All Day (Thursday)
Meditations for Lent By: Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet Courtesy of Sophia Institute Press Week 5: Thursday Jesus Is Persecuted The calumny of the scribes and Pharisees should prompt us to reflect upon the injustice of man. They
Meditations for Lent
By: Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
Courtesy of Sophia Institute Press
Week 5: Thursday
Jesus Is Persecuted
The calumny of the scribes and Pharisees should prompt us to reflect upon the injustice of man. They admired Jesus and realized that they were unable to “catch him by what he said,” neither before Pontius Pilate nor before the people (Luke 20:26). Did they then convert or stop trying to murder him? On the contrary, the more convinced they became and the less they were able to oppose him with reasons, the more they became enraged against him.
They appeared to be zealous for the liberty of the people of God and against the idolatrous empire, inasmuch as they asked his advice about the taxes due to Rome. Yet these same men who showed this false zeal would three days later cry out to Pilate: “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend” (John 19:12). Still worse was what one of his chief accusers said: “We found this man perverting our nation, and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar” (Luke 23:2). The very contrary was the truth, as Jesus had made clear.
What could prevent calumny, if plain speech had failed to do so? All that Jesus could do now was to endure what God allowed to befall him and be content knowing his own innocence.
Let us plumb the depths of the human heart and take the measure of its injustice. The same men who here pretend to be zealous against the idolatrous empire will have recourse to it against Jesus and even invoke it against his disciples. If the support of the people is needed, Caesar is their foe. If they need him to murder their enemy, Caesar is their friend. Men judge what is just according to their passions, calling things good which satisfy them and even making use of political power to appease their passions, when its real purpose is to curb them.
“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Luke 20:25). Never has a response been more to the point than this one. No lesson was more necessary for the Jewish people then, stirred up as they were with the spirit of revolt that burst out shortly afterward to their ruin. The Pharisees and the zealots secretly encouraged this evil tendency. But Jesus, always full of grace and truth, did not wish to leave the world without having taught them what they owed to their prince and without warning them against a rebellion that would bring ruin upon their nation.
He also knew that his followers would be persecuted by the Caesars, whose very name and authority would soon intervene in the punishment being prepared for him. Jesus was not unaware of it; he had already predicted it. “The Son of man,” he said, would be delivered “to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified” (Luke 20:18-19). He also knew that the same treatment awaited the Apostles and that the Jews would “deliver [them] up” and that they would “be dragged before governors and kings” (Matt. 10:19, 18) out of hatred for his gospel.
Although he knew all these things, he was just toward the princes his persecutors, upholding the authority by which they would oppress him and his Church. And he taught his disciples to submit to those in power, and to do so meekly and without bitterness. “When he suffered,” St. Peter says, “he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly” (1 Pet. 2:23).
Let us never complain, even when we think ourselves to have been unjustly oppressed. But let us imitate our Savior, and preserving what is God’s — the purity of our conscience — let us with willing hearts render what is due to all men, even to unjust judges, should the case arise, or even to our greatest enemies. What we ought to do when they have wronged us, with much greater reason ought we to do when they have not and when it is our passion alone that makes us complain.