|Jesus Didn't Die for the Collective.
The Sixth Saturday of Lent.*
Lessons from the feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Ezekiel 37: 21-28.
• Jeremiah 31: 10-13.**
• John 11: 45-56.
Passion Saturday; and, the Commemoration of Saint John of Capistran, Confessor.
Lessons from the feria, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Jeremiah 18: 18-23.
• Psalm 34: 20, 22.
• John 12: 10-36.
Lessons from the triodion, according to the typicon of the Byzantine-Ruthenian Rite:
• Hebrews 12: 28—13: 8.
• John 11: 1-45.
2:49 PM 3/28/2015 — Just a few brief remarks.
I've always been fascinated with Ciaphas' reasoning here: “And one of them, Caiphas, who held the high priesthood in that year, said to them, 'You have no perception at all; you do not reflect that it is best for us if one man is put to death for the sake of the people, to save a whole nation from destruction'” (John 11: 49-50 Knox). Pragmatically, he's correct: he perceives that the agitation that Jesus is causing by his preaching and His claims of divinity are creating enough of a spirit of unrest that the Romans will crack down on the Jews and take away even more of their freedoms; so, he suggests that Jesus must be eliminated for the common good.
Now, of course there's an element of jealousy involved: Jesus had just raised Lazarus from the dead, and that's a card trick that's hard to trump. In fact, today's Gospel lesson opens with that idea: “Many of these Jews who had visited Martha and Mary, and seen what Jesus did, learned to believe in him…” (v. 45). But, beyond that, there is a certain logic to his reasoning, and it's a logic that has permeated our own society: the notion that the needs of the individual must be subordinated to the common good. It has become so engrained in our collective psyche of late, that some have even presented it as Christian, using it to justify the superiority of the so-called “social Gospel” over dogma and spirituality, or the importance of good works over purity of life and the striving for individual holiness; and, we've talked about this before. Remember what we called, not too long ago, the Kennedy solution: Ted Kennedy's pathetic letter to Pope Benedict as he lie on his death bed, suggesting that it was OK that he supported and facilitated abortion rights because he had done so much for the poor. Well, no it wasn't, and I have a feeling that he's discovering that right now.
But, rather than descend into politics, we need to apply this to our own lives. This time of year, we always hear and talk about our Blessed Lord suffering and dying for the sins of mankind, but what is mankind? Mankind is you, mankind is me, mankind is not some collective entity. Jesus didn't suffer and die to redeem a collective; he suffered for you, he suffered for me. Our relationship to the Passion of our Lord is a deeply personal and individual one. When the Mother of God appeared to Sister Lucia in the Dorothean convent at Pontevedra, and revealed to her the request for the First Five Saturdays, She said, “My daughter, look at my heart surrounded with thorns with which ungrateful men pierce it at every moment by their blasphemies and ingratitude. You, at least, try to console me….”† What we often overlook in that request is the remarkable idea that one person, shut away in a cloister, could offer consolation to the Mother of God.
As we enter, this coming week, into the commemoration of our Lord's Passion, it is important for us to be convinced that the Lord is doing this “for me.” Not for us, not for the world, not for mankind, but for you. For me. He is God; and, as God, He can look at me, look at you, look at each of us all at once, as if He's looking at no one else. We can't do that, but He can. When we confess our sins we are conscious of the fact that He's hearing us alone and forgiving us alone, probably because we're in a tiny little room; why can't we do that when we relive His Passion and death through the Church's liturgy? Why can't we do that when we approach Him in purity of heart to receive Him in Holy Communion? We can, but we often don't.
So, as we enter into the Passion of our Lord, let's resolve to take the advice of St. Ignatius: as we hear the Gospel lessons of the Sacred Triduum, let's—each of us—put our self in the scene. As our Lord is walking by carrying the heavy cross, watch Him closely, and you'll notice Him look over His shoulder and cast a glace in your direction. See His eyes fix on you and on no one else, and know that He is doing this for you.
* The Sixth Saturday of Lent is what the Missal refers to as "Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent." Cf. the note regarding the designation of days on this site, found here.
** In place of the psalm.
*** Lazarus Saturday, on which the Gospel of the rising of Lazarus is sung, is the beginning of Holy & Great Week in the Byzantine Tradition.
† World Apostolate of Fatima, Spiritual Guide for the Salvation of Souls and World Peace, p. 145.