On the Manner in which the Pharisees Plotted against our Lord.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
On the Manner in which the Pharisees Plotted against our Lord.
Take your place in imagination in the council-chamber of the chief priests and Pharisees. They have just received the information that Jesus has raised Lazarus from the dead. This miracle was so great, so striking, and so undeniable, that even they were compelled to admit the fact. Now consider the course of action they adopt under these circumstances.
1st. “The chief priests therefore and the Pharisees gathered a council, and said: What do we, for this man doth many miracles.” (St. John xi. 47.) “They did not say,” as St. Augustine remarks in answer to their question, “let us too believe in Him! On the contrary in the malice of their unregenerate hearts they took counsel together how they could injure and ruin Him, not considering that they might gain salvation for themselves. ‘If we let Him alone so, all will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away our place and nation.’ (v. 48.) They were afraid lest they should lose what was temporal and never gave a thought to life eternal, yet after all they lost both the one and the other.” Ponder this saying of the great Doctor of the Church; not only is it true in this case, but we constantly see it exemplified in the world around. Then consider this truth: Our Lord’s enemies lay stress upon His being dangerous to the State, and declare His teaching to have an injurious effect upon the people. In reality the very contrary was the true state of things. Christ’s kingdom is not of this world and His labor was for the welfare and salvation of all men. The Pharisees, blinded by hatred, called white black, took light for darkness, and to gratify their ill-will, did not hesitate to resort to lies and calumny. Is it only the Pharisees who act thus? Look round in the world and you will see the same war waged against Christ and His Church, and again on a smaller scale you find the same course of conduct pursued by individuals in regard to their fellow-men, you meet with those whose hearts are filled with similar sentiments of hatred and envy. You will do well to examine yourself also in this respect.
2d. “But one of them named Caiphas, being the high priest that year, said to them: You know nothing, neither do you consider that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.” (v: 49, 50.) The words Caiphas uttered in a bad sense, it is expedient that one man should die for the whole people, had a far deeper and wider meaning than the speaker had any idea of; it was a solemn and consoling prophecy of the sacrifice of atonement that was shortly to be offered for the people, not merely for the Jews but for the Gentiles also, as the apostle adds in the 52d verse: “And not only for the nation, but to gather together in one the children of God that were dispersed.” Here we may admire the marvellous wisdom of God. The Jews were assembled to plot a base murder, but the verdict of death, the sentence passed upon our Lord out of sheer hatred, was couched in language which expressed in singularly brief terms the actual and higher object of our Lord’s death, and announced the great truth that His death of atonement would rescue all from eternal death, and gather together all the scattered children of God to form one family under their heavenly Father. Yes, Caiphas was right when he prophesied that Jesus should die for the people, should die to save us from death, should die to deliver us out of the power of the devil, should die in order to gather together in one the children of God that were dispersed. Ponder these weighty truths before proceeding further.
3d. Consider that the Evangelist tells us: “This he spoke not of himself, but being the high priest of that year, he prophesied.” (v. 51.) It was not as if Caiphas himself was worthy to be chosen as the mouthpiece of the Holy Ghost for the people of Israel; he only prophesied because he held the office of high priest that particular year. Thus we see that to his high office he owed it that he spoke through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in spite of his own personal unworthiness. How much matter for reflection this truth gives you, my soul, how it teaches you the distinction that exists and which ought to be observed between the office and the office bearer, between the Priest in his private and in, his ministerial capacity; how it warns you to hold the sacerdotal dignity in the greatest respect, never to lower it in any way, if you are yourself a Priest, never to speak slightingly of it, if you are a layman. For if the dignity of the sacerdotal state under the Old Dispensation is so strikingly made manifest in this passage of Holy Scripture, what ought we not to think of the priesthood of the New Covenant? “So great,” says St. Chrysostom, “ is the dignity to which the Priest is raised, that it is as if he had already been admitted into Heaven, as if he were raised to a higher level than that of human nature, as if he were set free from the trammels of the weaknesses of ordinary mortals.” Ought the thought of this to make you proud, you who are a Priest? Oh no, it ought rather to make you fear and tremble, for as the same saint adds you have launched out upon the ocean of your sacred office, one in which those who make shipwreck do not fall into the sea, but into an abyss of misery where they meet with a death that does not separate soul and body, but delivers both soul and body to everlasting torments. You have before your eyes the example of Caiphas; let his fate be a warning to you!
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)
Copyright © 2013. Holy Cross Publications. All rights reserved.