Memory of the Saints and the Prophets

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Reading of the Word of God

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

John 8,31-42

To the Jews who believed in him Jesus said: If you make my word your home you will indeed be my disciples; you will come to know the truth, and the truth will set you free. They answered, 'We are descended from Abraham and we have never been the slaves of anyone; what do you mean, "You will be set free?" ' Jesus replied: In all truth I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave. Now a slave has no permanent standing in the household, but a son belongs to it for ever. So if the Son sets you free, you will indeed be free. I know that you are descended from Abraham; but you want to kill me because my word finds no place in you. What I speak of is what I have seen at my Father's side, and you too put into action the lessons you have learnt from your father. They repeated, 'Our father is Abraham.' Jesus said to them: If you are Abraham's children, do as Abraham did. As it is, you want to kill me, a man who has told you the truth as I have learnt it from God; that is not what Abraham did. You are doing your father's work. They replied, 'We were not born illegitimate, the only father we have is God.' Jesus answered: If God were your father, you would love me, since I have my origin in God and have come from him; I did not come of my own accord, but he sent me.

 

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

This Gospel passage should be understood in the context of the tension that arose between the first Christian community and Judaism. The first Christians were put to the test by the hostility of those who claimed to keep the Mosaic law. The evangelist John firmly reminds Jesus' disciples to "abide" in his Word; not just to listen to it, but to dwell in it as if it were their home. That is, to make it the most familiar word in their lives and put it into practice. The Word received and listened to with faith is the true house in which Christians are called to dwell. Their lives should be enveloped, sustained, and leavened by the Gospel. Christian freedom means listening to and following the words of the Gospel, which are an easy yoke that free us from the hard chains of our love for ourselves. Freedom, in fact, does not come from the law or from belonging to something, even to the "descendants of Abraham." Christian freedom is the fruit of following Jesus with our entire lives. It means living in full participation in Jesus's mission, along with our brothers and sisters. Christian freedom does not mean we are free from all bonds, so we can do whatever we want. That is selfishness, or slavery to the world's fashions and the seduction of evil. There is always a kind of presumption particular to slaves, the presumption of denying they are slaves at all, because sometimes being a slave is comfortable; it shelters us from responsibility and protects us from having to figure out which way to walk, from being part of an "us", part of the people Jesus came to earth to gather. "The truth will make you free," Jesus says. And the truth is Jesus himself. It is by holding fast to Jesus - holding fast forever - that we are freed from all earthly slavery and given a foretaste of true freedom from sin. It is not enough to say we are "Abraham's children" to truly be them, Jesus insists. The relationship that truly makes us friends and family of God comes from doing the work of the Father. Jesus replies: "If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing what Abraham did!" But those Jews were far from following Abraham. They wanted to kill Jesus, something that Abraham would never have even imagined. Abraham, on the contrary, did the greatest work a believer can do: he obeyed the word of the Lord and entrusted his entire life to him, as is written in the Letter to the Hebrews: "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going" (Heb 11:8).