Saturday of the Fourth Week of Lent
There are many things that threaten our spiritual life. We can become overly scrupulous – convinced that every little thing is the gravest of sins – or we can have a dull conscience that doesn’t convict us of anything. We can put undue emphasis on material goods or on spiritual goods to the detriment of the other. And the list goes on for a long time. I think one the greatest threats we face is for Christ to become lackluster.
In today’s gospel we see the crowd divided over whether or not Christ is “the Prophet” or “the Messiah.” John tells us that some wanted him arrested, and portrays the Pharisees rebuking the guards for not arresting Jesus. Nicodemus chimes in during all of this with words that imply that even the law-conscious Pharisees are willing to break some rules to be rid of this Jesus fellow. As Nicodemus gets shut down quickly, one can wonder if he struck a nerve.
Normally, I wouldn’t describe division, conspiracy, and the desired arrest of an innocent man as a good thing, but in this instance it tells us something good. All of this communicates how unique Christ is and how He provokes a response. The guards sum it up well. In response to the Pharisees, they said, “Never before has anyone spoken like this man.”
If we are regularly responding to Christ with those words, I don’t think we are struggling with a lackluster Jesus. If those words rarely make sense to us, than I think we’ve become desensitized to Jesus. We are likely to experience this at some point. Many of us have never experienced a culture absent of Christianity. We are too removed to listen to Christ with the ears of a 1st Century Jewish audience. Most of us learned the faith early in our lives, so Christ’s claims seem obvious and expected instead of revolutionary. All of these factors make it easier for us to lose sight of the remarkableness of Jesus.
If we are experiencing that, we need to do something about it. Just as a married couple sometimes has to step back and recall what is remarkable about their spouse, we need to consciously step back and see if we understand why the people in today’s gospel acted the way they did. If the people in today’s gospel seemed like they were overreacting and unreasonable or if we can’t sympathize with the choices they made, then we might be desensitized to Jesus.
Lord, we pray for the grace to be able to encounter you with the same amazement as the guards, so that with them, we may say, “Never before has anyone spoken like this man.”
- Spencer Hargadon