Daily Homily: Let Us Condemn Him to a Shameful Death

Fourth Week of Lent, Friday

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Wisdom 2:1a, 12-22
Psalm 34:17-18, 19-20, 21 and 23
John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30

The Jews, John tells us, were trying to arrest and kill Jesus. Earlier, in Chapter Five, John identified the reason for this opposition: «This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath but also called God his Father, making himself equal with God» (5:18).

Jesus is fully aware of the increasing opposition to his doctrine, to his miracles and to his person. Instead of going with his disciples to the feast, Jesus chooses to go up to Jerusalem in secret. The occasion is the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:33-38), an autumn feast of seven days that follows the Day of Atonement. The feast recalls the forty years the Israelites wandered in the desert, celebrates God’s presence with his Covenant people, and looks forward to the coming of the Messiah. A pilgrimage to the Temple during this time was obligatory (Deuteronomy 16:13-15). The prophet Zechariah sees the day when all nations will travel to Jerusalem for the feast to worship the King, the Lord of hosts (Zechariah 14:16-19). Jesus does not hide while he is in Jerusalem for the feast and instead preaches openly. He continues to preach his message about the Father sending him as the only-begotten Son to save the world from sin and death.

The passage from the Book of Wisdom is used to characterize the thoughts of those who sought to kill Jesus. The wicked say among themselves: «Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training». In his teaching, Jesus often corrected the pharisee’s misinterpretation of the law and abuse of the law of Moses to cover their injustices.

The liturgy today identifies the just one in Wisdom with Jesus in the Gospel. The wicked think that the just one only professes to have knowledge of God but really does not; they consider the claim that God is his father is only a boast: «He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the Lord». They do not know that the just one will have true interior knowledge of God and will reveal his divine sonship through miraculous signs. Jesus reveals the Father to us and says today: «I know him, for I come from him and he sent me». Matthew writes: «No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him» (11:27).

In the Book of Wisdom, the wicked desire to test the just one to see if his doctrine is true and if he is the son of God. They conspire to revile, torture and condemn the just one to a shameful death. Their wickedness has blinded them to the truth of the just one’s claim. This is exactly what happens to Jesus on the night of Holy Thursday and on Good Friday.

The Jews try to arrest Jesus but are unable to lay a hand upon him, for Jesus’ hour had not yet come. This hour was first mentioned in Chapter Two of John’s Gospel, when Mary tells Jesus about the lack of wine. «Woman», Jesus says, «my hour has not yet come» (2:4). Jesus’ hour arrives three years later, after his entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Jesus will pray: «And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, for this purpose I have come to his hour» (12:27). It is the hour of his passion, death and resurrection.

Throughout Lent, we have heard the call to conversion, to turn away from sin and to believe in Jesus, the Son of God. Today, we contemplate today those who reject him, who do not allow him into their lives. We also contemplate Jesus’ great love for us and the gift of divine sonship that he has won for us on the Cross.

Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at mitchelljason2011@gmail.com.

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Jason Mitchell

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