“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
Scripture text: (WIS 2:1A, 12-22)
The wicked said among themselves,
thinking not aright:
“Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us;
he sets himself against our doings,
Reproaches us for transgressions of the law
and charges us with violations of our training.
He professes to have knowledge of God
and styles himself a child of the LORD.
To us he is the censure of our thoughts;
merely to see him is a hardship for us,
Because his life is not like that of others,
and different are his ways.
He judges us debased;
he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure.
He calls blest the destiny of the just
and boasts that God is his Father.
Let us see whether his words be true;
let us find out what will happen to him.
For if the just one be the son of God, he will defend him
and deliver him from the hand of his foes.
With revilement and torture let us put him to the test
that we may have proof of his gentleness
and try his patience.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death;
for according to his own words, God will take care of him.”
These were their thoughts, but they erred;
for their wickedness blinded them,
and they knew not the hidden counsels of God;
neither did they count on a recompense of holiness
nor discern the innocent souls’ reward.
Today’s reading lets the wicked speak for themselves. Their candor is striking: they do not disown their foul ways. These men have betrayed their training and they know it. Corruption has become the norm. What annoys them is being known and judged by the just one: “merely to see him is a hardship for us.” But they possess the means to take revenge on this stumbling block. They contrive a test of torture and death to see whether God comes to his defense. This test will decide who has the edge: the just one or the wicked?
The inhabitants of Jerusalem, like others, enjoyed scandals and the occasional shedding of blood. Eagerly they sensed the showdown brewing between Jesus and the authorities. Trouble was coming. Jesus had unmasked the scribes and Pharisees in public; he healed on the Sabbath and his adherence to the laws was doubted. A local guy who claims to be the anointed one, the Christ, is disturbing. Would his followers rise up and seize power? These gossipy spectators grasped little of the scene unfolding before them.
Who is the good person? We might picture someone bent down to wash the feet of the poor. This servant of God moves quietly in the world. She listens, forgives, nurtures, and heals. His touch is gentle and his intentions are pure. Some say that goodness resides in the heart and is largely hidden from view.
Where do we find the just one? Justice leads us away from family, friends, jobs, and parish into public life, where we act in the company of strangers. Jesus made a ruckus. He was not wedded to being gentle. A confounding man, he called out leaders and challenged his community in the name of his father.
Justice draws us deeper into history, as we read the signs of the times.