MONDAY IN HOLY WEEK
April 17, 2000
volume 11, no. 76

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Pat Ludwa's VIEW FROM THE PEW         INTRODUCTION

    Pat Ludwa, a committed lay Catholic from Cleveland, has been asked to contribute, on a regular basis, a lay person's point of view on the Church today. We have been impressed with his insight and the clear logic he brings to the table from his "view from the pew." In all humility, by his own admission, he feels he has very little to offer, but we're sure you'll agree with us that his viewpoint is exactly what millions of the silent majority of Catholics believe and have been trying to say as well. Pat puts it in words that help all of us better understand and convey to others what the Church teaches and we must believe.

    Today Pat, in the spirit of Holy Week, reflects on some of the reasons so many turned on Jesus even after He had performed miracles and wonders before their eyes. Citing many passages of Scripture, Pat shows that they were never mislead but rather 'assumed' He was what they wanted Him to be - an earthly king - whereas He was much, much, much greater, but they couldn't recognize the signs or His words. Why? Because they were blinded by pride and by their own egos in wanting to change their kingdom to their vision. Pat asks if the same scenario were to be played out today would the outcome be any different? Considering popularity and ratings, and the scant numbers who followed Him back then, it's highly doubtful He would be accepted today. The polls would mandate He be drummed out for lack of interest! That is the gist of his column today, Before kingdom's change, men must change

    For past columns by Pat Ludwa, click on VIEW FROM THE PEW Archives   If you want to send him ideas or feedback, you can reach him at ludwa@core.com


Before kingdom's change, men must change

        "The next day a great crowd who had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, crying, 'Hosanna! Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!" And Jesus found a young ass and sat upon it; as it is written, 'Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, sitting on an ass's colt!' His disciples did not understand this at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that this had been written of Him and had been done to Him. The crowd that had been with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead bore witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet Him was that they heard He had done this sign. The Pharisees then said to one another, 'You see that you can do nothing; look, the world has gone after Him'" (John 12:12-19).

        Oh what a difference a week makes. Thinking about it, I can't recall anyone or anytime when such a drastic turnaround occurred. From being praised one day to being vilified another. One would almost have to say that Christ had to work at being rejected so quickly. It wasn't really hard.

        Consider that Jesus spoke and taught in a relatively small area. The actual people He spoke to wouldn't fill a modern day football stadium. Those who saw Him, who heard Him, were enthralled by Him, for various reasons. But He had already lost a large number of His followers who no doubt joined the ranks of His detractors. (ref. John 6) But those in Jerusalem had only heard of Jesus the miracle worker, especially the claim that He rose Lazarus from the dead. Was it a case of celebration or celebrity that Jesus was hailed when entering into Jerusalem?

        The Sanhedrin, essentially the Magisterium of their day, saw something else. To be fair to them, I think most didn't know what to make of Jesus. They had heard of Him, but really didn't know Him, hadn't heard His teaching. Others already had the notion to put an end to Him but weren't sure how to go about it. But both saw a stark reality - Christ, being hailed as a King wouldn't sit well in Imperial Rome. There was a real potential for a blood bath here. It didn't matter that Jesus entered on an ass, hardly the mode of transport of a King, but the people may raise up in violent revolt with obvious consequences. But Christ knew what was about to happen. He knew how fickle mankind was. "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If any one serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there shall My servant be also; if any one serves Me, the Father will honor him.

        " 'Now is My soul troubled. And what shall I say? 'Father, save Me from this hour?' No, for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify Thy name. Then a voice came from Heaven, 'I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.' The crowd standing by heard it and said that it had thundered. Others said, 'An angel has spoken to Him.' Jesus answered, 'This voice has come for your sake, not for Mine. Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out; and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.' He said this to show by what death He was to die" (John 12: 23-33).

        The seeds of doubt and rejection had been sown. "The crowd answered Him, 'We have heard from the law that the Christ remains for ever. How can You say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?" (John 12: 34)

        They were about to crown Him King, how can He say He's going to be gone? The Messiah was supposed to be there forever, to be a political leader to oppose Rome and re-establish Israel as a powerful Kingdom as in the days of David. Wasn't He? "When Jesus had said this, He departed and hid Himself from them. Though He had done so many signs before them, yet they did not believe in Him; it was that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 'Lord, who has believed our report, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?' Therefore they could not believe. For Isaiah again said, 'He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they should see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and turn for me to heal them' (John 12: 36-40).

