Jesus’ Crime, Revisited

Last week we talked about Jesus’ “crime.” Blasphemy. The Catechism has a section that helps us understand the context, the choice that Jesus’ Jewish judges faced. Either believe in the Incarnation, or condemn this man for blasphemy.

temple-wallCould they have believed? Yes, it would have required enormous openness and humility. But the Lord did not demand blind faith. As we hear Him point out in today’s gospel reading, He had “done the Father’s works.” Works of love, of life; works that began to build a kingdom of complete honesty and justice.

In fact, I think we can say that everything Christ said and did during His pilgrimage had one thing in common. All His miracles, His sublime style of life, His doctrine—even including His harsh denunciations of religious dishonesty—it all had one common center: God wills a good, wholesome, fruitful future for His children. God loves with a Father’s love, but without any of the limitations that human fathers have.

So, yes: For the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem to have believed in the Incarnation–a tall order. It reminds me of when I visited the Western Wall, and one of the men there handing out yarmulkes yelled at me and said, “God is not a man!” But what was their alternative? To condemn this man? To death? As the Lord asked, “I have shown you good works. For which of them are you trying to stone me?” Great as the leap of faith would have been for the High Priests, wasn’t it harder to sentence to death a man who had never done anything but love? Love with total honesty and divine power.

The Sanhedrin’s choice not to believe in Christ—along with Judas’ abandonment of his faith in Him, of course—this reality brings us as close to the heart of the mystery of evil as we can get. That defection from the hopeful, spontaneous childlike faith of the children of Israel; that fall into a cynicism and a smallness so constricted that it violently rejected as a culpable blasphemer the One Who had healed, fed, counseled, and lifted up the poor; that spitting on the kind face of the gentle Lamb, the Light of the world—that is the door into the unfathomable malice of Satan. The one who wills to thwart, to crush, to demean the life that God in His goodness has given to us human beings.

May we have the humility to recognize this malice in ourselves! My point here is exactly not to hold up Judas and the Sanhedrin as the bad people, whom we the good can condemn. No. I am doing my level best to demonstrate where it is in us that we find ourselves guilty for the death of the Christ. Where it is in us that we have failed to make the choice that the Sanhedrin could have, and should have, made. To believe in Christ, whole and entire.

Our faith is imperfect. That makes us guilty. May He forgive us! And help us to believe.

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