Saturday, March 28, 2015

Driven by Fear

This evening parishes will begin Holy Week by celebrating the vigil of Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord. As a last gospel before Holy Week, today we hear the motive given in John's Gospel for the plot against Jesus. While we like to read the Bible in purely religious terms, we can forget that the world of Jesus was as political as any.

Caiaphas was high priest from 18-36 AD. To remain in office that long required a politically shrewd individual. With that kind of power also came fear of loss of the power. He was not afraid that some great religion was going to spread he was afraid of the Romans. If the Romans perceived an uprising of some kind among the Jews, they might lay aside the so-called Pax Romana and simply wipe them out. Remember that John's gospel was written after the destruction of the temple in the year 70, and history is read through that lens.

Caiaphas is driven by his fear to begin to plot the death of the most innocent man ever to live. The good news is that God can work through even the most corrupt. The words of Caiaphas while intended as political maneuvering, turn out to be prophetic. Jesus does indeed die to save the people, not just the children of Israel, but all the children, "to gather into one the dispersed children of God."

God is able to take mortal sin, the plotting of the murder of another human being, and transform it, use for some good end.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.

Unlike Caiphas, if we are Christians, we do not let our fears drive us. We are free from fear because we know that even though evil does exist and we may have to suffer, our suffering can be redemptive, our suffering can be united to the suffering of Christ. As St. Paul writes in his letter to the Colossians,

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church

We will begin this week by reading Mark's passion and on Friday we will read John's may God give us the courage to embrace the passions in our lives.