        Political action and revolution wasn't what Christ was after, it wasn't what He was about. Rather, He had come to bring a spiritual revolution, a changing of the heart. A healing of their hearts and re-unification with the power of God, the Kingdom of Heaven. Fear of rejection also played it's part. "Nevertheless many even of the authorities believed in Him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God" (John 12: 42-43).

        Then it seems that Christ set out to separate Himself from anyone who might come to His aid. "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut the kingdom of Heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you traverse sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

        "Woe to you, blind guides, who say, 'If any one swears by the temple, it is nothing; but if any one swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.'

        "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

        "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of extortion and rapacity.

        "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

        "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, saying, 'If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' Thus you witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets... You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?

        "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'" (Matthew 23:14-39).

        Hardly the something one would accept as loving words, even today. In fact, many even today would condemn Christ for being so intolerant and judgmental. So, it's doubtful He would find any support among the Scribes and Pharisees of the Sanhedrin. Even those who did believe in Him, and weren't included in this would not support Him out of fear of being ostracized. But the people still supported Him, though doubts had begun to creep in there as well. Then Jesus begins to alienate them. "Teacher, we know that You speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?" But He perceived their craftiness, and said to them, 'Show Me a coin. Whose likeness and inscription has it?' They said, 'Caesars.' He said to them, 'Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesars, and to God the things that are God's.' And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch Him by what He said; but marveling at His answer they were silent" (Luke 20: 21-26).

        Paying taxes to Caesar was not something easily accepted, especially coming from someone who was supposed to free from Rome. Why pay taxes to someone you're going to drive out? But Jesus continues: "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it; for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. Alas for those who are with child and for those who give suck in those days! For great distress shall be upon the earth and wrath upon this people; they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led captive among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled" (Luke 21:20-24). Wait a sec!! The Messiah is supposed to be here forever! He's supposed to re-establish the Kingdom of Israel! But Jesus is talking about Jerusalem being surrounded, defeated, and sacked by the Gentiles? How can He be the Messiah the King of Israel?

        No doubt, many began to tell how Jesus was a friend to the Romans and retell of what He did in Capernaum. "As He entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to Him, beseeching Him and saying, 'Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress.' And He said to him, 'I will come and heal him.' But the centurion answered him, 'Lord, I am not worthy to have You come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes, and to another, 'Come,' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this,' and he does it.' When Jesus heard him, He marveled, and said to those who followed Him, 'Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of Heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.' And to the centurion Jesus said, 'Go; be it done for you as you have believed.' And the servant was healed at that very moment" (Matthew 8:5-13).

        And so now, even the people had their doubts, and even probable open hostility to Jesus. Should we be surprised? "If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you…..If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have seen and hated both Me and My Father. It is to fulfill the word that is written in their law, 'They hated me without a cause' " (John 15: 18-19; 24-25).

        Christ performed miracles, extraordinary miracles that not even Moses did. But because they had a preconceived notion of what the Messiah was, they rejected all He had done and said and judged Him by their wants, they judged Him by the standards of the world. And so, one day they praised Him as the King of Israel, and within a week, He was hated.

        Christ called them to change their hearts, not their government. But because mankind doesn't like to change themselves, because they want things to change to suit them, they reject anything and anyone who challenges that.

        There's a line from the movie "Jesus of Nazareth" which says, "Before kingdom's change, men must change." The people of Christ's day couldn't, or wouldn't, see the truth of what He taught because it demanded something they weren't willing to change….themselves.

        Today, many likewise can't, or won't, see the truth because it demands that they change. If Christ were to come today, are we so sure we wouldn't crucify Him as well? No doubt, various 'enlightened' political/social activist groups would cry out for His demise even today.

    Pax Christi, Pat

          

April 17, 2000
volume 11, no. 76
VIEW FROM THE PEW

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