‘Harden not your hearts’: This message is for me (and for all of us)
A Reflection for Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Find today’s readings here.
“So they picked up stones to throw at him…” (Jn 8:59)
My husband and I have the same, predictable arguments. In the times when I initiate the disagreement, shortly into it, he will say, “Maybe you should pray more about this before we continue this argument.” It is at this point that I begin to feel myself hardening. My reaction mirrors the behavior of the people in today’s Scripture passage—though I look not for physical stones to throw at my husband, but to hurt him with the weapon of my harsh words.
My husband’s response is spot on. He knows prayer is a central part of my life. But I have a highly emotive response when he suggests this in the middle of an argument. I have made a great effort, over many years, to cultivate my daily prayer practice. In the heat of conflict, therefore, I am incapable of considering that my husband—who is usually happily asleep when I settle to pray—is astutely able to point out something I missed in my prayer.
I hold faith in the reality that Jesus does not give up on me, in the same way he did not give up on the crowd.
The crowd is told by Jesus, in today’s reading, that “You do not know him [God], but I know him.” They are being told they have completely missed the core part of their faith. I can only imagine how hard that must have been to hear. I understand and empathize with their reaction and the reason for acting in the way they did.
What saddens me in the passage is that the same people who throw rocks at Jesus are those that have heard him speak before and have witnessed his miracles. Even with firsthand experience of all the visible signs and works of Jesus, they still continue to harden their heart, unable to see him for who he really is. But Jesus does not give up on the crowd. He continues to perform miracles (as we see with the healing of the man born blind in the next chapter of John) that they may see and believe.
I, like the crowd, have the experience—through his many visible signs and works of love for me—of how to react more lovingly to my husband. Still, I don’t. I hold faith in the reality that Jesus does not give up on me, in the same way he did not give up on the crowd. I continue to trust in God and grow my prayer life so that one day my response to my husband in the middle of an argument might be, “You’re right, I do need to pray more. Thanks, that is a great idea!”