Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent, March 23, 2023

From today on and in the Holy Week, the opposition between the Jewish leaders and Jesus is growing.
People always tend to adore their own god – a god or gods made in their own image and likeness, rather than accepting in humility, conscious of our limitations, that we are made in the image and likeness of God.
But we are fortunate enough to have Christ – as the Hebrews had Moses – a mediator who pleads for us, whom we can easily accept and identify with because in him, we can recognize one of us, who opts for people, who defends us, who is involved with us in spite of our failures.

Opening Prayer
Lord, our God, we know,
perhaps more in theory than in practice,
that you are with us,
that you are our God and we your people.
Forgive us Lord, when we fashion
our own gods made in our own image –
honor, power, prestige,
things to which we are attached and enslaved.
Remind us again and again,
that you are our loyal God,
who made us in your own indelible image
and who shows us your perfect likeness
in Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord. Amen!

1 Reading: EXODUS 32:7-14
The LORD said to Moses, “Go down at once to your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt, for they have become depraved. They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them, making for themselves a molten calf and worshiping it, sacrificing to it and crying out, ‘This is your God, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!’ The LORD said to Moses, “I see how stiff-necked this people is. Let me alone, then, that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them. Then I will make of you a great nation.” But Moses implored the LORD, his God, saying, “Why, O LORD, should your wrath blaze up against your own people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with such great power and with so strong a hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent he brought them out, that he might kill them in the mountains and exterminate them from the face of the earth’? Let your blazing wrath die down; relent in punishing your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, and how you swore to them by your own self, saying, ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky; and all this land that I promised, I will give your descendants as their perpetual heritage.'” So the LORD relented in the punishment he had threatened to inflict on his people.

Responsorial PSALM 106:19-20, 21-22, 23
R. (4a) Remember us, O Lord, as you favour your people.

Our fathers made a calf in Horeb
and adored a molten image;
They exchanged their glory
for the image of a grass-eating bullock. R.

They forgot the God who had saved them,
who had done great deeds in Egypt,
Wondrous deeds in the land of Ham,
terrible things at the Red Sea. R.

Then he spoke of exterminating them,
but Moses, his chosen one,
Withstood him in the breach
to turn back his destructive wrath. R.

Verse Before the Gospel: JOHN 3:16
Glory and praise to you, oh Christ!
God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life.
Glory and praise to you, oh Christ!

Gospel: JOHN 5:31-47
Jesus said to the Jews: “If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not true. But there is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true. You sent emissaries to John, and he testified to the truth. I do not accept human testimony, but I say this so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light. But I have testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father gave me to accomplish, these works that I perform testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. Moreover, the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf. But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form, and you do not have his word remaining in you, because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf. But you do not want to come to me to have life. “I do not accept human praise; moreover, I know that you do not have the love of God in you. I came in the name of my Father, but you do not accept me; yet if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father: the one who will accuse you is Moses, in whom you have placed your hope. For if you had believed Moses, you would have believed me, because he wrote about me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

Re-read the Scriptures to deepen our faith
Today we are ten days away from the beginning of Holy Week. It is a good time to renew the commitments we have taken up on Ash Wednesday. We began with prayers and fasting. Because it is the Lenten season, we are probably a bit more spiritual than at some other times of the year; we are probably a bit more patient and humble. This is good – and worth DOING more consistently.
John, the evangelist, uses a literary style in his Gospel to make it look like a trial that Jesus conducts, where the religious leaders are exposed. The Gospel presents a kind of courtroom investigation where Jesus would conduct his own defence. In Jewish law, the truth was to be ascertained by the testimony of two or more witnesses. From conducting his own defence, Jesus would assume the role of prosecutor, with the Jews becoming the defendants.
Jesus brings in four witnesses in his defence: God the Father, John the Baptist, his own life and signs he performed, and the Hebrew Scriptures – The Thora and the Prophets.
But no matter what the arguments of Jesus were, the Jews would not accept him. Decades later, while writing the Gospel, John presents those four witness of Jesus in an attempt to encourage the members of the early Church. The Church was facing severe persecution, and John brought up these witnesses to tell the disciples why they should continue to believe in Jesus.
The profound experience of the risen Jesus gave the Christians of the early Church the strength to face persecution courageously. Now John wants his community to meditate on this living presence of Jesus amidst them. John wants them to meditate on the life, teachings and signs of Jesus and also to re-read their Scriptures in the light of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
As we draw closer to the Holy Week and Easter, the Church invites us to meditate on why many people continue to close their minds and hearts to Jesus. The Jewish leadership of Jesus’ time refused to accept him because of their faulty understanding of the scripture and traditions. They feared accepting Jesus would jeopardise their social status and authority. Today, the Church invites us to re-read the scriptures in light of various happenings in the world, where Christ is still rejected by many and wars and violence threaten the life of our universe.
What are the concerns that trouble us as Christians and that threaten our life in faith?

– For priests and religious, that the Lord may give them the strength and the joy to be shining lights of all they stand for, we pray:
– For those who have become unfaithful to their baptismal promises, that they may find the way back to the Lord, we pray:
– For Christians, that their lives may bear witness to the compassion and goodness of the Lord, we pray:

Prayer over the Gifts
God, your Son is still alive among us
in this Eucharistic celebration.
Make us realize
that despite our false attachments,
our hesitation and cowardice,
he opts for us, he is involve with us,
he is your sign among us
that you still accept and love us.
God, thank you for Jesus, your Son,
who stays with us and shares our destiny,
now and for ever. Amen!

Prayer after Communion
Lord, our God,
we thank you for giving us Jesus
as your living sign among us
of your strong and faithful love.
May we too, Lord,
everyone of us who claims to be
a disciple of Jesus Christ,
take the risk of being, to our brothers and sisters,
a firm support, a true sign
of your everlasting love.
May this be the way we testify
that Jesus is alive among us,
now and for ever. Amen!

May the good you do, even when done in all simplicity, bear witness that the Lord is alive among us. May Almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!

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