We penetrate more deeply into the holy season of Lent, and we draw nearer to the mystery of the sufferings, death, and resurrection of Our Divine Lord. Jesus presents himself to us under two aspects: as the victim of human evil and as the divine servant who places himself at the service of his fellow human beings, even to the extent of giving his life for their redemption. Greater love, and greater service, than this, is simply non-existent.
What kind of evils surrounded Our Lord during those days leading up to his death? Well, principally the malice and hostility of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes—the religious and political elite of the nation, who were totally opposed to Our Lord because he was saying things that indicated his equality with God the Father. Then there was the attitude of the Roman authority in Judea; Jesus knew that soon, he would be denounced to Pilate, whose permission must be obtained if Jesus was to be killed, which is what the Sanhedrin wanted. And he also knew that Pilate, a pagan politician, had not the slightest interest in either justice, truth, or mercy, but only in keeping a tight lid on the political situation in Judea which was so explosive. We say in our creed every Sunday “He was crucified under Pontius Pilate.” Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent of any crime, but he also knew that the influential people of Jerusalem wanted him dead, and they were getting close to causing a riot or a rebellion. Pilate is certainly not going to risk his political position just to defend one innocent Jew, so he throws Jesus to the lions thirsting for his blood.
But there is more evil than that surrounding Our Lord. When he predicts privately to the apostles that he is about to be delivered up to his own death, you would think that there would be a great outpouring of sympathy and concern, wouldn’t you? But no; Saint Matthew tells us that at that moment, the mother of James and John comes to him with a request. She wants “her boys” to sit on his right hand and his left in his kingdom. Again: politics; the desire for favored positions, authority, power, clout. And then, to add insult to injury, the other ten apostles, hearing Salome asking special favors for her sons, become angry because they, too, want the political plums in this kingdom that Jesus keeps talking about.
Patiently, he explains to them that his kingdom is not like that of earthly kings and potentates. His kingdom is one of service, not of rule and power. The citizens of his kingdom are those who opt to serve the human race, and those who are highest in his kingdom must in fact be the lowest in terms of rendering service to mankind. Christ performed the greatest service possible to the human race by dying on the cross. Is there anything attractive, favorable, and desirable about crucifixion? They don’t grasp that yet. At the coming of the Holy Spirit upon them at Pentecost after Jesus’s ascension into heaven, they will understand. And they will become great in Jesus’s kingdom by their service as bishops which led to a life of persecution and to a martyr’s death for most of them.
So we adore Our Divine Redeemer, our victim, our servant. And we offer ourselves to him as co-victims, fellow-servants. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.