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Some of them went to the Pharisees and told them the things
which Jesus had done (v. 46). A. Note how the prophecy of Holy Simeon has its ful. filment: This child is set for the fall and the resurrection of many (St. Luke ii.). By the raising of Lazarus many are converted and drawn to Christ; but there are men, on the contrary, who take occasion by this miracle of mercy to work mischief and ruin. Alas! what was true then of our Lord, is equally true of Him now in His Eucharistic state. Mors est malis ; vita bonis. To those who have grace, He is life; to those whose souls are poisoned by sin, the Bread of Life is death.
B. Mark the haste of these evil-minded men, as they hurry to the top of Mount Olivet and down to Gethsemani, and then, by what was afterwards called the road of captivity, along the south side of the city to the palace of Caiphas. Their throat is an open sepulchre (Psalm xiii.). For as an open grave gives out infection, so does the mouth of tale-bearers spread iniquity. The poison of asps is under their lips. Such whisperers speak fair at times, and seem to be righteous; but the poison of asps is hidden under their plausible words. Their feet are swift to shed blood. In hot haste they are speeding to inflame the mad passions of the Rulers already thirsting for the Blood of Jesus. What wonder, then, that the Holy
. Spirit tells us that the whisperer and the double-tongued is accursed, for he hath troubled many that were at peace. The tongue of a third person hath disquieted many (Ecclus. xv.).
C. Observe that it is the tongue of the third person that disquiets you. If an enemy speaks ill of you behind your back, he undoubtedly wrongs you ; but it is the tongue of the third person, who comes to report to you what your enemy has said, that really harms you; for he causes you to sin and to hate. Hence the Psalmist, after asking the question : Lord, who shall rest in Thy holy hill ? that is, who shall spend his eternity with Thee in Heaven ? sets down this requisite among others: It is the man who hath not taken up a reproach against his neighbour; in his sight the malignant is brought to nothing (Psalm xiv.). That is to say, the man who will not listen to detractors and talebearers, so that the malignant whisperer, who comes to befoul the absent, finds himself not at all welcome, but strongly rebuked and brought to nothing.
Especially necessary is this unwillingness to listen to tale-bearing for all those who hold authority and wish to save their souls. The officious young Amalecite who came to David with the great news that his enemy, Saul, would trouble him no more, never returned again with such a message. (See 2 Kings i.) Neither will the slanderer come back if properly rebuked.
D. There is another milder way in which we at times imitate these tale-bearers. Some, without perceiving it, become gradually nothing but news-carriers. If a tragical death occurs, or an appalling accident, or, worse still, a frightful scandal, their impulse is at once to spread the news; to go in haste from door to door to tell the sad tidings. They only stay long enough to say with a sigh: “ Very sad, is it not ?" and then speed on to be the first at some other door.
But surely if there has been a death, the dead want prayers. If there has been a great sin, the poor sinner wants some one to win grace for him. Why not stay at home and do this holy work?
E. Jesus, Who when beyond Jordan saw Lazarus dying in Bethania, now sees these messengers on their way, and knows perfectly how they will rouse the jealous malice of the Rulers. He hears every word that they utter. With an act of His will, He could render them motionless, or dumb. But He has given to man a free-will, and for wise reasons does not repent, nor take that free-will away. His Heart is ready to endure what man's free-will designs against Him.
F. Contrast for a while the excited, feverish enemies of Christ with Lazarus just come back to life. Observe how he fixes his eyes on the Author of his life, and how he loves the Giver much more than the gift; and how tranquil and how gentle he is, and how little excited now by the things of this poor world to which he is called back. When our souls are raised from death to life, and, with the Prodigal, are welcomed home and clothed once more with the white robe, and fed with the Sacred Body of our Lord, shall all this wonderful and most unexpected forgiveness have no subduing effect on us ? Shall it produce no heavenly meekness and tranquillity within us?
Shall we at once relapse into giddy frivolity or impatience ?
THE HILL OF EVIL COUNSEL.
