Burning, Shining Lamps
March 31, 2022 (readings)
- Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent
- Carey Boyzuck
Jesus said to the Jews: “If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not true. But there is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true. You sent emissaries to John, and he testified to the truth. I do not accept human testimony, but I say this so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light. But I have testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father gave me to accomplish, these works that I perform testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me. Moreover, the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf. But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form, and you do not have his word remaining in you, because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf. But you do not want to come to me to have life. I do not accept human praise; moreover, I know that you do not have the love of God in you. I came in the name of my Father, but you do not accept me; yet if another comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father: the one who will accuse you is Moses, in whom you have placed your hope. For if you had believed Moses, you would have believed me, because he wrote about me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”
Opening Prayer: Jesus, help me to hear and believe your holy word. May I never doubt the truth of your divinity, nor your goodness, mercy, and love.
John’s Humble Testimony: John the Baptist testified to the truth about Jesus’ divinity in many ways. First, he recognized his role as the one who would prepare the way for Jesus. He said, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie” (John 1:26-27). He pointed away from himself and toward Jesus: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me’” (John 1:29-30). He also testified directly to Christ’s divinity: “I saw the Spirit descend from Heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God” (John 1:32-34). May we strive to be “burning and shining lamps” who testify to Jesus through our words and actions.
Heavenly Testimony: Jesus’ works, the Scriptures, Moses, and even God the Father all shone as burning lamps pointing people to Christ. Jesus’ works testified to him by proving his divinity. At this point in the Gospel of John, Jesus had changed water into wine at the wedding feast at Cana, prefiguring the wine that he would transform into his blood at the Last Supper. He healed an official’s son as well as a paralytic at Bethesda, demonstrating his authority over creation. The Old Testament Scriptures testified to him, with countless prophecies and types pointing to his coming. Moses even testified to him. Moses wrote of Christ, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen” (Deuteronomy 18:15). Most importantly, God the Father testified to Christ. At his baptism, “a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, ‘This is my beloved Son; listen to him’” (Mark 9:7). Just as some of the people in Jesus’ time could not hear the voice of God, many people today are deaf to the truth because they do not believe in Jesus. Unfortunately, they deny the gift of eternal life that Jesus wants to bestow on them. May we truly believe in the truth about Christ and graciously receive the gift of life from Christ, the “author of life” (Acts 3:15).
Vainglory: Seeking to please others is an obstacle to faith: “How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44). Seeking the praise of other people gets in our way of loving God and others as they deserve. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “If we perform righteous deeds in order to receive human recognition, we spoil the gift we could have given to God” (Summa Theologiae, II-II, Q132, A5). When we act in this way, we shine light on ourselves instead of on Christ. This even applies to our religious practices. Jesus warned, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 6:1). The antidotes to vainglory are humility and purity of intention. We can purify our intentions by considering what motivates us most: love of God and neighbor, or love of ourselves and the attention we get from doing good things. The key is to pay attention to when this habit arises and note it, then intentionally seek to change our motivation. It might sound something like, “I want to make this meal for my friend to help her in her time of need, not to impress her with my cooking skills.” Or, “I want to sing to give glory to God, not to draw attention to my voice or appearance. My talent is a gift from God that I want to return to him.” We can also seek to imitate saints like John the Baptist who humbly pointed away from themselves to glorify God. John’s intention can be our intention: “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30).
Conversing with Christ: My Jesus, erase all doubts that arise in my mind about your divinity, purpose, and goodness. I believe that you are the Son of God who came to save all people. Send me your Holy Spirit to ignite my heart to be a burning, shining lamp that testifies to you by pointing people to you and your glory, not to my own.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will pray the Litany of Humility.
For Further Reflection: Read this article by Dr. Edward Sri on the Catholic Education Resource Center: Vainglory: Seeking the Praise of Men.
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