HOMILY for Fri in Week 4 of Lent
Why did the Jewish authorities hate Jesus? A few days ago, St John tells us that it is because Christ “not only broke the sabbath but also called God his Father, making himself equal with God” (Jn 5:18b). So, religious reasons are given and, sadly, it is not uncommon for people to hide behind religion to justify their hatred and violence. But today’s First Reading offers an incisive look into the hearts of those who sought to kill Christ, looking at the actual reasons why they wanted to kill him: he challenges their worldview and their power; his light exposes those things we’d prefer to keep hidden in shadow. Hence: “He is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law, and accuses us of sins against our training” (Wis 2:12). So, let us ambush and get rid of him.
If we’re honest, there have probably been moments when the truth is somewhat inconvenient, or when someone’s goodness just shows us up. The temptation, then, is to silence or conceal the truth by lying, or drowning it out with arguments and rationalizations. Or we may just ignore such people, or discredit them by exposing their sins. Hence the Jews declared Jesus a blasphemer and accused him of breaking the Sabbath.
This strategy is still being used today, and Jesus is still being targeted in his Mystical Body, the Church. In the place of the Jewish powers we have the sanctimonious Media who delights in the notorious sins of some of the clergy, in the vain hope that this will discredit the truth of Christ’s teachings. But doesn’t sin actually remind us of everyone’s need for Christ and the Gospel? For even a doctor gets sick, and when he does, doesn’t he too need healing, availing himself of the medicine he dispenses? And truth is always true irrespective of who has said it. But this is especially true of the Gospel which was preached by Christ who is Truth Itself.
So, the powers-that-be try another tactic: religion is silenced as a private opinion that has no place in the public square. And some may feel pressured into abandoning public signs of the Faith, whether it is a crucifix around our neck, or something more visible like the religious habit or clerical collar. Why should they want this? Because, as our First Reading says, “the very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange” (Wis 2:14f). Put simply, our public witness to Christ reminds others of him. And for some, this is an unwelcome reminder because it challenges one’s worldview with the inconvenient Truth of the Gospel.
Thus, Christ’s Church is not infrequently hated and vilified, not least in the person of Christ’s Vicar on earth, Pope Benedict. But we shouldn’t be surprised. Indeed, this is a sign of our fidelity to Christ. As Jesus said: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. ” (Jn 15:18f). So, it is a kind of martyrdom, a courageous witness to Christ’s Truth, and St Matthew tell us to “rejoice and be glad” when we’re hated for Christ’s sake, with Christ. It’s only when we Christians are not opposed that we should be worried because, perhaps, we may have already silenced the Truth in our hearts.