“And therefore the idea of serving mankind, of the brotherhood and oneness of people, is fading more and more in the world, and indeed the idea now even meets with mockery, for how can one drop one's habits, where will this slave go now that he is so accustomed to satisfying the innumerable needs he himself has invented? He is isolated, and what does he care about the whole? They have succeeded in amassing more and more things, but have less and less joy.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Gospel Text: (JN 11:45-56)
Many of the Jews who had come to Mary
and seen what Jesus had done began to believe in him.
But some of them went to the Pharisees
and told them what Jesus had done.
So 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 better for you
that one man should die instead of the people,
so that the whole nation may not perish.”
He did not say this on his own,
but since he was high priest for that year,
he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation,
and not only for the nation,
but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God.
So from that day on they planned to kill him.
So Jesus no longer walked about in public among the Jews,
but he left for the region near the desert,
to a town called Ephraim,
and there he remained with his disciples.
Now the Passover of the Jews was near,
and many went up from the country to Jerusalem
before Passover to purify themselves.
They looked for Jesus and said to one another
as they were in the temple area, “What do you think?
That he will not come to the feast?”
The Sanhedrin did not stand united with Christ for fear of losing worldly powers and possessions. These Old and New Testament readings speak to me about the need for “oneness” with Christ. In our daily life it is easy to “divide” ourselves from one another, and ultimately from Christ. In An Invitation to Dance Like No One is Watching, Kelly Flanagan writes about egos as devices to create personal walls. He admits, “One of my favorite ego-cannons is to pretend everyone on the outside of my wall is wrong. It makes me feel right and righteous, but really just keeps me safe inside of my ideas.” He identifies various cannons we use to protect--that is, divide--ourselves from others. These cannons are gossip, criticism, attachment to possessions, and power. At some point, we need to realize these cannons reinforce our isolation and are transient and meaningless.
The Scripture reading and Flanagan’s insights shout out the need to seek and strengthen my relationship with Christ. The statement from Ezekiel (Ezekiel 37:21-28), the first reading today at Mass, calls for the unity the Sanhedrin did not want-- unity with Christ. I ask myself, “Do I behave like the Sanhedrin? Am I truly united with Christ?”
If I am one with Christ, then I am one with my brothers and sisters, regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation, or ideology. The world is full of pain caused by division. I know that Lent is a season to strengthen our relationships, through our Oneness with Christ. I pray that we can rid ourselves of the impulses that lead to division and instead, ease the pain of others and in doing so, find greater joy in ourselves.