Though there are only two jokers in every deck of cards, as we can see from the Gospels, the deck was stacked against Our Lord for there were four jokers - fools, if you will who played a role. Oh, there were many more fools when you factor in Judas, the timid apostles, the frenzied crowd, the self-righteous Sanhedrin, and the brutal pagan Roman soldiers. Just as the deck is stacked against Terri Schindler-Schiavo today with her fate in the hands of very fallible, if not corrupt, judges, so also did Christ face a full house of opposition.
There are four specific ones I'd like to feature today on this last day before the Easter Triduum, that most sacred three days in the Church calendar. These four have been the subject of much discussion over the past year given Mel Gibson's film. There has been much debate over how each is portrayed or viewed and the relative weight of guilt or responsibility of each of these men in the events of Good Friday, but what must not be forgotten is that each represents a very real evil and sin and, much to our misfortune, a dark side of all us.
First Fool: Annas - Corrupt Power
History tells us that Annas had a great love of power, wealth, influence and the corruption that kept it all in his hands. He clearly manipulated power for his own benefit and loved to broker that power like a chip in a card game. He represents anyone who loves to control for the sake of control and what it can bring to those who know how to use that control. Annas was the father-in-law of Caiaphas and as such kept hold of the strings of power even from the shadows. He hated Christ for many reasons built on jealousy, envy, resentment, and likely the fact that he could not manipulate Christ like he manipulated so many others. For in Jesus was Someone Who could influence and affect people with one swipe of the hand in ways that Annas could not even do with all of his fawning followers, connections, and strings. Worst of all, here was Someone Who Annas could not influence, control, or manipulate, and that drove him crazy. Now he had the chance to rid himself of this pest by depicting his actions, as he always did, as some combination of nobility and practicality. All his acts, thoughts, and words, however, were bare moves of arrogance, selfishness, depravity, and ruthless ambition seasoned with manipulation. Yes, this is the man that critics of Mel Gibson protect and whose depiction they question as biased. In truth, only a fiction writer or fairy tale weaver could have made this ghoul and fool look like anything other than he was…..evil.
Trial Lawyers are the best comparison to Annas. They have become powerful in their brokering cases, often working together against their own clients. Morality is often missing as are ethics and conscience. This has grown into a monster with tentacles in every court, and one particular attorney who replicates Annas is George Felos, representing the reprehensible Michael Schiavo in their crusade to kill Terri simply because she is no longer advantageous to Michael. "She is ruining my life," he has been heard to say by witnesses who have filed affidavits. For Felos it is not so much the client he fights for, but the power of his agenda - euthanasia which disrespects life and is akin to Nazi Germany which did not begin its plunge into hell with the persecution of the Jews, but first by justifying the killing of the mentally and physically impaired. Evil? Most definitely!
Second Fool: Caiaphas - Puppet Pawn of Practicality
Next we have Caiaphas, a clown in a high circus, who used religion as a political tool dressed up as some noble mission. He believed that whatever ends he desired were justified by whatever means he could conjure up. His first instinct was to protect himself and his agenda before anything else. Since Christ did not benefit in any way and even harmed his self-interest, he saw the disposal of Our Lord as a positive means to the end, along with Annas, of keeping their nice positions and rank of power and influence. Both were desperate to preserve that political power. Neither he nor Annas cared one iota for the people but, rather, they only cared for themselves and their interests. Again, this is another of the fine characters that The Passion of The Christ critics so defended and whose portrayal offended them so. In view of the outstanding and fine qualities of both Annas and Caiaphas, I can see how portraying them as corrupt ghouls would be such a defamation!
Here we can assimilate Caiaphas with the pro-death Democrats in Congress both on the federal and state level who deviate from their own beliefs and faith for the sake of manipulating it as a political tool. These are the same fools who will go to the mat to defend the "constitutional rights" of the most vile criminals on death row and even terrorists such as the Abu Gharib episode, yet 55 did not step forward to save one innocent human being when the vote was called very early this past Monday morning. They place more importance on man's laws than God's Laws. Definitely fools.
Third Fool: Pilate - Ironic Coward
Pontius Pilate was a small-time, two-bit governor who answered directly to the Emperor. Like the others, he had great interest in grasping on to his pathetic rule and role, and seemed ready to do whatever necessary to do so. He was probably not too bright, so he figured that he could avoid hassles and work out some deal with the Jewish leaders to please and placate them while avoiding troubles which might make him look as he was, namely, incompetent. Too cowardly or assertive to stand firm at any point in this process, this fool kept digging his own hole deeper and deeper while trying to escape responsibility and problems. In the end, it seems that he dug a hole so deep that he found no way out but to imagine that a little water and a towel could free him of responsibility for the death of an innocent Man.
