Christ returns to Jerusalem for the mid-winter Feast of the Dedication (Hanukkah, a celebration of the Judas Maccabee’s cleansing and rededication of the Temple) and is pursued by the hostile Jewish leadership. Confronting Christ in the Temple, the frustrated Jewish leadership demands that Christ admit He is the Messiah; when Christ says, “I and the Father are one” the Jews pick up stones with the intent to kill Him.
Rather than retreat, Christ seeks to persuade the would-be killers by demonstrating the flaw of their murderous logic. Pointing to His many miraculous works from the Father, Christ demands to know which of His miracles are sufficient to condemn Him. Unable to refute the evidence of Christ’s miracles, the Jewish leadership accuse Him of blasphemy because Christ being a man, makes Himself God. Christ responds by revealing the flaw in their logic: Christ can only do the miraculous works of the Father because He is the consecrated Son of God. Prophetically, at the Feast of the Dedication which celebrates the return of God’s presence to the Temple in Jerusalem, Christ reveals that He is consecrated by the Father; later, it will be revealed that Christ is the New Temple in which God resides in the Eucharist.
Christ, in His mercy, again gives the Jews a chance to repent by urging them to consider the many miraculous works that have come from His hand. Christ reveals that His miraculous works are worthy of belief because they are the works of the Father, works which are the result of the unity of the Father and the Son. Christ’s insistence that “the Father is in Me and I am in the Father” leads the Jewish leadership to again attempt to arrest Christ; Christ again mysteriously eludes capture and withdraws across the Jordan River where many come to Him and believe.
1) Despite being surrounded by men with the intent to kill with stones in their hands, Christ, the Perfection of Virtue and full of Divine Power, is not intimidated by men. Be awed by Christ’s heroic courage in the face of murderous men.
2) Like the enemies of Christ who ignored His miraculous works, many men today either reject or ignore the Gospel record of Christ’s many miraculous signs. During Lent, reflect on Christ’s purposeful use of Signs (CCC 547-550), meditate upon Christ’s many miraculous signs and pray for Christ to strengthen your faith.
3) Christ’s method of evangelization includes both preaching and good works. During Lent, renew your commitment to being a Missionary Witness (CCC 2044-2051) and pray for Christ to help you draw others to Christ through your witness.
Challenged by Christ’s miracles and preaching in Jerusalem, the Jewish leadership failed multiple times to discredit and arrest Christ. Responding to their public harassment, Christ engaged the Jewish leaders, condemning them and revealing that their father is not Abraham or God the Father, but Satan. After accusing Christ of being possessed by a demon, Christ mercifully confirms that those who keep His word shall not die; Christ, not of this world, refers the eternal life He gives those who repent from sin.
Lacking the grace to grasp the profound truth of eternal spiritual life that Christ offers, the Jewish leadership continue to focus on bodily death; rather than seek understanding, they desperately debate, stating that human death is obvious (Abraham and the prophets died) and accuse Christ of falsely making Himself greater than Abraham and the prophets. Frustrated, they ask, “Who do you claim to be?”
Before directly confirming His divine identity, Christ reveals that the Father glorifies Him, the Father who the Jewish leaders claim to honor but do not. After Christ reveals that Abraham rejoiced at meeting Him, the Jewish leaders scornfully ask how Abraham (who lived 2000 years earlier) could have met Christ. Christ forcefully responds, “Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Realizing that Christ has claimed to be the same God who Moses met in the burning bush (“I AM”; Ex 3:14), they attempt to stone Christ to death for blasphemy. Mysteriously, Christ conceals Himself and leaves the Temple.
1) Despite the bias to violence of the Jewish leadership and their desire to kill Christ, marvel at how Christ fearlessly challenges and condemns them as liars.
2) Christ repeatedly reveals that He keeps the Father’s word and that men must keep Christ’s word. During Lent, renew your commitment to know Christ’s word in Sacred Scripture (CCC 131-137; 162, 1177, 1785) and pray that He help you to know and keep His word.
3) Like the Jewish leadership who denied Christ, many Catholic men deny Christ today by ignoring or denying key truths of the Catholic faith (e.g. Precepts, teachings on sexual sin, etc.). During Lent, recommit yourself to the Obedience of Faith (CCC 2087-2089), rigorously identify areas in which you are in denial of key Catholic teachings and pray for Christ to help bring you to obedience.
After the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem fails to arrest Christ for blasphemy, Christ engages in a lengthy debate with them, confirming His divinity and condemning those who fail to believe in Him. Christ promises that disciples who “remain” in His word will know the truth and the truth will make them free.
Confused and taking offense, some object that their father (ancestor) is Abraham and they have never been enslaved; this is false, for the Jews were enslaved by Egypt, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks and the Romans. Rather than correcting their error about political enslavement, Christ reveals that as the Son of the Father, He has the authority and power to free them from their spiritual enslavement to sin.
When the Jews continue to claim they descend from Abraham and even God the Father, Christ harshly condemns them. Rather than true spiritual children of Abraham (who would welcome the Son of God) or of God the Father, Christ confirms that their plots to kill Him reveal that they are not from God. In the next verses (v. 43-50; omitted from the Liturgy), Christ harshly condemns the non-believing Jews, revealing their real father is the Devil, the murderer and liar from the beginning. These evil men’s patrimony is of the Satan, not God.
