Friday, March 26, 2010

Gospel for Saturday, 5th Week of Lent

From: John 11:45-56

The Sanhedrin Decides on the Death of Jesus
[45] Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary (Magdalene) and had seen what He (Jesus) did, believed in Him; [46] but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. [47] So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council, and said, "What are we to do? For this Man performs many signs. [48] If we let Him go on thus, every one will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation." [49] But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all; [50] you do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish." [51] He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, [52] and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. [53] So from that day on they took counsel on how to put Him to death.

[54] Jesus therefore no longer went about openly among the Jews, but went from there to the country near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim; and there He stayed with the disciples.

[55] Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover, to purify themselves. [56] They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, "What do you think? That He will not come to the feast?"

45-48. Once again, as Simeon had predicted, Jesus is a sign of contradiction (cf. Luke 2:34; John 7:12, 31, 40; 9:16; etc.): presented with the miracle of the raising of Lazarus some people believe in Jesus (verse 45), and some denounce Him to His enemies (cf. verses 46-47)--confirming what is said in the parable of the rich man: "neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead" (Luke 16:31).

"Our (holy) place": this __expression or similar expressions such as "the place", "this place", was used to designate the temple, the holy place "par excellence" and, by extension, all the Holy City of Jerusalem (cf. Maccabees 5:19; Acts 6:14).

49-53. Caiaphas held the high priesthood from the year 18 to the year 36 A.D. (cf. "The Dates of the Life of our Lord Jesus Christ" in "The Navarre Bible: St. Mark", p. 49). Caiaphas was the instrument God used to prophesy the redemptive death of the Savior, for it was one of the functions of the high priest to consult God on how to lead the people (cf. Exodus 28:30; Numbers 27:21; 1 Samuel 23:9; 30:7-8). Here Caiaphas' words have a dual meaning: one, Caiaphas' meaning, is that he wants to put Christ to death, on the pretext that that will ensure the political peace and survival of Israel; the other, the meaning intended by the Holy Spirit, is the announcement of the foundation of the new Israel, the Church, through the death of Christ on the Cross (Caiaphas is unaware of this meaning). And so it happens that the last high priest of the Old Alliance prophesies the investiture of the High Priest of the New Alliance, which will be sealed in His own blood.

When the Evangelist states that Christ was going to die "to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad" (verse 52), he is referring to what our Lord had said regarding the salvific effects of His death (cf. John 10:14-15). The prophets had already announced the future assembly of Israelites faithful to God to form the new people of Israel (cf. Isaiah 43:5; Jeremiah 23:3-5; Ezekiel 34:23; 37:21-24). These prophecies are fulfilled by the death of Christ, who, on being raised up on the cross, draws and gathers together the true people of God, composed of all believers, whether Israelites or not. The Second Vatican Council uses this passage as a source when speaking of the universality of the Church: "All men are called to belong to the new people of God. This people therefore, whilst remaining one and only one, is to be spread throughout the whole world and to all ages in order that the design of God's will may be fulfilled: He made human nature one in the beginning and decreed that all His children who were scattered should be finally gathered together as one (cf. John 11:52). It was for this purpose that God sent His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things (cf. Hebrews 1:2), that He might be teacher, king and priest of all, the head of the new and universal people of God's sons" ("Lumen Gentium", 13).

In the fourth century, St. John Chrysostom explained the catholicity of the Church using these words: "What is the meaning of `to gather into one those who are scattered abroad'? He made them one body. He who dwells in Rome knows that the Christians of India are his members" ("Hom. on St. John", 65, 1).

54. The time for Him to die has not yet arrived; therefore Jesus acts prudently, taking the steps anyone would take not to precipitate events.

55. Since the Passover was the most solemn Jewish feast, the people used to arrive in Jerusalem some days in advance to prepare for it by washings, fasts and offerings--practices established not by the Mosaic law but by popular piety; the rites of the Passover itself, with the sacrificing of the lamb, were a rite of purification and expiation for sins. The Passover of the Jews was a figure of the Christian Pasch or Easter, for, as St. Paul the Apostle teaches us, our paschal lamb is Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:7), who offered Himself once and for all to the eternal Father on the cross to atone for our sins. (Pope) Paul VI recalled this happy truth of faith: "Gave Himself for me? But does there still exist a religion which is expressed in sacrifices? No, the sacrifices of the ancient law and pagan religions have no longer any reason to exist; but the world always needs a sacrifice, a valid, unique and perennial one, for the redemption of human sin [...]; it is the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, which wipes out sin from the world; a sacrifice which the Eucharist actualizes in time and makes it possible for the men of this earth to take part in it" ([Pope] Paul VI, "Homily on Corpus Christ", 17 June 1976).

If the Jews prepared to celebrate the Passover with all these rites and ablutions, it is obvious what steps we should take to celebrate or participate in the Mass and to receive Christ--our Pasch--in the Eucharist. "On this earth, when we receive an important person, we bring out the best--lights, music, formal dress. How should we prepare to receive Christ into our soul? Have we ever thought about how we should behave if we could only receive Him once in a lifetime?" ([St] J. Escriva, "Christ Is Passing By", 91).
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

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