March 16, 2018
by John Shea, S.J.
Creighton University's Biology Department
click here for photo and information about the writer

Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Lectionary: 248

Wisdom 2:1a, 12-22
Psalms 34:17-18, 19-20, 21 and 23
John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30

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In our first reading, we hear of how the wicked plan to beset the just and those who are trying to obey God. Their plan entails revilement, torture and even death. The reading reminds me of a bucket of live crabs, some of which could climb out and escape. But the other crabs pull them back down to prevent any from leaving the bucket, ensuring the whole group’s demise. We describe this “crab mentality” with the phrase, "if I can't have it, neither can you" and we often see it operating in our society. We see it whenever members of a group attempt to reduce the self-confidence of any peer who achieves success beyond the others. Perhaps they do so out of jealousy, spite, fear, or competitive feelings. I see it in schools where the kids bring down the hard working and high achieving students by calling them names (nerd, geek, etc.) or by bullying them with verbal abuse and threats and even physical violence.

The Gospel provides an important antidote to the crab mentality. At first, Jesus did not want to travel to Jerusalem where the people wanted to bring him down and kill him. But Jesus goes anyway and faces those who are jealous of him because he “professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the Lord.” Although he escapes arrest here, we know that revilement, torture and death await him.

During this season of repentance, can we reflect on those instances in which we tried to bring down others? Perhaps we felt jealousy towards the “goody-goody” at work. Or maybe, out of spite, we tried to sabotage the success of a favored sibling. Or perhaps, out of fear, we brought down a classmate when they performed well on an exam. Alternatively, how do we respond when others try to bring us down simply because we’re doing the just and right thing?

More importantly, how do we let go of our “crab mentality” to help each other climb out of the bucket and so draw each other closer to God?

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