves. 

The psalmist is not naive about the challenges of life, even the life of the upright. Good people do indeed suffer, but they turn to God in their pain and misery. Whether they are rescued from their affliction or not, they stand under the promise of God’s loving presence.

Because suffering is often seen as the result of alienation from God, assurance of God’s nearness can alleviate the distress that such a misperception might cause.

Many are the troubles of the just man, but out of them all the LORD delivers him.

Not only do good people suffer, but sometimes it seems that they suffer precisely because they are good. This might be because they are more sensitive to right and wrong, or perhaps they are the victims of the sinfulness of others. Whatever the reason may be, the lives of the righteous are often fraught with trouble.

The psalmist claims that God hears the cry of these upright people and draws them out of their afflictions.

He watches over all his bones; not one of them shall be broken. The LORD redeems the lives of his servants; no one incurs guilt who takes refuge in him.

The psalmist characterizes God as the protector of the vulnerable, watching over them lest they be harmed in any way.

The kind of teaching found in this psalm is intended to inspire virtuous living and to teach us to trust in God’s promises.

Gospel – John 7: 1-2, 10, 25-30

Jesus moved about within Galilee;
he did not wish to travel in Judea,
because the Jews were trying to kill him.
But the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near.

But when his brothers had gone up to the feast,
he himself also went up, not openly but as it were in secret.

Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said,
“Is he not the one they are trying to kill?
And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him.
Could the authorities have realized that he is the Christ?
But we know where he is from.
When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.”
So Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said,
“You know me and also know where I am from.
Yet I did not come on my own,
but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true.
I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.”
So they tried to arrest him,
but no one laid a hand upon him,
because his hour had not yet come.

We continue our journey in John’s gospel, moving ahead to Chapter 7.

Jesus moved about within Galilee; he did not wish to travel in Judea, because the Jews were trying to kill him.

The Jewish leaders sought to kill Jesus for curing a paralytic on the sabbath day, as we read earlier this week (John 5:16).

But the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near.

The Feast of Tabernacles, also sometimes called the Feast of Booths, is one of the biblical holidays described in Leviticus 23. Jewish people do not typically refer to it as “the Feast of Tabernacles” (or “Booths”), but more commonly refer to it by its Hebrew name: Sukkot.

The name of the feast recalls the time the Israelites spent living under canvas in the wilderness (Leviticus 23:34-36). It commemorates the protection God gave them during the forty years of the Exodus.

But when his brothers had gone up to the feast, he himself also went up, not openly but as it were in secret.

In Semitic usage, the terms “brother” and “sister” are applied not only to children of the same parents, but to nephews, nieces, cousins, half-brothers, and half-sisters. (For examples, see Genesis 14:16, Genesis 29:15, and Leviticus 10:4.)

Because Jesus did not arrive in advance of the feast (which is what people normally did), the first caravans would have reported that Jesus was not coming up, and therefore the members of the Sanhedrin would have stopped planning anything against him.

By going up later, the religious authorities would not dare make any move against him for fear of hostile public reaction (see Matthew 26:5).

Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said, “Is he not the one they are trying to kill? And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him. 

John 7:14 tells us that halfway through the feast, on the fourth or fifth of the eight days, Jesus began to preach in the temple.

The Jewish people are surprised by the lack of response from the Sanhedrin. Despite the signs they have seen (Jesus’ miracles and teaching), they do not want to believe that Jesus is the Messiah.

Could the authorities have realized that he is the Christ? But we know where he is from. When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.”

Perhaps some of the people, thinking that he came from Nazareth and was the son of Joseph and Mary, cannot see how this fits in with the notion usually taken from Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 53:1-9) about the Messiah’s origin being unknown.

In fact, Jesus did fulfill those prophetic predictions; most Jews did not realize this because they were unaware of his virginal birth in Bethlehem or his descent from the line of David.

Others must have known these things about Jesus and still did not want to accept his teaching, presumably because it demanded a mental and moral conversion.

So Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said, “You know me and also know where I am from. Yet I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.”

Not without a certain irony, Jesus refers to the superficial knowledge these people had of him; however, he asserts that he comes from the Father who has sent him, whom only he knows, precisely because he is the Son of God (John 1:18).

So they tried to arrest him, but no one laid a hand upon him, because his hour had not yet come.

The people realized that Jesus was making himself God’s equal, which was regarded as blasphemy and, according to the Law, was punishable by death by stoning (Leviticus 24:15-16,23).

This is not the first time that Saint John refers to the Jews’ hostility in his Gospel, nor will it be the last. He stresses this hostility because it was a fact and perhaps also to show that Jesus acts freely when, to fulfill his Father’s will, he gives himself over to his enemies when his “hour” arrives (John 18:4-8).

“[John] did not therefore mean an hour when [Jesus] would be forced to die, but one when he would allow himself to be put to death. For he was waiting for the time in which he should die, even as he waited for the time in which he should be born” (Saint Augustine, In Ioannis Evangelium, 31, 5).

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