Jeremiah 20:10-13; John 6:63c, 68c; 10:31-42
In these last few weekdays of Lent, the Church presents us with a series of readings from the gospel of St. John. In each one, Jesus is accused in various ways of making himself equal to God. In today’s reading, Jesus tries a different way of responding to his opponents’ charges.
First, he quoted Sacred Scripture. On the surface, this seems only fair; after all, his critics used Scripture in their arguments against him frequently. However, Jesus wasn’t trying to get even. He quoted Scripture because he knew that it was his critics’ highest authority. Indeed, its value could not be overestimated then or now. As the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council wrote, Sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit. That Jesus quotes and interprets Sacred Scripture confirms our belief in its power to reveal God to us; to tell us of his ways, make known his deeds, proclaim his steadfast love, and teach much of what the human mind can understand about God.
Yet Jesus went deeper; he likened his own works to the actions of God written of in Sacred Scripture. Doing this, he made the point that the revelation of God to the world is really the unity of word and action; in other words, God’s actions in salvation history demonstrate what the words teach, while the words proclaim the deeds and enlighten the mysteries they contain.
Ultimately, Christ’s deepest point was not merely that he was an interpreter of God’s word; he is God’s word. If God’s actions were displayed in the signs that he performed and the words of Scripture were confirmed in those same actions, then Christ himself is the living embodiment of the unity between Almighty God and Sacred Scripture. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council understood this when they wrote that the deepest truth about God and the salvation of man shines out for our sake in Christ, who is both the mediator and the fullness of all revelation.
Thus, the face of Christ is revealed in the many passages of Scripture. We think of Gethsemane, as his betrayer and the guards approach, and can almost hear the foreboding words of today’s reading from Jeremiah: All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine; and perhaps his consolation as we read: But the LORD is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph or the words of Psalm 18: In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice.
Jesus Christ, not Sacred Scripture, is the highest and greatest revelation of God to the world. Next is the Church, because Jesus instituted her and gave her the authority to teach in his name. This teaching authority is called the Magisterium; it safeguards the teaching which we call Sacred Tradition and in communion with the Holy Spirit has given us the Bible, which is the third source of revelation. Thus sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church … are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others… They all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls (Dei Verbum, §10).
The salvation of souls: the promise of everlasting life won for us by Christ in his passion, death, and resurrection. No wonder that the Gospel Acclamation today proclaimed, Your words, Lord, are spirit and life. You have the words of everlasting life. We can just as well acclaim, “You, the Eternal Word, are spirit and life. You are the word of everlasting life.”