March 27, 2020
by Larry Gillick, S.J.
Creighton University's Deglman Center of Ignatian Spirituality
click here for photo and information about the writer

Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Lectionary: 248

Wisdom 2:1a, 12-22
Psalms 34:17-1, 19-20, 21 and 23
John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30

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“Because he is obnoxious to us” are the words of those who are recorded in the Book of Wisdom, who do not like what someone has been saying about them. Obnoxious, from the Latin “nocere” means “harm”. Noxious  can be a  dangerous and harmful experience. When “ob” is added to that root it means “In front, or in your face”. When we catch a whiff  of natural gas, we might check our stove’s burner or maybe there is a leak in the line. It bothers us and could be dangerous to our health.

The Prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures, such as Jeremiah and Amos, were definitely unmpopular for the smell and sounds of their words directed at the religious leaders of their times. The First Reading is quite a helpful introduction to our Gospel for this liturgy.

Two weeks from today is the liturgy of Good Friday. These Readings are setting in motion, quite dramaticly, our prayer as we move toward that celebration. The orientation of John’s Gospel centers about the Who and why and from where is this Word Made Flesh. One of the names John suggests for Jesus is “The Sent One”. “sending” and Sent” are His words for Himself. The Man Born Blind in chapter nine, is sent to the pool of Siloam to be washed and receive his sending and John writes that the name of the pool means “sent”. John is not very subtile about Whom Jesus really is.

There is a plan afoot to kill Jesus, but some confusion about His earthly identity. He has provoked the religious leaders who have found their identities threatened by His obnoxious behavior and teachings. Jesus’ identity intensifies, it seems, as His identity is questioned.

My Reflection upon these Readings is, perhaps, tangential and perhaps not directly thematic. If it is too much, reach for the delete button, which the hearers of Jesus probably wanted to do themselves, so they were planning just to delete Him.

I listen to a large number of spiritual and prayerful persons who just want to be “better”. Everything that is important to them about themselves, their prayer, their relationships, their ministries, “better”. I do not recall Jesus using this exact word or anything like it. We can spend all of Lent, make our entire life a Lenten exercise of self-improvement and never seem to be, or act or feel better, but probably worse. This is in no way healthy, spiritual nor religious. When I have tried, lived this way I have discovered behind it all a very excited and active ego pumping as fast as it could. “Better” seems to be religious, but the closer we allow Jesus to get to us, the lesser it seems important to judge my personal progress. “Deeper” seems to be His invitation and we’ll never be able to measure that either.

Jesus, for the religious leaders of His time, was an inconvenience, a pain in the foot and a bother especially as He challenged His hearers. They centered their relationship with God around their receiving approval for their actions. Jesus basic message, “teaching” was about who they were in the eyes of the One Who sent Him and not who they were in their own eyes.

Simply then, Lent is not a time for self-improvement. Our actions will always flow from who we accept ourselves as being. His life, His death, His resurrection are all affirming, picturing and insisting on who He tells us, shows us, and leads us to the acceptance of who we are deeply and not betterly.

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