The Chief Priests, therefore, and the Pharisees gathered a
Council, and said : What do we ?? For this Man doth many miracles. If we let Him alone so, all will believe in Him, and the Romans will come, and will take away our place and nation. But one of them, named Caiphas, being the High Priest of that year, said to them : You know nothing. Neither do you consider that it is expedient that one Man should die for the people ; and that the whole nation perish not. And this he spoke not of himself, but, being the High Priest of that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation; and not only for the nation, but to gather together into one the children of God that were dispersed (St. John xi. 47, seq.).
On the south-east of Jerusalem there is a hill still called the Hill, or Mount, of Evil Counsel. Tradition says that the country villa of the Priests stood there, and that it was in this villa that the Priests and Rulers met to meditate vain things, and plot against the Lord and against His Christ (St. John xi.).
A. Take your place in spirit in this Council-Chamber. Look at the troubled features of these malignant men. Each of them might well say to his soul, “ Quare conturbas me ? "—Wherefore dost thou trouble me? Aman, the great Chancellor, could not enjoy at all the vast blessings heaped on him, because one man, Mardochai, would not
uncover his head to him. But the grievance of these dupes of the father of lies is not even as real as Aman's was. Jesus had never refused them any courtesy. Their one complaint is, that this Man doth many miracles. “ O hypocrites,” our Lord says to them, “is your eye evil because I am good ?
Have we not much reason to say humbly again and again, “From anger, hatred, and all ill-will, deliver us, O Lord”?
B. Observe too here, and throughout the Sacred Passion, how our Lord, as He can draw praises from the lips of infants (Psalm viii.), so too can also bring about that His enemies shall, when He wishes it, proclaim this truth, What do we ? For this Man doth many miracles. They cannot then plead ignorance. Hence our Saviour, a little while later, said of them: If I had not done among them the works that no other Man had done, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated both Me and My Father (St. John xv.).
O Lord, chastise me not in Thy wrath (Psalm vi.); say not to Thy avenging Angel: Blind the heart of this people, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes (Isaias vi.).
Notice the phrase, 66 blind the heart”. Blindness of intellect may sometimes be excusable ignorance; but blindness of heart is wilful and malicious blindness.
C. If we let Him alone so, all will believe in Him, and the Romans will come. These Councillors were aware that the time of the Messias was near, and that many of the people were persuaded that the Messias would deliver them from the Roman yoke. They pretend, therefore, to fear that if the people believe in Jesus, there will be a rising against the Romans, of which they have already had some specimens; and the Romans will crush the rising with merciless vengeance, and entirely sweep away their nation. This plausible fable the father of lies has ready for them, and they accept his teaching. The result is that, because they will not receive Jesus, but hunt Him to death, the Romans will come and take away entirely their place and their nation.
From them that resist Thy right hand, keep me, O Lord, as the apple of Thy eye (Psalm xvi.).
D. One of them named Caiphas, being the High Priest
of the year.
Caiphas was de facto the High Priest, thrust in by
Annas, as has been said, had been the legitimate High Priest, but had been deposed by the Romans; and there had been a quick succession of intruded High Priests, appointed by the Roman Governors. Though Annas, then, may have a better title to the High Priest's office, still Caiphas holds the position, and because he is High Priest, he prophesies; and, what is more wonderful, prophesies without understanding the import of his own words.
Mark well this difference between the private life of Caiphas and his official capacity. The Scribes and Pharisees, our Lord said soon after, have sitten on the chair of Moses. All things, therefore, whatsoever they shall say to you, observe and do : but according to their works do ye not; for they say and do not (St. Matt. xxiii.). Catholics should carefully explain to Protestant friends that when we say that the Successor of St. Peter in his Apostolic office is infallible, we mean only that his official teaching is watched and guided by the Holy Ghost, and is therefore unerring. In his private life he must work out his salvation in fear and trembling (Philipp. ii.) like other men.
Give us grace, dear Lord, to help many to obedience to the infallible teaching of Thy Apostolic Vicar.
E. It is expedient that one Man should die for the people. Yes, this is most true; and no one is so eager to die for