Day 30: Thursday of 4th week of Lent

Grotto on Mount of Olives where Jesus used to pray alone

WITNESSES OF JESUS

 

  1. Document: Holy Scripture Readings

1.1.  First Reading: The Book of Exodus 32: 7-14

1.2.  Gospel Reading: The Gospel of St John 5: 31-47

1.3.  Simple Comment: In a dramatic fashion Moses pleads for Israel whom Yahweh wanted at one point to exterminate because of their apostasy when they forgot Him and substituted Him in the worship the golden calf. On Moses’ plea Yahweh relented and did not bring about Israel’s disaster. Similarly, Jesus pleaded for humanity’s life on the cross when he exclaimed: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” In fact, as Jesus testified in today’s gospel reading, the Father sent him for this purpose – to avert humanity’s complete destruction by the offering of his life.

 

  1. Monument: The Mount of Olives

2.1.  We know the Mount of Olives more for the place of the Agony at the Garden. But in the Gospels the Mount of Olives was a frequented location of Jesus. In fact, Judas Iscariot knew where to find him when he led the Temple guards because he was familiar of the Mount of Olives as Jesus’ favorite place of quiet and repose.

2.2.  St Luke I his gospel recalls how one day the disciples were so attracted with the way Jesus prayed – how he was so intimate with God – such that they asked him to teach them how to pray. This incident according to Lukan tradition happened on this Mount; thus, for him the Our Father was taught by Jesus not in the Mount of the Beatitudes as it was told by St Matthew, but in a grotto or cave on the Mount of Olives. This place is today commemorated with the Church of the Pater Noster.

 

  1. Lenten Reflection

3.1.  In the Gospel reading of today Jesus cited five witnesses who testify to his being Son of God: (1) John the Baptist who identified him as the Lamb of God on whom he saw the Spirit of God descend; (2) the cures and healings as signs of life-giving; (3) the Father himself whose voice was heard over the waters of the river Jordan and on Mount Tabor saying: This is my Beloved Son!; (4) the Scriptures in general; (5) Moses in particular. According to Jewish custom, the truth of one’s testimony needs three witnesses – Jesus has five!

3.2.  Today Christianity defends the truth that Jesus is indeed the Son of God. In her two thousand years of history the Church points to the blood of thousands of her martyrs who gave their lives for their belief in Jesus’ divinity. But no amount of witnesses can coerce a person to put his faith in Jesus. Yes, faith is God’s gift but at the same time, and for some mysterious divine reason, faith remains as our decision!

 

  1. Contemporary Filipino Question: Our Filipino Christian faith is bolstered by the witness of two martyrs: St Lorenzo Ruiz and Blessed Pedro Calungsod. Mysteriously, God’s Providence points out to us that our faith-legacy comes from two laymen, both of whom gave their lives for the faith outside the Philippines: Lorenzo in Japan and Pedro in Guam. Today this is even truer! How many of the 8 milllion OFWs are literally martyrs, giving their life for their children or for their younger siblings! I have met so many of them. Here in Jerusalem they are admirable. I know of one caregiver who lacks the proper documents to stay in the country but every Sunday she continues to take the risk of being caught and deported when she travels all the way from Tel-Aviv on a public transport and goes to a Jerusalem Filipino community to lead them in their prayer meeting as members of the Couples for Christ. We do not lack witnesses; what we lack is the personal decision to live our faith in Jesus to the hilt!