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Rejecting False Paradigms
Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Jesus said to those Jews who believed in him, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains. So if the Son frees you, then you will truly be free. I know that you are descendants of Abraham. But you are trying to kill me, because my word has no room among you. I tell you what I have seen in the Father’s presence; then do what you have heard from the Father.” They answered and said to him, “Our father is Abraham.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works of Abraham. But now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God; Abraham did not do this. You are doing the works of your father!” So they said to him, “We were not born of fornication. We have one Father, God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and am here; I did not come on my own, but he sent me.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, thank you for these moments to be with you by pondering your words in the Scriptures. Bless me as I look for meaning and trust that you have a special message for me today.
- The Catholic Meaning of Freedom: Jesus frequently preached that the truth will set us free. In our generation, some reject Jesus because they have a distorted view of truth and freedom. Truth, they say, belongs to the person who believes it and can vary from individual to individual. Freedom, the modern mind believes, is the ability to choose whatever we deem as good, or good for us, from among a limitless array of options. According to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, “We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.” Catholics embrace Jesus’ words and believe God is the fullness of truth. As Bishop Robert Barron says, freedom is “not so much liberty of choice, but rather the disciplining of desire so as to make the achievement of the good first possible and then effortless.” We are disciples of Christ, and fight moral relativism by praying and being able to use Scripture in dialogue with others. “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (1 Timothy 3:16).
- My Word Has No Room among You: These descendants of Abraham were trying to kill Jesus because they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) accept his word. What drove the word of God from their minds and hearts? Sin. Perhaps the Pharisees suffered from arrogance, intellectualism, and intolerance. In their self-righteousness, they shut their hearts and proclaimed themselves judge and executioner of Jesus. Sin can also keep us from hearing God’s will in our lives, even if we are trying to follow him as a disciple. May we stay close to the sacrament of Reconciliation to keep our souls free from even the smallest blinding or deafening sin.
- Clinging to a False Paradigm: The Pharisees clung to the fact that they were Abraham’s descendants, as if that had all the power of redemption they needed. By their insistence, they pushed away the only redemption that could truly save them: Jesus Christ, who stood before them. We can fall into a similar trap by forcing Our Lord into a box of our making or subjugating him to our earthly passions. Every time we consider “we know better,” we are falling into a false paradigm. This denial of truth can sap our joy and leave us with the earthly remnants we cling to, rather than the heavenly joy for which we were made. Again, may we stay close to the sacrament of Reconciliation, which will help us to embrace truth and live joyfully.
Conversation with Christ: Lord, reading these lines of Scripture with hindsight, it is easy to judge the Pharisees for their hard-heartedness and presume I am different. Help me, Lord, to keep my soul pure through your sacramental grace so that I can embrace true freedom and reject all relativistic paradigms in my life.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will do a thorough examination of conscience and make a plan to attend the sacrament of Reconciliation.
For Further Reflection: Fr. Mike Schmitz on freedom.
Written by Maribeth Harper.