Jeremiah 31:10, 11-12, 13
The Lord will guard us, as a shepherd guards his flock.
The scene in today’s gospel takes place after Jesus brought Lazarus back to life. What a miracle! What an unexplainable event that must have been to witness! Some say that the raising of Lazarus was when Jesus crossed the line, forcing the Sanhedrin to take action against him. As the chief priests and Pharisees stated, “What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs. If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation.”
It is clear that Jesus did not force the Sanhedrin to take action, rather they were clearly motivated out of fear. The leaders of the Sanhedrin were protecting their powerful positions and their way of life. Even though they were faced with the savior they had spoken about and hoped for, they had grown so comfortable in their positions that fear and their own sinfulness motivated their unjust actions. Of course the Sanhedrin justified their offenses against Jesus when stating, “it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.” Is this just a tragic story of injustice or can we relate today’s gospel to our own experiences?
Today’s readings do speak to our experiences because we have all witnessed injustices. Reflect on the injustices you have experienced or witnessed experienced by others. It is likely that the sins of fear, power, greed or control were motivating factors for those unjust acts. Perhaps there were even persuasive justifications given for those actions like there were in today’s gospel reading. Today, there continues to be hurt and injustices committed in our world. Perhaps it is the grade-school weakling who gets bullied, the adolescent who gets abused, the struggling employee who gets fired, or the poor who are exploited by their own government. For whatever reasons, most of us will encounter some injustices in our lives. What hope can scripture give us to make it through these difficult times?
Jesus is our model for living through unjust situations. You might be thinking that following Jesus involves dying, and that is not what you want. Unfortunately, many of us who live through unjust situations will experience some kind of death. It could be the death of childhood innocence, loss of a relationship, end of a job, or even worse, loss of life. We can go to Christ in the midst of our dying for comfort and courage, for Jesus died with dignity and knows the pain that we experience. We can also find strength in Jesus on the cross when we feel abandoned in our unjust situations. We may feel like we have been forsaken, but God is right there with us, in the midst of our struggles. We can also find consolation in the resurrection of Jesus, believing that God will also resurrect us from the effects of the injustice.
Jesus is not just a model for the persecuted, but for the persecutors
as well. We all have the potential to abuse our power, hurt others
out of fear, or let sinfulness cloud our decisions. We all have the
ability to inflict unjust acts upon others. In those times when we
are the persecutors, let us embrace the image of Jesus as the humble servant
washing the feet of his disciples. Maybe a modern day miracle would
be to see the persecutors serving those in pain, giving away power to others
and releasing control so that new life may spring forth. As we continue
our Lenten journey, let us be attune to the injustices in our lives and
how we can be God’s hands of comfort and healing to those in pain.
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