Those who cultivate peace (Jas 3, 18)
Jesus, the just one, takes refuge in God. He will never be put to shame even if condemned to a shameful death.
The religious leaders want him dead. They find him obnoxious; his life as an itinerant preacher and healer, not like theirs, shows that he values what they devalue and he has regard for those disregarded by them.
It annoys them besides that Jesus blasphemes, boasting that God is his Father, that he demands radicalism in the fulfillment of the law and the prophets, that he does not keep the Sabbath and dispenses with tradition, putting into question their observance, their doctrines.
The religious authorities are even more troubled because they fear that Jesus’ popularity may give rise to an uprising that will drive the Romans to suppress it brutally and, finally, to annihilate the Jewish nation. And since Jesus seeks to reform the Temple worship and even speaks of the hour when there will be no temple needed to worship God, perhaps they ask themselves, “What would become of us whose livelihood comes from the Temple?”
No, Jesus accusers are not lacking in motive. Nor is he so naïve as to ignore the danger his mission entails. So, he warns his disciple, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.” That the resurrection is also predicted, this reveals his conviction that God will take care of him.
Thus does the Teacher intensely instruct his disciples by themselves. They have to know that if he is persecuted, they will be persecuted too. But the instruction turns out unintelligible to them. Could it be that they are not asking, preferring instead not to know anything more about death, because of their fear of it?
What is certain is that we find it difficult to understand the Teacher’s instruction. We still do not grasp what St. Vincent de Paul did, namely, “There is nothing good that does not meet with opposition” (SV.FR IV:12). Our lack of understanding is evident in our use of titles, “Most Reverend,” “Your Excellency,” “Your Eminence,” Pontifex Maximus, as well as in clericalism and careerism (see also EG 277).
And our difficulty is not just a question simply of refusing to be the most unimportant or the servant of the servants, failing thus to imitate Jesus. At times it is also about imitating unwittingly the accusers of Jesus, imposing on others harshly, taking ourselves to be the only and absolute measure of what is true, just, Christian, Catholic.
Would it not be better to remember Gamaliel’s advice on behalf of the persecuted and to sow communion, and not excommunication, to build up the body of Christ, instead of tearing it down?
Deliver us, Lord, from all exaggerated sense of our own importance.