Friday, April 07, 2017

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent

” Christ and Caiaphas” by Giovanni Battista Caracciolo, 1611-20
Reading 1: Ezekiel37:21-28
Commentary on Ez 37:21-28
The Prophet Ezekiel was probably not aware that this oracle would have great meaning beyond what even he foresaw. He predicts the return of the Hebrew people from their exile in Babylon, and the restoration of Israel under a king from David’s line. In this return, the Prophet sees a conversion of the people (“…I will deliver them from all their sins of apostasy, and cleanse them so that they may be my people”);, a return also to the law of the Lord which they abandon during the exile, and a return to God’s covenant.
For us, looking back at his words we can see him (Ezekiel) predict the coming of the Messiah, Jesus the Christ, and how he will be the one prince over the entire world. It will  be Jesus that establishes the covenant of peace and reveals God’s love.
Responsorial Psalm: Jeremiah31:10, 11-12abcd, 13
R. (see 10d) The Lord will guard us, as a shepherd guards his flock.
Commentary on Jer 31:10, 11-12abcd, 13
The song from Jeremiah recalls the Diaspora, the exile of the Hebrews. In these strophes, the prophet sees the salvific work of God who shepherds his people as they return from exile in the “New Exodus,” and the reunification of the people. He prophesies their return to the land from which they had been driven, giving praise to God for his mercy.
CCC: Jer 31 1611
Gospel: John11:45-56
Commentary on Jn 11:45-56

In the first section of this Gospel reading, we can see the dilemma facing the Sanhedrin. The Messiah that God has sent is not the “Royal Messiah” coming to destroy the Roman domination, but a humble servant. If the people of Israel follow him, Rome will continue its domination and occupation of Israel.
Caiaphas is introduced as the architect of the ultimate plot to kill Jesus. He unwittingly predicts that Jesus will die to save the whole nation. He does so unwittingly because he does not understand that Jesus is God’s Son. He considers Jesus only as a political threat. It is ironic that, in making this suggestion, Caiaphas has prophetically identified Jesus as the Christ, who offers God's salvation to all peoples of all nations.
This ends the period when Jesus was teaching openly in the temple area. He now leaves Jerusalem for a time. The plotting, however, continues as the scribes and Pharisees plan to seize him during the Passover.
CCC: Jn 11:47-48 548; Jn 11:48 596; Jn 11:49-50 596; Jn 11:52 58, 60, 706, 2793
If we were making a movie of salvation history, or perhaps one of those epic mini-series, we would use a cinematic device of overlays when we get to the part about Caiaphas speaking to the Sanhedrin.  As he was speaking we would see overlaid a flash back to the ancient prophecy of Jeremiah, and then perhaps Ezekiel speaking about the reunification of Israel.  We would understand what motivated the Jews, who, in their utter confusion about the nature of the Messiah, find Jesus to be a political threat.  The background music would grow ominous, and we would feel the whole weight of the Law and the Prophets rushing down to crush this young man from Galilee. 
The stage is set for the climax of Jesus' ministry on earth.  He has bearded the lion in its den, and challenged the long held traditions of the scribes and Pharisees.  He has frightened the most powerful people in his region of the world at a time when Roman dominance and decadence had made human life cheap.  We all know what happens when those who love power are frightened: they lash out without compassion or mercy to utterly destroy the threat to their power.  That is the storm we see gathering in scripture.  And Jesus, the consummate reader of human souls, knows it.
But to bring God’s entire plan to fulfillment, his part must be played.  God’s own feast of deliverance is at hand, the Feast of the Passover, celebrating the deliverance of the Hebrews from cruel bondage in Egypt.  The great and near-great of land are gathering at the Temple in Jerusalem for this high feast, and the Lord senses the time has come.  He is well known, a prophet, miracle worker, a rebellious rabbi.  To his closest friends he is strongly suspected of being the Messiah, the Incarnate Son of God. 
For us,  the roller coaster of our spiritual emotions begins with the climb that will take us to the pinnacle of holy week, to the Feast of the Lord’s Supper.  Then we take that long plunge into Good Friday and all of our Lenten journey will be recalled as we wait with the world for what must come.
Today we recall how the dreams of the great and powerful are so easily used by the Evil One, and the mysterious interplay between the forces of good and evil that must come soon to its glorious end.

[1]The picture used is ” Christ and Caiaphas” by Giovanni Battista Caracciolo, 1611-20

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