Homily April 1st, 2023

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent – Jn 11:45-56

            Today’s Gospel presents us with the scribes and Pharisees plotting against Jesus with great malice. Many of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church note the irony that Christ had worked a miracle, and hence they should have been in awe and thought of saving their souls. On the contrary, they only thought of harming Him. As Origen points out, they were both audacious and blind. They gave proof: “of their audacity, because they testified that He had done many miracles, and yet thought that they could contend successfully against Him, and that He would have no power of withstanding their plots; of their blindness, because they did not reflect that He who had wrought such miracles could easily escape out of their hands.” Likewise, to the claim that there was the danger of a rebellion, Saint John Chrysostom writes, “But this was as wholly a fiction of their own. For what was the fact? Did He take armed men about with Him, did He go with horsemen in His train? Did He not rather choose desert places to go to? However, that they might not be suspected of consulting only their own interests, they declare the whole state is in danger.”

            Yet, we also see how God works through these things: first, in the prophecy of Caiaphas. Regarding this, Saint John Chrysostom says: “See the great virtue of the Holy Spirit, in drawing forth a prophecy from a wicked man. And see too the virtue of the pontifical office, which made him, though an unworthy High Priest, unconsciously prophesy. Divine grace only used his mouth; it touched not his corrupt heart.”

            Likewise, consider the evil plot itself. Saint Gregory the Great comments that “His persecutors accomplished this wicked purpose, and put Him to death, thinking to extinguish the devotion of His followers; but faith grew from the very thing which these cruel and unbelieving men thought would destroy it. That which human cruelty had executed against Him, He turned to the purposes of His mercy.” Those who went up to Jerusalem doubted Jesus would show: “What do you think?” they asked amongst themselves, “That he will not come to the feast?” Yet, the major important thing for Christ was accomplishing His Father’s will, and even the plots of His enemies simply fell into place as part of that plan.

            So, what does all of this mean to us? Tomorrow we start Holy Week with Palm Sunday, and we really need to think of what is most important in our lives. What is most important for us really needs to be God’s love, because that is really what defines and orders everything else. We can think, too, about how we respond to that love: is it like Jesus, whose love led Him to do the Father’s will at all times and in everything? Or do we, like the scribes and Pharisees, see what God does in our lives, and complain or take it the wrong way, as if God didn’t love us?

            Let us ask, then, through the intercession Mary Most Holy, Our Lady of Sorrows, for grace to love God and respond accordingly, following Jesus in all times and in everything.  

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