The Chief Priests and Ancients of the People consult how to apprehend Jesus and put Him to Death.
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.
The Chief Priests and Ancients of the People consult how to apprehend Jesus and put Him to Death.
“Then were gathered together the chief priests and ancients of the people into the court of the high priest who was called Caiphas: And they consulted together that by subtilty they might apprehend Jesus and put Him to death.”—St. Matt. xxvi. 3, 4.
WHILE Jesus in the home of Mary Magdalene was speaking of His approaching passion, there assembled in the palace of Caiphas in Jerusalem a great council composed of the chief priests, the ancients of the people, and the Pharisees, bitter enemies of our Lord, who had gathered together in order to deliberate as to how they might apprehend Jesus by subtilty, and without trial condemn Him to death. On several previous occasions this council had assembled for the same purpose, but as the time for the solemn sacrifice had not yet arrived, all their perfidious designs were frustrated. In the southern part of Jerusalem may be seen a mount called the Mount of the Evil Council, where, as tradition relates, Caiphas had a summer residence to which he several times brought his wicked counsellors to treat in secret of this impious affair.
The immediate cause of the convention at the palace was the resurrection of Lazarus. St. John the Evangelist says that this great miracle led many of the Jews to believe in the divinity of Jesus, some of whom going to the city related the event to the Pharisees, Christ’s most bitter enemies. Upon hearing of such a miracle, any one of unbiassed opinion would have said: “If this Man performs prodigies and great miracles, it is a sign that He is from God. Let us, therefore, hear His doctrine, imitate His holy example, and embrace His new law.” But as the enemies of Jesus were ruled by passion rather than conscience, they said to one another: “If we permit this man to preach and propagate His new doctrine among the people, the time will come when we will all believe in Him and become His followers. Then the Romans will come and conquer us, and overturn our seats, and destroy our prestige with the people, and become masters of ourselves and of our nation.”
Caiphas, the high priest of that year, rose up in the midst of the assembly, and, overtaken by the spirit of God, prophesied, saying: “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” (St. John xi. 49, 50). From that moment they determined to put Jesus to death, not to save their nation, but to satisfy their envy and hatred. The Divine Master, knowing their design, avoided them as much as possible until His time had come.
Let us now consider how pernicious is the passion of envy. The holiest works, the most stupendous miracles, excite in the envious man only emotions of malice. While others are filled with admiration and esteem, he becomes sad and suspicious. Let us recommend ourselves to the God of mercy that He may preserve us from so terrible and pernicious a vice.
Easter was near at hand; and the Jews, knowing that Jesus was accustomed to celebrate it at Jerusalem, gathered again in secret against Him, and conspired to apprehend Him and condemn Him to death. All agreed to arrest Him by stratagem, because they feared that, should they attempt to take Him in public, He would evade them as He had previously done. Moreover, they were much perplexed about fixing the day for putting Him to death; for they said, “Not on the festival day, lest there should be a tumult among the people” (St. Mark xiv. 2). They had good reasons to fear the indignation of the people, because the Divine Master had never done evil to any one; on the contrary, He had benefited all, and was, consequently, very popular. Many had accepted His holy doctrine, and they would boldly defend Him against injustice.
Besides, as the feast of the Pasch was celebrated only in Jerusalem, there would assemble there people from Galilee, Samaria, Phoenicia, Idumea, Tragonidides,—in short, from all the Jewish tribes. Many were the blind whom He had illumined, the lame whom He had made to walk, the leprous whom He had cleansed, the sick whom He had cured, the hungry whom He had satisfied, the dead whom He had resuscitated; and it could not be doubted that among the crowds then gathering at the holy city there would be some of those favored ones who would surely defend their Benefactor. The scribes and Pharisees, therefore, greatly feared a popular revolt; hence they said, “Not on the festival day, lest there should be a tumult among the people;” let us wait until after the feast, when all shall have returned to their homes, and then we will arrest Him and put Him to death. During this discussion, Judas the traitor entered, and volunteered to deliver his Divine Master into their power; immediately they changed their determination. We shall see in the following chapter how this betrayal was accomplished; for the present, let us consider with St. Thomas of Villanova the motives which induced the priests, the ancients of the people, the scribes and Pharisees, to condemn their Messias to death. The chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together and said: “What do we, for this Man doth many miracles: here is His crime. What, therefore, shall we do?” O infamous! O perverse! Jesus must be recognized as the true Son of God; He must be venerated, He must be worshipped, He must be adored. “But if we adore Him,” they answer, “all will believe in Him; and the Romans will come, they will banish us, and conquer and destroy our nation.” But why do you fear this Man? What appearance of royalty do you discern in Him who is so poor and humble? And if He should be declared king of the Jews, fear not; for as He has power to perform miracles and prodigies, so also has He power to defend your nation against the Romans. His only crime is that He has performed miracles, that by His omnipotent power He has given sight to the blind, raised the dead to life. For this reason you should worship, serve, and love Him, instead of condemning Him. O unparalleled audacity! O unequalled blindness!
Let us now come to ourselves. What are the crimes of Jesus Christ, when we banish Him from our souls and allow the devil to take possession of them? Do His crimes perhaps consist in having created us out of nothing in preference to millions and millions of possible beings who would probably have served Him more faithfully than we? in having called us to the bosom of our holy Mother the Catholic Church, while thousands and thousands are wandering in the midst of darkness? in having redeemed us from the slavery of sin and the tyranny of hell, by shedding the last drop of His most precious blood? in having preserved us from many diseases, persecutions, and misfortunes? in having enriched us with temporal and spiritual goods? in having sent us so many inspirations, granted us so many graces and favors? What merits had we in the sight of God to be so signally favored in preference to so many Turks, idolaters, heretics, schismatics, and sinners? Our answer shall be the second spiritual fruit of this consideration.
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.
You must avoid every vice, but above all those which tempt you most: it is in these you will find your greatest danger, if you do not take wise precautions. – St. Ignatius of Loyola, Ribadeneira, ch. 37.
February Devotion: The Holy Trinity (also the Holy Family)
Virtue to practice: Humility
I vow and consecrate to God all that is in me: my memory and my actions to God the Father; my understanding and my words to God the Son; my will and my thoughts to God the Holy Ghost; my heart, my body, my tongue my senses and all my sorrows to the sacred Humanity of Jesus Christ, ‘who was contented to be betrayed into the hands of wicked men and to suffer the torment of the Cross.’ – St. Francis de Sales
An indulgence of 3 years.
A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions, if this act of oblation is devoutly repeated every day for a monh (S.P.Ap., Sept. 22, 1922 and May 12, 1934).
The faithful who devoutly offer any prayers in honor of the Most Holy Trinity with the intention of continuing them for nine successive days, may gain:
An indulgence of 7 years once each day:
A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions at the end of the novena (S.C. Ind., Aug. 8 1847; S.P. Ap., Mar. 18, 1932).
Novena in Honor of Our Lady of Lourdes
O ever Immaculate Virgin, Mother of Mercy, Health of the Sick, Comforter of the Afflicted, thou knowest my wants, my troubles, my sufferings; deign to cast upon me a look of mercy. By appearing in the grotto of Lourdes thou wert pleased to make it a privileged sanctuary from where thou dost dispense thy favors, and already many sufferers have obtained the cure of their infirmities, both spiritual and corporal. I come, therefore, with the most unbounded confidence, to implore thy maternal intercession. Obtain, O loving Mother, the granting of my requests. Through gratitude for thy favors, I will endeavor to imitate thy virtues, that I may one day share in thy glory. R. Amen.
V. O Mary, conceived without sin,
R. Pray for us who have recourse to thee.
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