The gospel readings from John in this last week of Lent show the increasingly dangerous levels of tension between Jesus and the religious leaders of his time. Stones are picked up and arrests are attempted. Jesus knows that it is only a matter of time before they find a reason to kill him.
When a faith community faces persecution from outside powers, strength is found within the community. Those who offer the ultimate sacrifice of life are upheld as martyrs. They become a symbol of faithfulness and inspiration. When the persecution comes from inside your own community, there is a deep loneliness along with the hurt.
Many years ago, we experienced a dark time in our parish and diocese. It reached a crisis point during Lent. How appropriate! In my prayers, I wailed about the unfairness of the situation….
- Why am I being punished….I was only trying to do good!
- But, I haven`t done anything wrong!
- How can priests and bishops act in such an un-Christian manner?
- Where have my friends gone? Why isn`t anyone defending me?
- My God, my God…why have you forsaken me?
Oh, I forgot. Jesus experienced the same thing… and much worse!
Jesus tried to show that living a life of deep faith goes beyond obedient adherence to rules or a mindless recitation of prayers. A sincere faith requires you to connect your beliefs to just action. It is a constant reading of the signs of the times in order to respond in a meaningful and effective way to the needs around us. Sometimes it requires an honest questioning of rules and regulations. It will always require an open and honest dialogue with each other and with our leaders.
And, it helps to know how to dodge a few stones along the way!