8 April, 2017. Saturday of Lent, Week 5
First Reading: Ezekiel 37:21-28
I will bring them back, and I will cleanse them
Say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from every quarter, and bring them to their own land. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all. Never again shall they be two nations, and never again shall they be divided into two kingdoms.
They shall never again defile themselves with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions. I will save them from all the apostasies into which they have fallen, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
My servant David shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall follow my ordinances and be careful to observe my statutes. They shall live in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, in which your ancestors lived; they and their children and their children’s children shall live there forever; and my servant David shall be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will bless them and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary among them forevermore. My dwelling place shall be with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Then the nations shall know that I the Lord sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary is among them forevermore.
Gospel: John 11:45-56
Caiaphas prophecies that one must die for the people
Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, “What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.” He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on they planned to put him to death.
Jesus therefore no longer walked about openly among the Jews, but went from there to a town called Ephraim in the region near the wilderness; and he remained there with the disciples.
Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and were asking one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?”
Giving it all, to gather the dispersed children of God
In order that all the dispersed children of God can become one family as the prophet Ezekiel announced, they are not asked to lose anything .. but to freely give all away. Many centuries later, Paul told his gentile converts to “preserve all that is true, admirable, decent, virtuous or worthy of praise.” (Phil 4:8). God-given talents and qualities, however, must be shared and thereby further enriched in a covenant of peace, the people’s covenant among themselves and with their God.
To share the best that we have is where it pinches. No one of us sweats much over sharing our superfluous items. In fact we are anxious to clean house, give them away or hold a yard-sale, and forget about them. But the Bible does not want us simply to get rid of things; it calls us to share as one family. Ezekiel, always practical minded about details, adds that we be united in politics (one prince), in worship (one sanctuary), and in our sense of belonging (one land).
Jesus interacted with politics, religion and social customs. He cured the sick and the handicapped and broke religious taboos; he threatened political structures, where even the high priest was the appointee of the Romans; he ate and drank with non-observant people. He showed us how to share the best even with those considered the most lowly.
To fulfil his mission in this world, Jesus seemed to lose everything, even life itself. He was killed by the most shameful, excruciating form of execution! Yet, because he lost his life in an act of sharing his best with others, that life was raised up to new glory by God, the all-just, all merciful Father. He who scattered Israel, now gathers them together; He guards them as a shepherd his flock. I will turn their mourning into joy, I will console and gladden them after their sorrow.