5th Week of Lent, Saturday, March 27
Ezekiel 37:21-28 / John 11:45-56
Jesus does remarkable things: Many people put their trust in him.
There's a scene in My Fair Lady in which Eliza Doolittle grows weary of Freddy's daily letters, telling her how much he loves her. In a burst of frustration, she begins to sing the song "Show Me." In the song she says she's sick of words. She's sick of all this talk of stars "burning above." "If there's really any love burning in your heart, show me." (adapted) Jesus had done everything he could do to show the Jews his love for them. Some Jews eventually saw it and "began to believe in him"; many others did not.
How do we respond when people reject our best efforts to show them how much we love them? "Love is patient. It bears all things . . .endures all things." 1 Corinthians 13:4, 7
At a time of the purifying trial of the exile, Ezekiel preaches God’s utopian dream: Israel will be gathered into one: one nation, one land, one sanctuary, ruled by one shepherd and servant king under one God in a covenant of peace.
After the resurrection of Lazarus, the cynical high priest and leaders decide to put embarrassing troublemaker Jesus to death for opportunistic reasons of state. But John, and Christians with him, realize that Jesus’ death for the sake of all will ultimately unify us all in his kingdom.
We are today still scattered and divided tribes, within the Church and outside it. Is unity for us utopia or a firm hope? Do we realize it can be attained only by respect, love and sacrifice?
God has given us the precious gift of freedom, and he respects that freedom. Some people abuse their freedom by doing evil, but God, rather than take freedom away, uses his wisdom to draw good from evil. This is an important lesson that we see in today's gospel.
The chief priests and the Pharisees were afraid that if the people were to follow Jesus, the Romans would come and take over their temple and their country. Caiaphas, the high priest, using his freedom of decision, told his companions that the simplest solution to the problem was to kill Jesus. Ile pointed out that it was better for this one man to die than for the whole nation to be destroyed. From that day on the leaders of the people plotted to kill Jesus.
What Caiaphas and the others did not realize was that God would draw good from their evil plan, and even from the words of Caiaphas. It was indeed better that Jesus die in sacrifice than the whole human race perish in sin. God the Father's plan was that the death of his son would atone for our sins. Ile allowed the leaders of the people to set in motion all the events that led to the death of Jesus because he knew that his son would accept death eagerly and willingly for the salvation of the world.
We are in a position to see how God worked good through the evil plot to kill Jesus. In our own lives at the present moment it is often difficult or even sometimes impossible to know just what God has in mind when he allows evil. But we must have the faith to believe that God knows what he is doing. His respect for freedom allows evil, but in his wisdom, he knows how to draw good from evil and in his love he does so. Perhaps we think that if we were running the world, we would do things differently. God's ways are not our ways, but his ways are best.
1. Silence: Today’s Gospel does not have any spoken words by Jesus. The only action shared by John is that Jesus decided not to appear in public anymore and left for another region. Some began to ask themselves, “Will he not come to the feast?” At times in our life, Jesus seems to disappear and all we hear are the grumblings of other voices that tell us, “Jesus is not relevant. Jesus does not care anymore. Jesus has other things to think about.” When we read the Scriptures, we know that this is not true. “He is still about his Father’s business.” Faith is not merely the feeling that God is present. It is an assurance that God is with us at all times in all circumstances.
2. Threat to Power: Why was the Sanhedrin worried? They thought that Jesus had become a threat. They worried that people would follow Jesus and incite the Romans to take away their nation. They wanted to retain their power over the Jews. How ironic! Jesus never threatens their power. His operating principle is love. When we follow Jesus, we lose only what’s not good for us and, in the end, we find our true selves.
3. God Uses Everything: Our Lord put prophetic words in the mouth of Caiphas, the high priest, who said, “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.” No one in the room saw the real truth in those words. In fact, they began to plan to kill Jesus. But with the benefit of hindsight, we can marvel at this and appreciate how God can communicate to us in the most unexpected ways. As believers, we look for God in every situation.
Lord God, creator and Father of all, your sons and daughters are still scattered and divided: Christians and non-Christians, various Churches and sects claiming exclusive rights on your Son, and each of them full of factions. Make us dream again the dream which you alone can make possible: that we can all be one if we believe and follow him who died to unite all that is scattered, Jesus Christ, our Lord for ever. Amen