In the last four gospel readings from John, Jesus speaks in Jerusalem in the temple area during the Feast of Tabernacles. It was a place and time for speaking cautiously, not the freer space of Galilee where Jesus taught and did great works. (John 8, 51-59)
Controlled by the Jewish authorities the temple area could be a hostile place towards someone like Jesus. At times, voices cry out to arrest him and some pick up stones to kill him.
Yet, Jesus will not be silenced. “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM,” he says to them in this sacred place. He proclaims fearlessly his divine status: “I am always here.”
Are we fearless enough to tell his story, to repeat his message, to proclaim him everywhere, even where he and his works are rejected? “I know him,” Jesus says about his Father, “and if I should say that I do not know him, I would be like you a liar. But I do know him and I keep his word.”
The world today, especially our western world, can be hostile to Jesus Christ. Are we brave enough to witness to him where his name is ridiculed or ignored?
The 18th century world of St. Paul of the Cross surely wasn’t the same as ours, but if he were alive today, wouldn’t this zealous man be a zealous witness to Jesus Christ? He exhausted himself preaching the gospel in the poor, unhealthy swamplands of the Tuscan Maremma. What would he do now? Zeal always finds a way.
“Today I am leaving for a mission amidst fierce storms. But no matter–it’s for God’s glory. You should accompany me with fervent prayers for the conversion of souls.” (Letter 18)
you spoke the truth,
even when others rejected your word.
Make me a zealous witness,
never fearing to speak your name
and help me live according to your teaching
whatever the time or place.