FRIDAY OF THE FOURTH WEEK OF LENT
READ: WISDOM 2:1A, 12-22
The wicked said among themselves, thinking not aright: "Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, Reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training. He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the LORD. To us he is the censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us, Because his life is not like that of others, and different are his ways. He judges us debased; he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure. He calls blest the destiny of the just and boasts that God is his Father. Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him. For if the just one be the son of God, he will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes. With revilement and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him." These were their thoughts, but they erred; for their wickedness blinded them, and they knew not the hidden counsels of God; neither did they count on a recompense of holiness nor discern the innocent souls' reward.
Immediately when we read this passage, we should think of Jesus. For He was the just one who was obnoxious to people--the religious leaders of the time, people He had known growing up, and others. Though His teachings and actions were all about extending love and mercy, people perceived them as judgmental and restricting. His life looked different from everyone else's and that was an un-welcomed challenge for people.
Sirach 2:1 says, "When you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials". As we make the radical decision to go deeper in our relationship with Jesus, we need to prepare our hearts for one difficult trial: there will be people in our lives that do not understand or support our faith or the way that we live. There will be people who see our lives as different, so different in fact, that they feel like we are unapproachable. People may start to make assumptions about our lives--that we are judgmental, self-righteous, holier-than-thou. There will be people in our homes, our families, our friend groups, and our community who will simply not understand our faith and why it matters to us so much. We may not be martyred for our faith, but we will likely face rejection, isolation, loss of closeness with some people.
When this happens, we can be tempted in two big ways. The first temptation is to fear the rejection and isolation so much that we start to take steps away from Jesus. The second temptation is to actually become obnoxious, judgmental and self-righteous.
From the cross, Jesus cried out, "Father, forgive them. They know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). And the people that may ridicule, mock, or disagree with our faith? They just don't know. They just don't know the peace, hope, joy, and love that comes from a relationship with Jesus. They just don't know the freedom of giving up control, turning away from sin, letting Jesus be their guide.
Let this reality help us combat both of the big temptations. Instead of succumbing to the first temptation, when we feel ourselves pulling away from our relationship with Jesus, let us ask Him for strength and ask Him to remind us of the reality that no relationship, no life, can offer us the joy, peace, satisfaction, and fullness that a life with Him does. Let us recall the "recompense of holiness" and the "innocent souls' reward". And when we feel ourselves tempted in the second way, may we strive to follow Jesus even more. "When he was insulted, He returned no insult; when He suffered, He did not threaten" (1 Peter 2:23). Let us strive to take seriously His teaching to "love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you" (Luke 6:27-28).
Who are the people in your life that don't understand or support your relationship with Jesus?
Which temptation is more difficult for you--the temptation to take a few steps away from Jesus so as to "be normal" or the temptation to be judgmental and self-righteous?
How does Jesus' life show you how to respond to people that don't support you, or even reject you?
R. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted. The LORD confronts the evildoers, to destroy remembrance of them from the earth. When the just cry out, the LORD hears them, and from all their distress he rescues them. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves. Many are the troubles of the just man, but out of them all the LORD delivers him. He watches over all his bones; not one of them shall be broken. The LORD redeems the lives of his servants; no one incurs guilt who takes refuge in him. R. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.
How will you do good, bless, or pray for those who mistreat you?
"Tell the world that it is beautiful to be a friend of Jesus and that it is well worth following him. With your enthusiasm, demonstrate that, among all the different ways of life that the world today seems to offer us--apparently all on the same level--the only way in which we find the true meaning of life, and hence true and lasting joy, is by following Jesus."
--Pope Benedict XVI