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Liturgical day: Saturday 4th of Lent

Saints March 17th: Saint Patrick, bishop (Principal Patron of Ireland)

1st Reading (Jer 11:18-20): I knew their plot because the Lord informed me; at that time you, o Lord, showed me their doings. Yet I, like a trusting lamb led to slaughter, had not realized that they were hatching plots against me: «Let us destroy the tree in its vigor; let us cut him off from the land of the living, so that his name will be spoken no more». But, you, o Lord of hosts, o just Judge, searcher of mind and heart; let me witness the vengeance you take on them, for to you I have entrusted my cause!
Responsorial Psalm: 7
R/. O Lord, my God, in you I take refuge.
O Lord, my God, in you I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers and rescue me; lest I become like the lion's prey, to be torn to pieces, with no one to rescue me.

Do me justice, O LORD, because I am just, and because of the innocence that is mine. Let the malice of the wicked come to an end, but sustain the just, o searcher of heart and soul, o just God.

A shield before me is God, who saves the upright of heart. A just judge is God, a God who punishes day by day.
Verscicle before the Gospel (Jn 3:16): Blessed are they who have kept the word with a generous heart and yield a harvest through perseverance.

Gospel text (Jn 7,40-53): Many who had been listening to the words of Jesus began to say, «This is the Prophet». Others said, «This is the Christ». But some wondered, «Would the Christ come from Galilee? Doesn't Scripture say that the Christ is a descendant of David and from Bethlehem, the city of David?».

The crowd was divided over him. Some wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. The officers of the Temple went back to the chief priests who asked them, «Why didn't you bring him?». The officers answered, «No one ever spoke like this man». The Pharisees then said, «So you, too, have been led astray! Have any of the rulers or any of the Pharisees believed in him? Only these cursed people, who have no knowledge of the Law!».

Yet one of them, Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier, spoke out, «Does our law condemn people without first hearing them and knowing the facts?». They replied, «Do you, too, come from Galilee? Look it up and see for yourself that no prophet is to come from Galilee». And they all went home.

«No one ever spoke like this man»

Fr. Fernand ARÉVALO
(Bruxelles, Belgium)

Today, the Gospel presents the different reactions which the words of our Lord produced. John's text does not offer us any word from the Master, but it does mention the consequences of what He said. Some thought He was a prophet; others said «This is the Christ» (Jn 7:41).

Jesus Christ is truly a “sign that will be contradicted” as Simon had told Mary (cf. Lk 2:34). Those who listened to Jesus' words did not remain indifferent to them, to the point that, on this occasion, as in many others, «the crowd was divided over Him» (Jn 7:43). The reply of the officers who wanted to arrest the Lord centers the question and shows us the power of Christ's words: «No one ever spoke like this man» (Jn 7:46). It is like saying: His words are different; they are not empty boastful words, full of arrogance and falseness. He is “the Truth” and his way of speaking reflects this reality.

And if this happened amid his audience, his deeds provoked even more amazement and admiration; but also, criticism, gossip, hate... Jesus Christ spoke “the language of charity”: his deeds and his words showed the deep love He felt towards all men, especially those more in need of assistance.

Today as then, we Christians are —must be— “a sign of contradiction”, because we do not speak and behave like others do. By imitating and following Jesus Christ, we likewise must use “the language of charity and love”, a necessary language that, in fact, we can all understand. As the Holy Father, our Pope Benedict XVI, wrote in his encyclical Deus caritas est, «Love —caritas— will always prove necessary, even in the most just society (...). Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such».

«No one ever spoke like this man»

Fr. Antoni CAROL i Hostench
(Sant Cugat del Vallès, Barcelona, Spain)

Today, we can feel how, a few days before His Passion in Jerusalem, the atmosphere around our Lord becomes “strained”. Because of him a kind of controversial argument begins. It could not be otherwise: «Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division» (Lk 12:51).

And it does not mean our Redeemer likes controversy and division, but rather that, before God, “half-baked ideas” are no good: «He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters» (Lk 11:23). It is inevitable! Before him one cannot take a neutral stand: either He exists or He does not exist; either He is my Lord, or He is not my Lord. «No one can serve two masters» (Mt 6:24).

John Paul II considered that before God one must choose. The simple faith our good God requests from us implies an option. We have to choose because He does not want to impose upon us: He came to Earth in a discreet manner; He died stunned, without making any ostentation of his divinity (Phil 2:6). This is what so wonderfully expresses Saint Thomas Aquinas in his Adoro Te devote: «On the cross was veiled Thy Godhead's splendor; but here (in the Eucharist) Thy manhood lies hidden too».

We have go to choose! God does not impose upon us; He offers himself to us. And it is up to us to decide for him or not. It is a personal matter each one —with the help of the Holy Spirit— has to solve by himself. Miracles are useless, if man's dispositions are not humility and simplicity. We can see the Jews divided before the same facts. And, this is because in love matters it is not possible to give a half-hearted, half way reply: Christian vocation implies radical response, so radical as the testimony of submission and obedience Christ gave in the Cross.