Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent

In today’s Gospel passage from John, Jesus is still in the Temple area on the feast of the Dedication.  This feast celebrates the dedication of the Temple in the time written about in the Books of Maccabees.  King Antiochus IV, “an offshoot” of those who had divided the kingdom of Alexander the Great, had become king.  He ordered all to give up their ways and to conform to Greek customs.  He ultimately profaned the Temple. 

Judas Maccabeus, or just Maccabeus, defeated the king’s forces, removed the sacrilege from the Temple, rebuilt the altar, and purified it as part of a dedication that became the basis for this feast.

Jesus came to replace the Temple.  So, on a feast honoring the purification of the Temple, many of the Jewish people wanted to attempt the ultimate profanation: stoning God himself.  Isaiah 7:14 had prophesied the Messiah and called him Immanuel, meaning “God with us.”  Instead of recognizing this in Jesus, they attempted to kill him…even as they remembered how Maccabeus had purified the Temple.  The irony is hard to overlook.

Jesus is still present to us today.  In the Eucharist, of course.  But he is also present in our hearts.  While we cannot come together physically to encounter Jesus in our church, we can encounter him in our hearts through our prayer. 

This cannot happen unless we make it a priority to take time for that encounter. 

So many of the Jewish people in Jesus’ time made the Temple building so important that they failed to recognize the reality of God present in front of them.  The external actions of worship were emphasized while the internal attitudes of the heart were all but ignored.  Jesus wants us to gather as Church.  And, we will do so physically soon.  But he does not want us to do only externally.  He wants not just our actions, but our hearts.  He wants our whole being. 

Even if our actions are faithful to the requirements of the Church, are our hearts fully receptive to the grace of the Holy Spirit in helping us to encounter our Lord?