“If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don't like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.” - Saint Augustine
Gospel text (Jn 7:1-18.104.22.168-30):
Jesus moved about within Galilee;
he did not wish to travel in Judea ,
because the Jews were trying to kill him.
But the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near.
But when his brothers had gone up to the feast,
he himself also went up, not openly but as it were in secret.
Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said,
"Is he not the one they are trying to kill?
And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him.
Could the authorities have realized that he is the Christ?
But we know where he is from.
When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from."
So Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said,
"You know me and also know where I am from.
Yet I did not come on my own,
but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true.
I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me."
So they tried to arrest him,
but no one laid a hand upon him,
because his hour had not yet come.
Why was Jesus, the Holy One, traveling about in "heathen Galilee " (Mt 4:15), the pagan territory? It was because His life was in danger in the "holy" territory. Jesus had decided not to travel in the "churchy" area of Judea and Jerusalem , because some of the Jews there were looking for a chance to kill Him. These religious folks did have their eyes fixed on Jesus (Heb 12:2) — not to exalt Him, but to eliminate Him. All the while, these folks were busily carrying out their religious activities, such as the holy Feast of Booths (Jn 7:2). They gave Jesus outward lip-service (Mk 7:6), but internally they found Him "obnoxious" ( Wis 2:12) and so kept Him out of their worship.
It is likely that some of us are also deeply involved in religious activities. Accordingly, we must constantly "examine [ourselves]" (2 Cor 13:5). Are we, who reside in the holy territory, the ones among whom Jesus can do the least good? Are we giving Jesus lip-service, but working to keep Him out of "our" ministries and lives for fear? Are we pillars of the Church but "always opposing the Holy Spirit"? (Acts 7:51) Could it be that we are keeping Jesus away rather than rolling out the welcome mat for Him?
Scripture points out that one thing is for certain. We will all suffer trials in life and at times it may seem that the wicked are winning or being rewarded. It would be easy to become bitter and lose faith; to wonder, is God really seeing this? We can draw from today’s scripture readings that, yes, God is watching.
You wonder what Jesus thought. The Son of God comes among us and those in power plot to kill him. The disciples appear clueless. And the people in Jerusalem said you can’t be the Christ; we know where you’re from! One wonders how frustrated Jesus must have been.
In trying times where God seems distant and injustice seems to reign, we have a choice. We can distance ourselves from God or move closer to God. It always seems to come down to faith and trust. As we move towards Easter this is a time to think about Christ and His sacrifice. The Lenten season offers us an opportunity to spend more time with God. My prayer today is for each of us to know the Lord is watching over us and to deepen our relationship with God.
We must seek Christ when it’s the most difficult to do so, because that’s when he is the closest.