John 18:1—19:42 The crucifixion of Jesus

Today, allow me to share with you a catechetical homily based on Catechism of Catholic Church (CCC) that will be of help in enlightening every one and prevent or  free us from judging harshly and blaming only the Jews, Judas, Pilate or even the demons  whom we thought the sole responsible individuals and  groups for the passion and death of Jesus.

From the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, certain Pharisees and partisans of Herod together with priests and scribes agreed together to destroy Jesus because of his  certain acts like expelling demons, forgiving sins, healing on the sabbath day, his novel interpretation of the precepts of the Law regarding purity, and his familiarity with tax collectors and public sinners.

Some ill-intentioned persons suspected Jesus of demonic possession. He is accused of blasphemy and false prophecy, religious crimes which the Law punished with death by stoning.

In the eyes of many in Israel, Jesus seems to be acting against essential institutions of the Chosen People:

– submission to the whole of the Law in its written commandments and, for the Pharisees, in the interpretation of oral tradition;

– the centrality of the Temple at Jerusalem as the holy place where God’s presence dwells in a special way;

– faith in the one God whose glory no man can share.

Were the Jewish leaders unanimous in their position towards Jesus?  The religious authorities in Jerusalem were not unanimous about what stance to take towards Jesus. But one thing is for sure. Some were vocal and aggressive in their conviction and in their attempts to eliminate him.

The Pharisees threatened to excommunicate his followers.

To those who feared that “everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation”, the high priest Caiaphas replied by prophesying: “It is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.”

The Sanhedrin, having declared Jesus deserving of death as a blasphemer, hands him over to the Romans, accusing him of political revolt, a charge that puts him in the same category as Barabbas who had been accused of sedition.

The chief priests also threatened Pilate politically so that he would condemn Jesus to death.

Are the Jews collectively responsible for Jesus’ death? The personal sin of the participants (Judas, the Sanhedrin, Pilate) is known to God alone. Hence we cannot lay responsibility for the trial on the Jews in Jerusalem as a whole, despite the outcry of a manipulated crowd.

Jesus himself, in forgiving them on the cross, and Peter in following suit, both accept “the ignorance” of the Jews of Jerusalem and even of their leaders.

Still less can we extend responsibility to other Jews of different times and places, based merely on the crowd’s cry: “His blood be on us and on our children!”

Neither all Jews indiscriminately at that time, nor Jews today, can be charged with the crimes committed during his Passion. . . The Jews should not be spoken of as rejected or accursed as if this followed from holy Scripture.

Who, then, were the authors of Jesus’ passion and death on the Cross? “Sinners were the authors and the ministers of all the sufferings that the divine Redeemer endured.”

Taking into account the fact that our sins affect Christ himself, the Church does not hesitate to impute to Christians the gravest responsibility for the torments inflicted upon Jesus, a responsibility with which they have all too often burdened the Jews alone:

We must regard as guilty all those who continue to relapse into their sins.

Since our sins made the Lord Christ suffer the torment of the cross, those who plunge themselves into disorders and crimes crucify the Son of God anew in their hearts and hold him up to contempt.

And when we deny him by our deeds, we in some way seem to lay violent hands on him.

“Nor did demons crucify him; it is you who have crucified him and crucify him still, when you delight in your vices and sins.”

Jesus’ violent death was not the result of chance in an unfortunate coincidence of circumstances, but is part of the mystery of God’s plan of salvation.

Jesus was delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God. This Biblical language does not mean that those who handed him over were merely passive players in a scenario written in advance by God.

For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness and wickedness.

So when you see a figure of Jesus crucified, remember this. It was not nails or ropes that fixed him to the cross but LOVE. God’s love for us!

To end my homily, allow me again to ask this fundamental question:

Who, then, were the authors of Jesus’ passion and death on the Cross?

“Sinners were the authors and the ministers of all the sufferings that the divine Redeemer endured.”  “It is you who have crucified him and crucify him still, when you delight in your vices and sins.”

Prayer:

A man of extraordinary religious insight.
A man who did die – a cruel death.

On this day we look at the cross, and we remember…
the betrayal of friendship and its consequences,
the casual cruelty of Roman authority and execution,
and how unreliable others proved to be in a crisis.

On this day may we also remember
that religious bigotry, cruelty and unreliability
are still a part of our everyday lives.

On this day, then, may we learn some new precepts for living…
do not avoid contact with suffering,
or close your eyes before suffering;
do not maintain anger or hatred;
do not say untruthful things for the sake of personal interest, or to impress people;
do not live with a vocation that is harmful to humans and nature

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