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The Word, The Truth

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Homily for Friday of the 4th Week of Lent, 01 April 2021, Jn 7:1-2, 10, 25-30

Today is “April Fools’ Day”. By sheer coincidence, our readings are about FOOLS plotting against the WISE. I say “coincidence” because April Fools is not really part of the Liturgical calendar of the Church. I wonder how it became part of the secular calendar of the English-speaking world.

In our first reading, we hear about the thoughts of the WICKED who are conspiring against the JUST. It is from the book of Wisdom, chapter 2. This kind of contrasting between the JUST and the WICKED, or between the FOOLS and the WISE is very typical of the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament. You also find it in our Psalm for today: Psalm 34. It tells us how evildoers go out of their way to persecute those who disagree with their way of life.

The writer describes the foolish ones engaging in a conspiracy against the wise. It means the FOOLISH ONES are also intelligent people, but the kind who use their intelligence for their wicked purposes.

You know, in Spain, the equivalent of April Fools’ Day is December 28, the feast of the Niños Inocentes (Holy Innocents). It sort of suggests that the kind of people whom the wicked ones love to fool are the “innocent ones,” or those who they think are naive.

Take note that December 28 is not just about the foolish fooling the innocent ones. It is rather about them murdering the innocent ones because they feel they have been outwitted. In Filipino, we say, NAGWAWALA DAHIL NAISAHAN (going berserk after being outwitted).

Remember what King Herod did when he realized that the Magi had fooled him? He really thought they believed him when he said, “If you find this newborn king that you’re talking about, come back and inform me of his whereabouts SO THAT I TOO CAN WORSHIP HIM.” Did they come back? No. Matthew says they returned home FOLLOWING ANOTHER ROUTE. Well, they were not called WISE MEN for nothing. They were good-hearted but not naive.

You see, part of wisdom is the capacity to discern the motives of fools. It is being able to say, “I WON’T BE TAKEN FOR A RIDE.” Or, “I WASN’T BORN YESTERDAY.” Or, “YOU CAN’T PULL MY LEG.” In colloquial language, it’s about being able to read people’s motives or anticipate their moves.

That’s the image that I get of Jesus in today’s Gospel. He is not the type who would just allow himself to fall right into the mouth of a lion. He is not like a naive Little Red Riding Hood being fooled by a wicked fox who dresses up to look like Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother. John does not portray Jesus as a clueless victim who falls easily into the trap of scheming people. He tells us Jesus knew well enough when to avoid travelling to Judea. He goes into the city of Jerusalem during the festival called SUKKOTH (Feast of the Booths or Tabernacles), when the Jews traditionally go out in the streets to build makeshift tents in order to commemorate their forty years in the desert.

Obviously, by timing his entry to Jerusalem on that feast day, Jesus could blend comfortably in the crowd without being easily singled out or identified. And so we are told that the authorities were taken by surprise when they learned that he was suddenly right there in the temple area preaching openly at one moment, and nowhere to be found at another moment.

If those plotting against him were clever, Jesus and his disciples were more clever. He knew well that sometimes, it is not enough to know only the time but also the PROPER TIMING for certain moves. I think this is what John means when he says, “No one laid a hand on him because HIS HOUR HAD NOT YET COME.”

I find it funny that the United States and the NATO countries are making it so easy for Russia to know all their moves. They discuss it all openly in the social media almost by the hour. They are giving away precious information to Putin’s intelligence people. Meanwhile, they are trying to guess what Putin is up to, what his next move might be.

Remember what Jesus said to his disciples? How he understood what being wise or just is about? He said, “Be innocent as doves, but clever as serpents.” In short, he’s reminding us that being innocent is not about being gullible or naive. It is rather about being not simply knowledgeable but also DISCERNING. It is about being aware of the potential moves of your adversaries, as in a chess game.

The Gospel acclamation today has a good tip on how to achieve this kind of wisdom: “One does not live on bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” And so the daily bread that the Lord says we should ask for in the prayer he taught us should be THE WORD OF GOD, the Word that raises our level of spiritual intelligence in the moral battles that we need to fight in this world. That includes making sure that the truly qualified and deserving candidates win in the coming elections.

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Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

President of Radio Veritas

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