The irony here is that this fool who only acted as he did to maintain the appearance of competence before his Emperor ended up betraying the very law that his Emperor enforced. Roman law dictated that there could be no death sentence absent a trial, yet Pilate executed precisely that with nothing more than a hearing. Instead of looking assertive and confident as he tiptoed through tricky political and social mines while upholding the law and Empire he pretended to represent, this fool ended up disgracing himself, his rule, his law, and the Empire he claimed to represent.
Here it is obvious that Pilate represents the Judicial System in America, personified in Judge George Greer who obstinately persisted in not only refusing to admit into evidence facts that show the intent to deceive, harm and kill an innocent person, but defiantly ignore a state and federal supoena. The system is so corrupt that when passed on, by a bill of Congress, to a higher court, the judge James Whittemore washed his hands of it as well. Pilates personified.
Fourth Fool: Herod - Mocking Endnote
The fourth and final fool on that fateful day was Herod Antiphas, the incompetent, pathetic, trivial excuse for a king whose arrogance was only overtaken by his incompetence and lack of importance both in history and in his effect on anything. Incapable of understanding goodness in any form, he chose to mock The Prince of Truth and instead ended up mocking himself as a fool of the highest order. This speck in the history of importance is only found because he is highlighted in the section on triviality.
Here we can see so clearly Herod in the fifth estate - the Scribes of modern times. One thinks immediately of the liberal media, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, and others of that ilk. They have proven by their obvious arrogance that they have been overtaken by their own incompetence. Peter Principles are aplenty in the liberal media. Most are hard-hearted and incapable of understanding goodness in any form. Thus they choose to mock not only Christ and His teachings, but His followers. So incensed are they, that they are the perfect pawns of atheists and modernists to eradicate any memory of God and His Laws. When history looks back on these times, if indeed that is possible, they will see the trivial pursuit of these know-nothings.
We Have Worn Their Masks…
As wretched and despicable as these characters each is, the most tragic part of this tale is that we have each, in our own way, worn their masks from time to time. Like Annas we have at times loved power, twisted influence, and manipulated people to get what we want, pulling strings in the background so as not to be blamed or held responsible for our actions. We are, in many ways, no better than politicians.
Like Caiaphas we have sometimes hidden selfish agendas and obsessive practicality under the skin of nobility. In truth, we have all defended what helped us without even thinking of others, sought to justify the means by the end, and clawed to keep comfort and convenience on our side at all costs. There's that lawyer in everyone of us who will twist the truth even a bit in order to save face.
Like Pilate we have all from time to time sought to cover ourselves and avoid responsibility, and been so obsessed with looking good that we ended up looking the fool. We have all sat in judgment without knowing all the facts. Rather than seeking to be wise Solomons or recusing ourselves by being silent, we prejudice ourselves and our own agendas even subconsciously. Yet it is not subconsciously toward our neighbor. We have all tried many times to wash our hands of guilt and responsibility when that act alone merely stamped that guilt in stone in the eyes of God.
As for Herod, we have all over-estimated our importance and relevance in the scheme of things to the absence of God, His Will, and His Word. We have all mocked our God from time to time, asking Him to perform magic without regard for His justice, His divinity, and His Will. And, like the media and communications industry, we are quick to participate in gossip that quickly races through the senses of so many, making it impossible to correct the wrongs fully, which grow to a great magnitude even if our words started out as a triviality.
Even as we glare at these four types of fools, let us look in the mirror and ask God to help us distance ourselves from four fools too proximate to us for comfort.
Much has been written about Holy Thursday and Good Friday and with good reason, for those days form the core of our true Catholic Faith. They are the reason we are Catholic, and the key to eternal salvation. However, let us not forget the four fools who spilled their questionable personal attributes on the proceedings of that day for the androgynous one, which Mel Gibson so magnificently cast as satan, has cloned himself a million times over and slithers through our homes, workplaces and even the churches, eking into the narrowest of spots through a few words, a cross look or thought. In order to avoid these pitfalls and become the fools we abhor, let us always remember Proverbs 13: 16, "The prudent man doth all things with counsel: but he that is a fool, layeth open his folly."