March 23, 2023
by John Shea, S.J.
Creighton University's Biology Department
click here for photo and information about the writer

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Lectionary: 247

Exodus 32:7-14
Psalm 106:19-20, 21-22, 23
John 5:31-47

Praying Lent Home

Looking at Marriage in Lent

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

The Midpoint of Lent

There’s an old lawyer joke about a soul who was accidently sent to hell. When God asked the Devil to return this lost soul to Heaven, the Devil refused. So, God threatened to sue. In reply, the Devil asked, “Where are you going to find a lawyer?”

Full disclosure: my dad was a lawyer, so I hope there are lawyers in Heaven. And our first reading supports this hope that Heaven has lawyers.

Our first reading presents the case of God versus the Israelites with Moses serving as the defense lawyer. Moses staves off God’s punishment with two brilliant arguments. First, God’s punishment of the Israelites would only invite gloating from the Egyptians. Second, Moses recalls God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. Thus reminded, God’s own integrity and faithfulness results in God “dropping the charges” and punishment.

In the second reading, Jesus begins in the role of the defendant with the Jewish authorities playing the role of the accusers. Jesus knows he cannot claim to be equal to God without being guilty of blasphemy. And according to Jewish law, he cannot legally testify on his behalf. So, he calls to the stand a parade of witnesses. First is John the Baptist who was a light, but also human. So, Jesus points to his works, which are the same works of his Father. Jesus also points to Scripture that testifies on his behalf.

Then Jesus turns the tables and becomes the plaintiff, accusing those who sued him. Jesus invokes Moses, charging that the authorities do not believe Moses. They fail to understand the life-giving power of the word spoken to them through Moses and the prophets.

We may be like the Israelites who have turned away from God, worshipping other idols such as fame and fortune. Or we may be like the Jewish authorities, believing we are righteous with God while ignoring the reality that we do not have the love of God in us. During this Lenten season, may we turn towards God and hear those who testify on behalf of Christ. And may we join our voices with theirs, proclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord.

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