Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
During Lent, we are called to examine all the ways in which we are just like the Jews in the passage from John. Jesus tells them that they belong to what is below. In so many ways, so do we. When we imagine that we don’t need to care for the poor because they’re just lazy or otherwise unworthy and, therefore, deserve what they get, we belong to what is below. When we don’t reach out to the homeless because we figure they must have some addiction that is of their own making and, therefore, are not our problem, we belong to what is below. When our hearts go cold to the plight of refugees or immigrants because we think they pose some threat to us, we belong to what is below. Whenever we take satisfaction in the idea that we are better than others or that what we have been blessed with is owing to our merit rather than God’s generosity and grace, we belong to what is below. Or, conversely, when we (like the children of Israel) complain that God’s gifts to us are not good enough, we belong to what is below. And whenever we reject God’s gift of forgiveness by continuing to beat ourselves up for sins God no longer even remembers, we belong to what is below.
But we do not have to belong to what is below. Jesus gives us a way out. He reminds us today that all that he has taught us—about caring for the poor, the homeless, the refugee, about living humbly, forgiving others as God has forgiven us, fully embracing the grace we have been given—is from God. And this is really important. Jesus’ teachings and his life are the Logos of God. They are not bits of advice that we can take if we like them or reject if we don’t. They are the very word of God. And we are measured against them.
And so we are presented today with a choice—to think like Jesus, talk like Jesus, and act like Jesus, or not. To belong to what is below. Or to join Jesus in what is above. John reports upon hearing Jesus speak in this way many came to believe in him. Today, Jesus is speaking plainly to us. May we also believe, repent, and be transformed into Christians of compassion, love, and grace.
- Sue Trollinger