Readings: Jeremiah 11:18-20, Ps. 7:2-3,9-12, John 7:40-52

“I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter. And I did not know it was against me that they devised schemes, saying, ‘Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, let us cut him off from the land of the living so that his name will no longer be remembered!’” (Jeremiah 11:19)

Righteousness is a reproach to the ungodly. Seeing the light in you, they try to win you over to the darkness or make your life tough. This was Jeremiah’s experience in today’s First reading. It was also Jesus's situation in today’s Gospel passage, and as Jesus warned us, we cannot follow in his steps unless we are prepared to face such difficult moments. What do we do in moments of trials, difficulties, and attacks from the enemies of our faith?

1. Prayerfully Surrender to God; Leave Vengeance to Him: In today’s First Reading, Jeremiah provides a powerful prayer template we must adopt when faced with persecution. He says: “O Lord of hosts, who judge righteously, who test the heart and the mind, let me see thy vengeance upon them, for to thee have I committed my cause.” (Jeremiah 11:20). Refrain from the temptation of hating your persecutors, otherwise, you become like them. Submit everything to God and let Him take vengeance as He deems fit. Do not pray for the death of your enemies. Just surrender them to God.

2. Make Sure Your Hands Are Clean: Today’s Psalm also provides a powerful prayer template for moments of persecution: “O Lord, my God, I take refuge in you. Save and rescue me from all my pursuers, lest they tear me apart like a lion and drag me off with no one to rescue me. Give judgment for me, O Lord, for I am just and blameless of heart. Put an end to the evil of the wicked! Make the just man stand firm; you test mind and heart, O God of justice!” While the Psalmist’s prayer is similar to Jeremiah's, it emphasizes the need for a blameless heart. It is one thing to be persecuted for righteousness, but punishment for the skeletons in your closet is different.

3. Develop A Personal Conviction about God: In today’s Gospel passage, the crowds listening to Jesus were divided in opinion. This is typical of any crowd. Mention any topic; you will always find those in its favor and those who would argue against it. This is why we must avoid going by the public opinion lest we become like a palm tree that swerves in different directions depending on the winds. We must praise the courageous soldiers who were sent to arrest Jesus, but after listening to Jesus preach, they returned to the Pharisees to say: “No man has ever spoken like this man.” These soldiers risked their jobs because they were convinced about Jesus.

4. Dare to Stand Out of the Crowd: Going with the flow even when you know that the decisions of your group members are against your conscience is cowardice. Do not be afraid to stand by the truth even if you must stand alone. Having investigated Jesus by visiting Him by night, Nicodemus believed that Jesus is the Christ. Nicodemus was courageous enough to remind them of their law when he saw that the chief priests and Pharisees were about to pass judgment on Jesus without trial. Nicodemus hoped that Jesus would win the case during the trial and be left alone. Nicodemus did not mind being taunted for attempting to speak on Jesus’ behalf.

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, increase my courage to stand for what is right and free me from all bitterness, especially when I face persecution for your sake. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Saturday of the 4th week of Lent. Bible Study: Jeremiah 11:18-20, Ps. 7:2-3,9-12, John 7:40-52).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu