Intention: For justice in our world, especially for all who are forgotten or excluded, abandoned or abused, persecuted or exploited, that good people everywhere will rise to their defense and come to their aid.
Today’s Gospel | John 11:45-56
Many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what Jesus had done began to believe in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, “What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs. If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.” He did not say this on his own, but since he was high priest for that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on they planned to kill him.
So Jesus no longer walked about in public among the Jews, but he left for the region near the desert, to a town called Ephraim, and there he remained with his disciples.
Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before Passover to purify themselves. They looked for Jesus and said to one another as they were in the temple area, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast?”
A Lenten Reflection
In the Gospel of John’s account of Caiaphas’ meeting with the Sanhedrin, it is hard to miss the connivance and malevolence at work as the Temple leaders discuss what to do about their nemesis, Jesus of Nazareth. The intensity of their opposition to him and his teachings seems out of proportion to whatever possible threat a small-town preacher – miracle worker and his ragtag collection of followers might pose to their considerable religious and political power. Clearly, they knew that they needed to be afraid. Knowing what they feared and why is important to understanding the events of Jesus passion as well as to learning the narrative’s most significant lesson.
As one who spoke truth to deception, Jesus was challenging both the Sanhedrin’s manipulation of its people and collaboration with the Roman government. The Temple leadership was determined to manage both groups while neither respecting nor trusting either. This toxic culture of suspicion and subterfuge that they created would corrupt their values and cloud their judgment. This would fuel their role in the death of Jesus and, ironically, in their own brutal demise less than a century later at the hands of the Roman empire.
Philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote, “Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.” When we choose to be driven by our fears, then that will become the only energy that we bring into our world. Our view of the world will become one of antipathy, devoid of compassion or creativity. The time of Lent calls us to reflect on what is the disposition with which we choose to live our lives. We can be people of dis-ease and darkness, or we can be a people of wholeness and light.
Eternal Father, your gift of salvation was made possible by the “yes” that your Son said to your will, even when he knew what lay ahead for him. In this time of Lent, help us to imitate him, to have the courage to say yes when you ask. Bless us with minds that are wise and hearts that are strong. Increase our faith, and may we make ourselves poor and empty ourselves of all selfishness so that you can use us to be instruments of your saving presence. We ask this of you who lives and reigns with your Son and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.