YEARNING FOR THE FIRE OF THE SPIRIT

 

Saturday, Fourth Week of Lent

April 1, 2017

Jer 11: 18-20/ Ps 7: 2-3. 9bc-10. 11-12/ Jn 7: 40-53

By *Mr. Henry Ibekwe, SJ

The readings of today center upon the theme of enemies plotting against God's faithful servant. We hear Prophet Jeremiah allude to "their scheming" (Jer 11:18), we hear the psalmist beg for God's protection in the face of "my pursuer" (Ps 7:2). The gospel reading from John makes mention of priests and Pharisees who would have liked to arrest Jesus as he went about preaching. In reality, the theme of relentless enemies resonates with many of us today; as does our need to be careful lest we fall into the traps and snares set for us by our enemies, detractors and pursuers.


Indeed, the gospels never failed to present the Pharisees as mortal enemies of Jesus of Nazareth. However, the unexpected friendship between Jesus and Nicodemus (himself a leading Pharisee) leads us into deeper reflection: what is the wisest way of contending with our enemies? Despite the many convoluted plots by the Pharisees to eliminate Jesus, Jesus reaches out and befriends one of them. Nicodemus ends up defending Jesus in the presence of his fellow Pharisees, "But surely the Law does not allow us to pass judgment on a man without giving him a hearing" (John 7:51).


This season of Lent reminds us that, although we may not have complete control over our enemies, we definitely have the full capacity to cultivate our identity in God. We are reminded that whenever we stop practicing our faith, we forget who we are and many troubles ensue; we forget the Christ-like injunction to pray for our enemies and for those who persecute us. An uncultivated spirituality causes us to lose contact with the God who is extremely effective at defending us from all the machinations of our enemies.


Jeremiah committed his cause to God (Jer 11:20). Perhaps we too could take the occasion of our frosty relations with our enemies to truly seek the face of the risen Christ and the smoldering fire of the Holy Spirit. Perchance our tension-filled interactions with our enemies could remind us that we need to reject the works of the flesh and seek the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Lenten discipline could lead us to re-examine the character we have forged for ourselves through our life choices, and to seek our true identity in the living God.


Maybe we would eventually realize that the only way to overcome our enemies is to turn inward and kill the real enemy: our own hatred. With persistence, we would come to understand the power of forgiveness: that when we forgive we operate with a power that comes from God Himself. Hopefully, the Spirit of Jesus will lead us to the understanding that forgiveness is the key element in overcoming the vicious cycle of hurt in which we find ourselves.

*Mr. Henry Ibekwe, SJ, is a scholastic studying Theology at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California, USA. 

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