Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday in Passion Week

Jeremiah 17:13-18 / John 11:47-54

But one of them, named Caiphas, being the High Priest that year, said to them: You know nothing, neither do you consider that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people.

"One word that tells us what we do not know outweighs a thousand words that tell us what we do know. And the thing is all the more striking if we not only did not know it but could not believe it. It may seem a paradox to say that the truth teaches us more by the words we reject than by the words we receive. Yet the paradox is a parable of the simplest sort and familiar to us all; ... The warning itself is almost more impressive if it was not justified by reasons, but only by results. There is something very notable about a thing which is arbitrary when it is also accurate. We may very easily forget, even while we fulfil, the advice we thought was self-evident sense. But nothing can measure our mystical and unfathomable reverence for the advice that we thought was nonsense." (G.K. Chesterton, "The Catholic Church and Conversion")

Jesus claims on us are as fresh and new, and also as shocking, as they were during his earthly ministry. The absolute claims that he has over us, our lack of any court of appeal, any higher authority, any third-party perspective to consult should we find, as we inevitably will, something about the Gospel offensive to us, leave us no middle position. We know it will not do if we let Him alone. Like the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered in council against Jesus, we must either receive him as the promised Messiah and Son of God, and thus surrender even our dearest and most treasured lines of rebellion while exposing ourselves to the hatred of the world, or we must devise to put Him to death. After all, is there no weakness of our flesh, in the lives of our kin, in the political system we want to support, in the ordering of our own economies and those of our society, which we simply cannot bring ourselves to reject, but know they stand opposed to the Lord Jesus? Is there truly no doctrine, no claim of the Church in her administration of the sacraments, no claims Jesus Christ himself makes of his own absolute, unique, and universal role as Lord and Savior that do not make us at least wonder, when we consider our own doubts or the unbelief of our neighbors and friends, whether it might not be so?

God in his mercy knows that, if we would share in his life and have a taste of it even now, then much of what we believe will seem to us arbitrary, even if it is accurate. This is why, in his kindness, Jesus directs our eyes away from the glorious clarity of his own self, too much for the eyes of our minds to bear while in this vale of tears, so strong as to make the pitiless calculations of the world, even when they unknowingly reveal the deep mysteries of God, seem attractive — it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. This is why Jesus walked no more openly among the Jews: but He want into a country near the desert. It is there, in the desert, where Jesus abode with His disciples, in the shade of his glory, that Jesus directs our gaze: to the Scriptures that attest to him, to the many miracles and signs he has done, to the example of those who testify about him not with signs of power but with words that are true and a life rightly lived. It is in this merciful shade that our eyes can grow used to the glory imparted to us in this life, but even here we will never be able to look upon the whole truth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. To us, here and now, the Gospel remains always "not justified by reasons, but only by results ... a thing which is arbitrary when it is also accurate."

We will soon begin the celebration of Holy Week, and the eyes of the world will be upon us. The world will be even happier than we are in our darkness that one man should die for the people. However, the world is a coward, and faced with the terrible glory of the Crucified, the powers of the world, like the powers of the air, are more like to come, and take away our place and nation. That is, unable to look upon the face of the Savior without trembling, the world will turns its gaze upon his disciples. When they look upon our witness, our works, what kind of sign will we be? In our fidelity to Christ, in our life bound together by the Spirit, will those who count themselves enemies of the Cross see only the worst they fear about us, or will they perhaps be led to see in us joy, hope, the promise of life eternal, the vein of living waters?

Grant, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that we who seek the grace of Thy protection, may be freed from all evils and serve Thee with a quiet mind.

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