1) Modern culture dismisses Satan as a myth, portraying Satan as a cartoon character, a sports mascot, a villain or hero in “horror” movies or mocking Christians who speak of Satan. Realize that Christ confirms Satan’s existence multiple times and warns men to beware.
2) Only in Christ’s Catholic Church can men find the fullness of Truth of Christ; the many thousands of “Christian” churches love Christ but reject the fullness of Truth. During Lent, give thanks for the Christ’s infallible Truth that resides in the Magisterium (CCC 84-100) and pray for Christ to help you grow in the fullness of faith.
3) Like the Jews of Christ’s time, men today fail to recognize their enslavement to sin, be it materialism, pornography, gluttony, sloth, anger, fear, lukewarmness in the faith, etc. During Lent, refresh your understanding of Man’s Freedom (CCC 1730-1748) and pray for Christ to help you to become truly free in His Name.
Despite the multiple failed attempts by the Jewish leaders to arrest and discredit Him, Christ refuses to back down, declaring His divinity as the “light of the world” and mysteriously proclaiming He is sent by the Father. Cryptically speaking of His coming Passion (“I go away”), Christ warns the Jewish leadership they will die in their sin; this does not simply refer to bodily death, but the eternal death that forever separates the evil from God.
Christ explains how souls become separated from God. Referring to the vertical dimension of holiness, Christ confirms that those in the depth of sin are from “below” and “belong” to the world and those obedient to God are from “above” and do not belong to the world. At the core of sin, is not believing Christ’s assertion, “I AM”, as God revealed Himself in the burning bush to Moses (“I AM”; Ex 3:14); for their lack of belief, Christ has “much to judge” (condemn).
Stuck in the darkness of their sin or perhaps to trap Christ in blasphemy, the Jewish leadership continues to prod Christ to reveal His identity. Rather than attempt to convince the inconvinceable, Christ instead points to the coming proof of the Passion (“lifted up”); then, the world will know that Christ is the Son of Man, who comes into the world to reveal the Father by doing His Will. It is in being “lifted up” on the Cross that Christ is glorified and the fullness of God’s saving Divine Mercy is made manifest by His willingness to die for those willing to accept Him; many hear Christ and begin to believe.
1) Because Christ’s assertion that He is the Son of God is familiar, some fail to be awed. Consider the stunning proclamation of Christ; that He, who appears to be a man, is the great “I AM”; ponder what this means.
2) Those who obstinately cling to sin and do not believe in Christ will be damned. During Lent, reflect on Christ’s somber warnings about sin and renew your understanding of your Judgment (CCC 405, 408, 1861, 1020-1022). Pray for Christ to give you the grace to repent and fully give yourself to Him.
3) Men are called to imitate Christ, who perfectly pleased the Father. During Lent, recommit to live your Life in Christ (CCC 2822-2827,1691-1698), and pray for Christ to help you joyfully do the Will of God.
After the chief priests and Pharisees’ plot to arrest Christ at the Temple fails because the officers sent to arrest Christ were awed by Him, the next morning they attempt to trap Christ with an apparently no-lose plot: they will bring an adulteress (but not the male adulterer) to Christ and ask if He will pronounce judgment that she should be stoned to death as required by Mosaic Law. If Christ agrees, the Jewish leadership can report Christ to the Romans (Jews were forbidden to execute a person); if Christ does not agree, the Jewish leadership can denounce Him as being a false prophet who denies Mosaic Law (Lev 20:10; Deut 22:22).
A stoning mob of Pharisees and scribes forcibly drag the woman caught in adultery before Christ, publicly shaming her, and ask if He agrees the woman should be stoned; they do not hold her male adulterer to the same standard. Bending down, Christ wrote in the dust, perhaps an allusion to Jeremiah’s condemnation (Jer 17:13) of shameful sinners who abandon the “fountain of Living Water” (the day before Christ had revealed that He was the source of “living water”); it is also a reminder that the sinners will die and return to dust. As His condemnation sinks in, Christ stands and says, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her”, and then bent down again and continued writing in the dust. The conspirators, beginning with the oldest who are the first to realize the plot has failed, slink away; perhaps some had a change of heart.
Christ is left alone with the adulteress after heroically rescuing her from stoning. Continuing to stoop, perhaps maintaining the sitting position of a rabbi or to present a less intimidating posture to ease the poor woman’s stress, Christ looks up and asks, “Woman, where are they? Has not one condemned you?” In perfect contrition, the sinful woman responds with humble faith, “No one, Lord.” In a prefigurement of the Sacrament of Confession and bypassing sacrificial sin offerings of the Temple, Christ knows the woman has sinned and grants her forgiveness, stressing that she must not enter into adultery again and live a life of purity.
1) Be awed by Christ’s divine genius in today’s Gospel. Perfectly forcing the Pharisees into their own trap, Christ humiliates the Jewish leadership and saves the woman: if they stone the woman, they will be guilty of breaking Roman law; if they do not stone the woman they fail to uphold the Law of Moses and are admitting they are sinners. Brilliant.
2) Christ, the model of heroic masculinity, defends and upholds the dignity of women; as intended by the Father, St. Joseph guided Christ to grow in stature (Luke 2:52). During Lent, draw closer to St. Joseph (CCC 437, 532) and pray for St. Joseph’s intercession that you might become a spiritual father to many.
3) Despite a culture that celebrates or excuses sexual sin, Christ commands men to “do not sin again.” During Lent, renew your understanding of Chastity (CCC 2337-2359) and pray for Christ to help you resist sexual temptation and to confess your sins promptly when you fall.