REFLECTIONS ON HOLY WEEK – DEFEAT AND TRIUMPH

In today’s Gospel, we hear of the crucifixion and death of Jesus, which is, with divine paradox, both the greatest injustice ever committed and yet also the way by which God opened the gates of paradise.  This way of the Cross began with the arrest of Jesus as He was praying in the Garden of Olives overlooking Jerusalem.  The soldiers took Jesus to the houses of the former high priest Annas, and the current high priest Caiaphas for a night show trial before the Sandhedrein, the ruling council of Jerusalem.  According to Jewish law, any conviction for a capital crime required either a confession or the testimony of two witnesses who could give the same account.  As with liars in general, the witnesses against Jesus could not keep their story straight.  And so, Caiaphas directly asked Jesus whether He is the Messiah, the son of God.  When Jesus affirmed that He is, Caiaphas tore his garments with feigned sorrow; it was actually the response he wanted so that he could get a conviction of blasphemy, which Jesus’ affirmation would have been were it not absolutely true.

The Sanhedrin then brought Jesus to the Roman governor Pilate both to get authority for a crucifixion and to obtain Roman government’s support for their murder.  Because Pilate did not care about disputes over religion, they accused Jesus of promoting rebellion and refusal to pay taxes.  Pilate quickly figured out that the allegations were false and wanted to release Jesus.  But the Sanhedrin had gathered a crowd that was preparing to riot; and they threatened to make Pilate look soft of treason if he did not crucify Jesus.  Pilate tried several schemes to get out of the need to take a stand, such as sending Jesus to Herod and then having Jesus scourged as a kind of half measure.  But they did not work; he had to choose between his duty to uphold justice and his desire for convenience and popularity.  A craven politician, he chose the easier, dishonorable path.

Today, as ever, there are many forces arrayed against the Gospel as with the Sanhedrin and many who are indifferent as Pilate was.  In that context, we stand at the foot of the Cross with the Blessed Mother Mary, St. John and St. Mary Magdalene.  With the faithful do so, we bring the cross to the world and thus prepare for the triumph of Easter.