Jesus seeks again to help the Pharisees to understand who he is. In the preceding section of today’s Gospel of John, the Pharisees do not believe in his claim of being “the light of the world” because he testifies on his “own behalf, so [his] testimony cannot be verified” (Jn 8:13). The point being made here is that for something to be verified there must be support given by two or three valid witnesses (cf. Deuteronomy 19:15). Jesus states that he testifies on his own behalf as does his Father who sent him (cf. Jn 8:19). He is again equating himself with God.
Jesus continues in today’s Gospel account to attempt to help the Pharisees and those gathered around them to understand who he is and what is about to transpire in his crucifixion. Jesus shared that God the Father sent him and continues to be with him. He has not left Jesus alone because Jesus maintains the intimacy of their relationship as he follows the will of his Father and will continue to do so all the way to being lifted up on the Cross.
Those listening to Jesus do not understand, they asked if he was talking about killing himself. Often throughout the ministry of Jesus many, even his Apostles, do not understand what Jesus taught, and that was because they were trying to make sense of what he said from a purely material and finite reality. Jesus invited them seek a deeper understanding by sharing that he is from above and they were from below. They were needing to be born from above, to open their mind and hearts to him, as Simon Peter did when he came to realize that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus gave those he taught a choice. They could die in their own sin, or repent and choose to live in participation with him.
Discipleship is a journey. We will not come to understand Jesus from one instance or encounter. Even Saul, who had an amazing experience with Jesus, would take about three years to figure out what happened to him that day on the road to Damascus. So it will be with us. We need to resist the world’s craving for instant gratification regarding the growth of our discipleship.
We will grow and mature in our faith as we acknowledge and repent from our sin, believe in Jesus, remain committed to him, and walk with Jesus daily by following the will of his Father as he did. The gift of the liturgical seasons is that as we journey each year with Jesus, as did his original disciples, we can assess our growth. Like a finger making an upward spiral motion, we come again and again to the same point each year, and hopefully, we are higher up that spiral each time.
Sometimes it is hard to see change in the day to day, but may we see that we have grown closer in our relationship with Jesus this Lent in comparison to the last one. If not, it is not too late to begin again, to repent from that which keeps us bound to this world and turn our gaze to what is above. Jesus made a choice, he chose to die on the cross for us as we are right now. We can hold tight to our sins or leave them at the cross. We can reject or believe and follow Jesus. We can die from our sins or live with Jesus for eternity.
Image of Crucifixion from Our Lady of Florida Spiritual Center, Palm Beach Gardens, FL
Link for the Mass readings for Tuesday, March 20, 2018: