Day 37: Thursday of 5th week of Lent

THE LIVING PRESENCE OF JESUS

 

  1. Document: Holy Scripture Readings

1.1.  First Reading: The Book of Genesis 17: 3-9

1.2.  Gospel Reading: The Gospel of St John 8: 51-59

1.3.  Simple Comment: The two readings have a common denominator in the mention of Abraham. Other than that, everything else is a big contrast. Abraham prostrates himself before God and Yahweh blesses him with posterity and prosperity. Instead between Jesus and the Jews there is only mounting contestation. It escalates from heated debate to vehement objections ending up with the Jews picking up rocks to throw at Jesus!

 

  1. Monument: Emmaus

2.1.  St Luke’s Gospel is unique in reporting about the existence of a village called Emmaus, seven miles distant from Jerusalem. The other three gospels are silent about this appearance of Jesus to two of his disciples.

2.2.  In modern-day Israel there are four places claiming to be the site of this miraculous appearance of Jesus: Abu Gosh, Latrun, Qubeiba and Qoloniya. Referring oneself to the aforementioned distance of 60 stadia (= 7 miles or 11.5 kilometers) from Jerusalem, Abu Gosh and Qubeiba would fit the role. Qoloniya is too near – half the mentioned distance, while Latrun is too far at 30 kilometers away. Except for Qoloniya, now an Arab village, these places have commemorative Churches recalling the Lucan incident.

2.3.  Latrun nevertheless has the oldest presence of Christians. St Jerome, who translated the Hebrew/Greek Bible into Latin, the lingua franca of his time, mentioned in a letter of 386 AD the name Emmaus-Nicopolis as “where the Lord made himself known to Cleophas in the breaking of the bread, thus consecrating his house as a church.”

 

  1. Lenten Reflection

3.1.  The Jews try to stone Jesus for claiming to be greater than Abraham, their father in the faith, because he stated that “if a man is true to my word he shall never see death”. Abraham died, so did the prophets. How could Jesus claim to be better than they?

3.2.  Nevertheless, St Paul will write in his letters to the different Christian communities that the core of our faith lies in the resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, he would be like anyone else – great perhaps, but as human as everyone else! Instead, St Paul will insist that the resurrection of Jesus signified the truth of his preaching and his cures, the truth that he is truly God’s Son, the truth that compels us to follow him unreservedly and unconditionally.

 

  1. Contemporary Filipino Question: The Holy Week is one of the hottest weeks of the Philippine calendar. This could be one reason – other than cultural ones – why the Filipino Catholic is more prone to concentrate on the passion and death of Jesus rather than celebrate his glorious resurrection. If one takes notice of the semana santa practices – the pabasa that cannot be interrupted, the flagellantes and the phenomenal Good Friday procession of Quiapo, going barefoot all the way to Antipolo or around one’s town during the Stations of the Cross, the 3-hour long listening to the explanation of the Siete Palabras, the re-enactment of the crucifixion in Pampanga complete with the piercing of the hands with real nails – all these point to pakikiramay sa pagdurusa ni Hesus. They are all good to some extent. But if these bring one to the point of exhaustion and so, not have enough energy to celebrate the Easter Vigil, thus missing the wonderful narration of humanity’s redemption from the Scriptures, the renewal of one’s baptismal vows and the sacramental communion with the Risen Jesus, then one remains with the empty-tomb-reality and loses the opportunity for a transforming encounter with the Savior! One ends up with only rocks in the hand and a Jesus who eludes one’s life.