The chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, “What are we going to do?” This man is performing many signs. If we leave him alone, all will believe in him and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is best that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.”
It’s all very logical. It is much better that one man die rather than an entire nation. The problem is: they were right for all the wrong reasons. You cannot be both holy and utilitarian. You cannot be a spiritual leader and a pragmatist. You have to trust in God more than in yourself, in others and in the current state of affairs. The Church thinks in centuries. Men think in the now. That’s one reason why individual men live for only a few brief years while the Church lives on forever!
The chief priests and the Pharisees were correct in sacrificing the lamb in order to save their people. But they did not know what they were doing. They knew the Word of God explicitly well. But implicitly, they did not know His Word, Jesus Christ. What they did was absolutely correct but their reasoning was absolutely incorrect. You cannot negotiate with terrorists. The Romans would eventually slaughter the people, level the cities (especially Jerusalem), destroy the nation and expel hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of Jews from the Land.
The Lamb needed to be sacrificed for holy reasons; not for practical reasons.
Caiaphas said to the people, “You know nothing.” I think he was right about that. But he needed to include himself as well. Most of us know very little about God because most of us have very little experience with God. While in the seminary, our formators insisted that we have a very personal relationship with God. They made sure that we knew him not only through the reading of the Word, but also in the way we lived our lives. Poverty, Chastity and Obedience helps us to really get to know God. Difficulties, trials and tribulations help us to know God. Taking a leap of faith, living on the edge (between heaven and earth) really helps us to know God.
Yesterday, while giving my homily to a group of middle school students, I told them a story that involved a fifty dollar bill. I pulled one out of my pocket and asked the kids who wanted it (this was part of my story). Almost all the kids raised their hands. The only students that didn’t were some 8th graders. They were “too cool” to be fooled. They were certain that I was not going to give it away. They were right. But to my right were the 5th graders. And there, I saw one child nearly leap out of his seat and almost touch heaven with his hand. He wanted the fifty-dollar bill. He believed I would give it away.
Well, I finished my story and put the fifty-dollar bill back in my pocket. I looked at the 5th graders and sensed some disappointment with this one particular child. I also noticed some presumptuous looks from the 8th graders. I did not like what I saw. But what could I do? I couldn’t possibly give this child a fifty-dollar bill. But I also didn’t want the kids to think that I had fooled them. I prayed about it after communion, and the solution came to my heart.
Before the Mass ended (before I gave the final blessing), I walked towards the 5th graders and made an announcement to all the kids. I said, “You know, some of you didn’t believe I was going to give away this money, but this one child really believed that I would. And so, I am going to give this fifty-dollar bill to his teacher and she can do whatever she wants with it for her class. They can have a pizza party on me.” Now, all the 5th graders were in shock and awe! The 8th graders were in shock and disbelief! As for me, I couldn’t believe that I was giving this money away, but I was even more surprised at how moved I was by this young student’s innocent faith. And so, I did what I was trained to do, I placed my trust in the Lord. He knows everything. He knows better than I. And to my shock, this was not the end of the story.
As soon as I finished Mass, I went back to the sacristy to change. While I was changing, a woman came up to me and congratulated me on my sermon. She extended her hand and I felt something in her hand. She left and I looked at what she had given me. It was fifty-dollars.
I truly believe that the best way to welcome the great surprise of Easter is to give more than you ever expected, and wait and see how you receive more than you ever expected.