The only Just One

Pascha V Friday – John 10: 17-38

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The Lord said to the Jews that came to Him:  Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings. And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him? Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind? And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch. Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.

St. John Chrysostom remarks upon the Lord’s long-suffering, as manifested by the calmness and gentleness of His replies to these men who wished to murder Him. 

Let us now imitate Him. For not only did He now hold His peace, but even came among them again, and being questioned answered and showed the things relating to His foreknowledge; and though called “demoniac” and “madman,” by men who had received from him ten thousand benefits, and that not once or twice but many times, not only did He refrain from avenging Himself, but even ceased not to benefit them.  To benefit, do I say?  He laid down His life for them, and while being crucified spake in their behalf to the Father.  This then let us also imitate, for to be a disciple of Christ is to be gentle and kind.  But whence can this gentleness come to us?  If we continually reckon up our sins, if we mourn, if we weep; for neither doth a soul that dwelleth in the company of so much grief allow itself to be provoked or angered.  Since wherever there is mourning, it is impossible that there should be anger; where grief is, all anger is out of the way; where there is brokenness of spirit, there is no provocation.  – Homily LX on John 

A priest who hears confessions cannot help but to remark that the sins of anger, condemnation, and the inability to truly forgive plague not only lax and casual Christians, but even the most sincere and pious.   These well-meaning souls do not justify their sin;  they are, on the contrary, deeply troubled.  But they simply cannot let go.  There are several reasons for this.   

One reason is that our sense of justice has been damaged by sin.  The demand of the conscience for justice is, indeed, planted in the soul by God; it is one of the several signs of our being made in the image of God, Who is All-Just.  Because of man’s brokenness, however, there has never been and never will be perfect justice in this world, except for the justification that comes to all men through the Cross.   We are commanded to be just, and, if we are in positions of authority over men, to require that they be just as well.   In our day to day dealings with others, we naturally expect justice from our neighbor. But inevitably both he and we shall fail.    Only the oil of mercy tempering the strong wine of justice makes life livable on earth.   We are all sinners before God.  Let us ask the Lord for the grace of true forgiveness, springing from a profound realization that He is the only Just One. 

Another reason we are not long-suffering in the face of offenses is our vanity.   Vanity is at the root of sinful anger.  We imagine that we are something, and that something not unimportant!  If only we could deeply sense and appreciate how truly unimportant, truly nothing we really are, and rejoice in the realization thereof!   It would be a great deliverance from a terrible burden.   Let us ask the Lord for the grace of realizing that He Alone truly is and that compared to Him we are nothing.   Someone who is nothing is not surprised, or even concerned, that someone else who is also nothing offends him.  What difference does it make?    If the Lord is everything to us, we have nothing that some other finite creature can take away, including our sense of self-worth, which derives completely from Him and from no one else.    

Another reason, that remarked upon by St. Chrysostom, is that we do not mourn continually for our sins.   As the saying goes, “Those who have the dead in their own house do not trouble themselves about other people’s funerals.”    Let us ask the Lord for the grace of growing ever more aware of our sinfulness while acquiring genuine compunction, rejoicing in His mercy and forgiveness to us.   In such a state of soul, it becomes constitutionally impossible to hold anything against anyone. 

O long-suffering Lord, Who forgave those who hated Thee and killed Thee, and, having risen from the dead,  hast to this day never ceased in working ten thousand benefactions for them, grant us the grace of true forgiveness, consistent long-suffering, and pure good will to our neighbors, who are indeed poor sinners like ourselves.  Amen. 

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