FRIDAY HOMILY: The Hanukkah Challenge - Believe My Works
When the words of the Gospel may fall on deaf ears, there is still its works
It was during Hanukkah that Jesus had a conflict with those at the temple. He had just told them that he was the Good Shepherd, which brought great division among those who were listening. As St. John states, "Although Jesus had used this figure of speech, they did not realize what he was trying to tell them." (John 10:6) Unyielding in their condemnation, he makes one final appeal. "Look what I've done!"
Judas ordered that the temple be cleansed, that new altars were to be built and new holy vessels made for the worship of God. Their celebration lasted eight days and, according to the Tractate Shabbat from the Talmud, they found only enough undefiled oil for the sanctuary lamp to last one day. Miraculously it lasted eight.
In I Maccabees 4:59 we read, Then Judas and his brothers and all the assembly of Israel determined that every year at that season the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with gladness and joy for eight days, beginning with the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev.
This great time of restoration is held every year as an annual feast, the Feast of Dedication or the Festival of Lights. It is also called Hanukkah, a name with which we are more familiar. The Menorah is lit during the Feast, one candle for each day.
It was during Hanukkah that Jesus had this conflict with those at the temple. He had just told them that he was the Good Shepherd, which brought great division among those who were listening. As St. John states, "Although Jesus had used this figure of speech, they did not realize what he was trying to tell them." (John 10:6)
He is later called upon to make a clear statement of identity. They ask him point blank, is he the Messiah or not? He tells them, I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one.
As today's reading (John 10:31-42) begins, his response obviously didn't meet with a positive response as v. 31 states, "The Jews took up stones again to stone him."
It seems quite clear that nothing Jesus could say would change very many minds. Taking him at this word was not going to take place. He even appealed to Scripture, comparing his message to one Psalm 82, where the judges of Israel were called gods. If they could be called gods, how much more could he claim that right?
Unyielding in their condemnation, he makes one final appeal. "Look what I've done!"
Jesus answered them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of these do you stone me? The Jews answered him, "It is not for a good work that we stone you but for blasphemy; because you, being a man, make yourself God."
Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your law, `I said, you are gods'? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came (and scripture cannot be broken), do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, `You are blaspheming,' because I said, `I am the Son of God'? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father." (John 10:32-38)
Even if you don't believe my words, believe my works.
The beauty of the incarnation is that the good news of the Gospel was expressed in both word and deed.
I remember a time back in elementary school when I told my class someone pretty exciting - at least it was back in those days. My cousin was Roy Rogers, whose real name was Leonard Slye (part of our family kept the "e"). I guess "Leonard Slye, King of the West" was lacking a certain cowboy luster. He changed his name when he became an actor.
It was our Show and Tell Time when I made this declaration and after a short time of mocking and snickering I pulled a framed picture out of a paper bag. The 8X10 black and white photo showed Roy Rogers and Dale Evans in all their western finery. One the picture in black ink Roy had written the words, "Randy, To my kinfolk, from Roy and Dale."
The works of Christ, much like the voice of his Father at his baptism and on the Mount of Transfiguration, are confirming his identity and what he is here to do. They are the proof, the picture and signature of God the Father, confirming that his Son has truly come to earth.
In prison, John the Baptist had even wondered and his question was answered with a report. Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, "Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for ...
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