Lent Retreat – Week 5, Friday
The opening line of today’s Gospel reading plunges us directly into the midst of a heated debate between Jesus and his Jewish hearers. But to understand its opening we must look to the wider context of Chapter 10 of John. Throughout this chapter we see the allusions to Jesus’ divine status being emphasised more and more emphatically, that the eyes of the people may be opened and that in following him they may be set free. But, as we can read in Luke, the hearing is often not a favourable one – ‘And he said: Amen I say to you, that no prophet is accepted in his own country’ (Luke 4:24). Finally, the people ask him plainly to reveal his identity and Jesus replies ‘the Father and I are one’. For his Jewish hearers, as for many people today, it really is too much and ‘they pick up rocks to stone him’. Though many of his hearers witnessed the good works Jesus performed, this statement of fact is denounced as blasphemous but, far from retreating, Jesus continues to defend his position.
By quoting from Psalm 82:6, ‘I said you are gods’, Jesus does not water down his claim by simply suggesting that others have been given the title of ‘god’ before him – such a claim would not have infuriated his hearers to such a degree. No, in this crucial exchange Jesus identifies himself as encapsulating the whole heavenly court in his person, a claim too far for some. This powerful use of scripture and argument from Jesus reminds us that we, through faith, can be co-heirs with Christ, and thus participants in the life of the Trinity and as such we can understand why Jesus is so passionate in this encounter. What lies at stake is something of the greatest magnitude – the salvation of humankind! The message is hard to assimilate but if we have faith, if we believe in his word of truth, then through his abundant love we will be given all the grace we need to share in his divinity. Some of his hearers were willing to do so, and if we also keep faith by acknowledging Christ as the Son of God, we can be set free and walk with him on the path toward the Heavenly Kingdom.
In a week’s time we shall witness the very way in which our salvation was wrought by Christ’s bloody death and resurrection and to prepare we must open our hearts and minds fully to him. Let us not be hard of heart but instead see in Christ’s words and deeds the very truth for which we ultimately long, and allow ourselves to be united with him in his Passion for the salvation of our souls.