Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Wisdom 2:1a, 12-22
Psalm 33: 16-17, 18-19, 20 and 22 (R. 18a)
John 7: 1-2, 10, 25-30
There is a Caravaggian darkness about today’s liturgy. One senses that the plots of the wicked are closing in around Our Lord. You may recall the long, dramatic responsory from the Holy Week liturgy that begins, Collegerunt, “The priests and pharisees assembled in council and said, ‘What shall we do?'”
Reason Veering Into Darkness
The First Reading exposes their secret thoughts and, in some way, presents us with the psychology of sin. “Ungodly men reasoned unsoundly, saying to themselves, ‘Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us, and opposes our actions'” (Wis 2: 1a, 12). Look closely at the text. The ungodly, that is, those who do not “meditate the law of the Lord day and night” (Ps 1:2), those who make themselves the measure of all things, those who are their own reference, necessarily reason unsoundly. Left to itself, without the light of divine grace, human reason veers into the darkness.
The Perversion of Conscience
The conscience itself can be perverted by repeated compromises with sin. There are those who would extinguish the light of Natural Law; there are those who would contest the revealed Law of God. The result is a sick conscience. Unsound reasoning means unhealthy reasoning or, put more bluntly, sick reasoning. “Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray, for their wickedness blinded them, and they did not know the secret purposes of God, nor hope for the wages of holiness, nor discern the prize for blameless souls” (Wis 2:21-22).
The Light of the Word
Sick reasoning is the consequence of pride and disobedience. One can recover from sick reasoning by exposing oneself to the light of the Word of God in the communion of the Church, and by following Christ along the path of humble obedience, along the way of the Cross. Saint Paul, in First Corinthians, addresses this very thing. “We impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor 2:7-8).
That Those Who Do Not See May See
In the Gospel, Our Lord openly professes his identity and mission: “You know Me, and you know where I come from? But I have not come of my own accord; He who sent Me is true, and Him you do not know. I know Him, for I come from Him, and He sent Me” (Jn 7:28-29). A blinding light flashes in the words of Jesus; the light of His divinity, the brightness of His life with the Father. It is this light that makes the gathering shadows appear all the darker. “For judgment I came into this world,” he says, “that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind” (Jn 9:30).
The Radiance of His Face
Year after year at this time, the liturgy situates us in the same web of shadows and light, and compels us to take our stand with Christ, guided only by the radiance of His Face. To do this, we have all the remedies prepared by God for our frail nature, and adapted to it. The Collect calls them subsidia: subsidies, supports, reinforcements, strong helps. These are the Sacred Scriptures, the sacraments, the Lenten observances of fasting, almsgiving, and silence.
O God, who have prepared fitting supports for our frailty,
grant, we beseech you,
that we may receive their healing effect with joy,
and show it forth in a holy manner of life.
“Once you were in darkness,” says Saint Paul, “but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light, for the fruit of light is found in all that is good, true, and right” (Eph 5:8-9). The fruits of light, fostered by the subsidia given us by God during Lent, are a serene obedience and a joyful humility.
The shadows that threaten will not prevail. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn 1:5). The Postcommunion will sum up today’s Mass:
Grant, we beseech you, Lord,
that as we pass over from bygone things to what is new,
we may also put aside our old ways and,
with minds made holy, be renewed.
The Secret and Hidden Wisdom of God
God waits for the “Yes” of a few frail but trusting souls, determined to go forward in obedience and littleness, determined, as the Postcommunion says, “to put aside our old ways and with minds made holy, be renewed.” It is, after all, only with “minds made holy” that we can penetrate “the secret and hidden wisdom of God” (1 Cor 2:7), the wisdom of the poor and naked Christ, exposed for all to see on the tree of Calvary.