When man was wolf to God

LENT 2020 - Day 39

Readings: Ezek 37: 21-28; Ps Jer 31: 10, 11-12ab, 13; Jn 11: 45-57

Why does the Lord God say "I will make them one nation"? Israel started off as one nation comprising twelve tribes descending from Jacob (whom God renamed Israel). Later, when the people desired a king like the nations around them, God chose Saul as the first king of Israel. However, as a result of Saul's sinful life his family lost the right to reign. Then God chose David to succeed him but only Judah accepted the choice; the other tribes of Israel followed Saul’s son Ishbosheth. A war ensued.

David, the stronger of the two, worked hard to reunite the tribes. At long last, they welcomed him as king of “all Israel and Judah”. His son Solomon followed suit, until a day dawned when he began disobeying God. When his son Rehoboam failed to keep the kingdom united, a new split ensued. God chose Jeroboam, a servant of Solomon, to head the northern kingdom. Eventually, this kingdom fell to the Assyrians the the other to the Babylonians.

This is the time when the prophet Ezekiel lived. Seeing that His people had gone astray, God could well have withdrawn and pronounced national destruction. But He was faithful to His covenant and loved His people. So He made known a new blueprint for Israel: it would be a single country under a revived Davidic dynasty, a united people, safe under the protective umbrella of the Lord God. The only condition was that the people "shall not defile themselves any more with their idols and their detestable things and with any of their transgressions." Cleansed of their defilement, they would be a new people.

We know that before God sent Jesus to the world, He had brought back the captives from Babylon but soon thereafter the country under the heavy hand of the Roman administration. Why God allowed this is a mystery. Did the sins of certain people lead to this fate, or was it God waiting to unfold the grand history of our redemption? This role the Father had assigned to Jesus. But, alas, His countrymen twisted His intentions and misinterpreted His works.

The astounding miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead is a case in point. Soon after Jesus had worked that wonder, many of the witnesses reported it to the Pharisees. So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council. They deliberated that if the people began to believe in Him, the Romans would come and destroy both the holy place and their nation. So they decided to put Him to death.

Very significantly, the chief priest Caiaphas proposed that Jesus should die "not for the nation only but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad." Caiaphas thus unwittingly prophesied the investiture of Jesus as the High Priest of the New Alliance, and became the last of the high priests of the Old Covenant. No doubt, great was the price that Jesus paid: he sealed it with His own blood.

This is the beginning of the end of Jesus' life on earth. He no longer went about openly among the Jews but into the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples. Since the Passover was at hand, many wondered if Jesus too would go to Jerusalem for the feast. He did go... and, lo and behold, he had a reception fit for a king. Indeed a dramatic turn of events. But the question is: will He be crowned? Or will He be king just for a day?

O flickering human mind! O false promise from glib cheerleaders! It is easier to believe that these cheers will soon turn to jeers. And so it was. The chief priests and the Pharisees had already given orders that any one knew where Jesus was should let them know, so that they might arrest Him.... Homo homini lupus? Not just. Man was indeed wolf to God.