Homily for April 9, Saturday of the IV week of Lent
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Again today, our first reading and psalm speak of an innocent and just person turning to God for help and justice, because of being persecuted by evildoers. They are texts that find their most perfect fulfillment in Our Lord during His suffering and death on the cross. However, there is a slight difference: these texts ask for vengeance and punishment for the persecutors, whereas Jesus prays that His executioners be forgiven, even as He dies for them on the cross.
The Gospel reading shows how Jesus continues to be a controversial figure in Jerusalem, and the religious leaders become more and more hostile to Him. Their pride and their anger make them increasingly rude and irrational. They deride the guards for being impressed by Jesus, affirming that none of the leaders has believed in Him – whereas we know that at least two, including Nicodemus who is present for their meeting, actually have believed in Christ. They also say that no prophet comes from Galilee, when more than one did, including the great prophet Elijah. They have no interest in listening to Jesus to judge Him fairly; they have heard Him before, but they only have been looking for ways to trip Him up. A showdown is becoming inevitable. Where there is no openness to truly listen, there can be no dialog, nor any possible change of heart.
It’s easy for us to condemn the chief priests and Pharisees, yet we ourselves are often closed to others and unwilling to give a real hearing to different opinions. It happens all too often in politics and in the media; each party, politician, or reporter has his or her own agenda and talking points. Instead of a real discussion that seeks the truth or the common good, there is posturing, accusations, slogans and empty but snappy comebacks. Even worse, this can happen in our own families, between spouses, siblings, and other relatives. It can lead to misunderstandings, bitter divisions, and alienation.
It is often hard to listen with a truly open heart and mind to someone who disagrees with us – especially when they don’t reciprocate. Nonetheless, it’s essential in order to have peaceful, respectful, and charitable co-existence – and especially for the true love and unity that should characterize us as Christians. Lent is a good time to try to reopen channels of communication with the people around us, to learn to understand them better and discover God’s presence in them. May we end this Lent with a greater appreciation and understanding of others, more united to them and thus to Jesus our Lord.