by Fr. Francis Martin
John 5:41-44: 39 ”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?” ”
Our Lord Jesus calls his opponents (and us) to look at the source of their resistance to him, namely, egoism. Accepting Jesus means accepting his offer of salvation; accepting Jesus’ offer of salvation means acknowledging that we need it; acknowledging that we need salvation means that we are not self-sufficient. Here Jesus uncovers the source of our self-centered rigidity: we do not really trust Jesus and his offer of salvation, so we make up a “salvation” of our own and we try, using our own resources, to achieve this self-styled salvation. This can be money, power, popularity or even “good works” like large donations, serving on the boards of charitable organizations, etc. These are good things, but they are meant to follow our self- surrendering act of faith, our acceptance of the gift of salvation. All the praise and adulation in the world does not replace a simple act of faith and an acceptance of this gift.
That is why St. Thomas Aquinas’ first question concerning human happiness is whether or not it consists in honor. He answers that this is impossible because honor lies in the one honoring, not in the one being honored. If someone honors me, that is a credit to him. The honor may or may not be deserved, but it cannot create my happiness since honor is in the one honoring. Excellence is in the one honored – if the honor is deserved. That is why Jesus points to the inevitable uneasiness and frustration of seeking happiness in being honored: “How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God?” Let us risk our self-protecting attempts at religion and accept instead the praise that comes from God himself.
Blessed Father, protect me from my instinct to stay clear of you rather than accept your gift and the freedom that follows from it. Amen.