Homily March 28th, 2023

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent – Jn 8:21-30

Today’s Gospel, taken from the eighth chapter of John, is a difficult passage. Indeed, one of the verses is considered the hardest verse to translate in the entire New Testament,[1] and we can see how Christ and the Pharisees are really talking past each other: the Pharisees have a very horizontal view of reality, a worldly view, whereas Christ sees things in a different light, from above. The Pharisees have complicated everything with their laws and traditions, so much so that they are unable to recognize the Savior, even though He’s right in front of them.

What is really of note, however, and particularly important for us and our lives, is the difficult conclusion of the Gospel. Christ says: “I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me. The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to him.” Yet, the result is rather astonishing. As John recalls, “Because he spoke this way, many came to believe in him.” It’s not immediately clear what “this way” is, but many of the saints have said that it refers to the humility with which Christ spoke. Earlier Christ had taught many doctrines, but the people didn’t understand. However, here He gives the most basic teaching, and people come to believe. In essence, Christ simply says, “I don’t do anything on my own; I just do what God the Father wants. As a result, God hasn’t left me alone; He is always with me.” This truth is quite far from the complicated reasoning of the Pharisees, and it touches on the heart of what it means to be a saint.

It is easy to get caught up on any number of things in this world; it is easy to lose focus and to become concerned about any number of things that aren’t God. However, there is “only one thing necessary”: to know, love, and serve God, and to set Him at the center of our lives. It is this simplicity that frees us to be about the things of God.

Once, the Carmelite martyr Saint Titus Brandsma was asked by his sister, a Poor Clare, “‘Brother, what must I do to become perfect?’ He replied, ‘Carry out your daily duties punctually, even to the smallest things. This is so simple! Follow Our Lord like a young girl and skip about behind Jesus; leave all your worries to Him; this way you’re doing enough, this is perfection—don’t tire yourself out, surrender yourself.’” This simplicity is the plan that Christ presents for us.

Today, as we approach Holy Week, we can ask ourselves about how well we are convinced of and live out the truths that Christ mentions in today’s Gospel: can we say: “I do nothing on my own,” and that God is the sole reason I do anything? Can we can “I say only what the Father taught me,” meaning, that our words and actions reflect God the Father’s love? Do we firmly believe “the one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone”?

Through the intercession of Mary, our Lady of Sorrows, let us ask for the grace to surrender ourselves to Christ, and in this way to become the saints He wants us to be.   

[1] Cf. William Barclay’s Commentary regarding Jn 8:25.



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