All Day (Friday)
Meditations for Lent By: Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet Courtesy of Sophia Institute Press Week 4: Friday Up to Jerusalem The hour of Jesus approaches. He goes willingly to Jerusalem, where he knows he must die, and he
Meditations for Lent
By: Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
Courtesy of Sophia Institute Press
Week 4: Friday
Up to Jerusalem
The hour of Jesus approaches. He goes willingly to Jerusalem, where he knows he must die, and he declares it to his disciples.
St. Paul said to the elders of the church of Ephesus: “And now, bound in the Spirit,” that is, gently constrained and inwardly pressed, “I am going to Jerusalem . . . not knowing what shall befall me there” (Acts 20:22). But Jesus went to Jerusalem knowing full well what he had to suffer there and telling his Apostles: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will . . . deliver him to the Gentiles” (Matt. 20:18-19). St. Paul, however, confessed his ignorance; all he knew was “that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me” (Acts 20:23). Instead of revealing things in part, as he did to St. Paul, Jesus explained everything in full to his Apostles, as the Gospel confirms.
Although Jesus spoke plainly, the disciples “understood none of these things,” for “this saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said” (Luke 18:34). By the care that he takes to show us the Apostles’ ignorance, St. Luke wishes us to appreciate how difficult it was for them to understand the mystery of the Cross.
St. Luke elsewhere notes the Apostles’ incomprehension: “They did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, that they should not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask him about this saying” (Luke 9:45). They did not understand because they did not want to understand. They saw clearly that they must follow their Master, and they did not want to know about the suffering that lay ahead for him, for fear of hav ing a similar fate. This is why Jesus said to them: “Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of man is to be delivered into the hands of men” (Luke 9:44). He took care to inculcate this truth during the time when everyone was admiring the miracles he worked. Flattered by his glory, their hearts were closed to what he taught them about the opprobrium he would have to suffer; they did not want to hear about it. Yet it was precisely this message that Jesus wanted them to understand. For in his suffering and in our obligation to follow him and to carry our cross after him is our salvation. “Let these words sink into your ears.”
Consider how prone we are to self-deception, how we play deaf when we are told something that would injure our passions or sensibilities, and how, no matter how plainly we are spoken to, we stop our ears, pretending not to hear and fearing to understand what is said. “Leave this thing behind,” “deny yourself this pleasure,” “renounce your will”: these things we do not hear. We do not want to hear them or know about them or ask for clarification about them. It is for this reason that St. Mark recounts the same episode in these terms: “They were on the road going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; and they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the Twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem’ ” (Mark 10:32-33). And he told them about all that he would suffer there.
The cause of their astonishment was that they knew that the scribes and Pharisees were seeking to put him to death, and that they could not comprehend his decision to place himself in their hands, and they followed him trembling. We fear to follow Jesus to the Cross.
But to encourage us, he walks ahead. St. Luke remarks that “he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51, Douay-Rheims). His human nature felt fear, as he showed us by his agony in the garden. For he willed to carry our weaknesses in order to teach us to overcome them. Let us follow him, and according to his example, let us steadfastly set our faces when we must go toward penance, mortification, and the Cross.
It was on this occasion that his disciples said to him: “Rabbi, the Jews were but now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” (John 11:8). They wanted to persuade him against the journey. Thomas alone understood the mystery, saying generously: “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16). Noble words, had they been followed by the deed! Yet Thomas fled like the others, and he was the last to believe in the Resurrection. Such is man: the one who speaks the boldest is, often as not, shown to be the weakest when God abandons him to his own powers. Understand, Christian, how hard it is to go up to the Cross with Jesus and how great is our need for his grace.