Then Jesus before Caiaphas. St. John is the only one who relates the trial before the high priest Caiaphas. And John, by the way, is also the one who explains that Caiaphas had foretold or said, “It is better for one man to die than the whole people be destroyed.”
Now, Caiaphas, in fact, the Scribes and Pharisees were the first liberation theologians. First ones. What’s a liberation theologian? One who says that Christ came into the world to liberate man from the sufferings and trials of this world. My eye! That’s the heart of Marxism! Karl Marx, as you know, was an apostate Jew. Caiaphas and Karl Marx, side by side. As Pius XI in his classic work On Atheistic Communism, which is worth reading, Atheistic Communism, Pope Pius XI – he identifies Communism as messianic utopianism. Messianic Utopianism. You know what utopia is? A dream. Messianic. That’s what so many of the Jews that’s why they crucified Christ. They were expecting the Messiah to deliver them from the yoke of the Romans and make life, well, more pleasant, more enjoyable in this world. And when Jesus shows up, “Oh no, this can’t be the Messiah!” They had a preconceived notion, as our modern, latter day, liberation theologians. And they are causing a great deal of havoc in the Church.
Then the dialogue between Christ and Caiaphus. We don’t know exactly what Caiaphus asked our Lord, but he questioned him about his disciples and his teaching. And Jesus would not give an answer. So he asked Caiaphus a question. “Why do you question me? Question those who have heard what I have said.” Then one of Caiaphus’ attendants struck Jesus a blow. All of this, we’ve got to keep reminding ourselves, God did not have to become man in the first place. And he became man, he did not have to become the suffering servant. He chose suffering. And, as long as there’s a breath of life left in me, I keep telling people, “In the name of God, never run away from the cross.” That’s what following Christ means. You embrace the cross.
Pilot, Herod, and the Condemnation of Jesus
Then the twenty-third day. Pilot, Herod and the condemnation of Jesus.
Remember, Pilot was essential, necessary if you please, for Christ being condemned to death. Why? Because the Jews did not have the authority to condemn anybody. So reluctantly they took Christ to Pilot, realizing they did not have the authority to condemn our Lord. And then, as you know, without going into all that we’ve got here, Pilot was convinced that Jesus was innocent. Convinced. But the same thing; like Peter, so Pilot. Human respect. He was afraid of losing his job. Oh, the Pilots in our government today! The Pilots in our government today! We can all name names. Professed Catholics. Hypocrites. Well, and we know, although Pilot recognized Christ’s innocence, never-the-less, he gave in to the crowd; afraid of losing his position, being disgraced. And if I talked, as I said before, for hours, or weeks, I could not emphasize too strongly how we simply must master, what we call, the demon of human respect. You’ll never, and the adverb is never, do anything great for God as long as you’re a slave of what other people think of you. This is where prudence, obviously, comes in. We don’t go around calling people names, swinging an axe, or say putting ourselves in papal flags and calling people heretics to their name. On occasion, as you know, I’ve been privileged to call people heretics to their name. But that’s a rare privilege. Normally, you’ve got to be prudent. But, you’re clear. You’re definite.
Then Herod. Now, Herod had no jurisdiction over Christ. And Pilot sent Christ to Herod, because he was Herod. Technically, Herod was what? The head; the civil ruler of the Jews. Pilot, well, he was the Roman procurator, or governor, we would say now. And Pilot did not have to, you might say, do this. He wanted to ingratiate himself with Herod. And also he wanted to share the responsibility.
And then the condemnation of Jesus. I’ve said this before, but it should be part of every Spiritual Exercises: When those who hated Christ shouted for his blood, “Crucify him, crucify him!” and then Pilot asked them, “Should I crucify your king?” And those liars – talk about hypocrisy! “We have no king but Caesar!” Oh, no! They hated Caesar. They hated Caesar. But to avenge themselves on Christ, they said, “We have no king but Caesar!”
And then Pilot brought our Lord – he’d been scourged, dripping with blood, flesh in shreds – except for a miracle Christ would have died long before he was crucified. And then remember what Pilot – he pointed to Christ and said, “Behold the man.” hoping to get some compassion out of those hating enemies of Christ. And, you know what they said, “His blood be on us and our children.” Remember, when Pilot says while he is washing his hands, he was innocent of the blood of this man. They shouted, “His blood be on us and our children.”
I want to repeat. I know I’ve said it more than once. But the year 70, when the Jews rebelled against Rome and the Romans besieged Jerusalem; it took them months to break through the walls of Jerusalem. But they did. And as the historian Josephus tells us… and the Romans just did not do these things, what did they do? “Cut down”, Josephus says, “the forest all around Jerusalem”. And he even gives a figure. Ninety-thousand Jews were crucified.
You won’t read that, by the way, in Raymond Brown. You know who Raymond Brown is? He calls himself an exegete. He’s a what? Remember? Who knows the other term? Eisegete. Exegete draws out of…ex…draws out of the Bible what’s there. Eisegete, puts in…eis…what’s in Brown’s fertile mind, he puts into the Bible. He knows enough Hebrew and Greek to get away with it.
How we need this. In other words, God is not mocked. God is a just God.
And Christ was condemned and one thing we should remember as we leave this twenty- third day. Remember this is part of the Apostle’s Creed: “…suffered under Pontius Pilot, was crucified, died and was buried”. You might ask yourselves: Why of all people, why, his name would be in the Apostle’s Creed? There is the Father. There is the Son. There is the Holy Spirit. There is our Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary. And, oh no, not Pilot! Yes, Pilot made the Apostles’ Creed. That is, believe me, not coincidental. It began with Pilot and will go on until the end of time. St. Augustine, and he’s just speaking for the Church, “…the devil uses the state, civil authority, to persecute the Church.” The devil, remember, possessed Judas. Right? And used Pilot, and has been doing it ever since.
Maybe you read about the euthanasia law that was just passed in Holland. Kevorkian has nothing on the Dutch. And by the way, is Kevorkian Dutch? If somebody could find out, I’d appreciate that.
And for example, one large hospital in Chicago; state hospital. This is years ago. One of the chaplains there – Jesuits served that hospital around the clock, eight hour shifts as chaplains. And the wards in this hospital, where on a regular basis, a certain number of people are just wiped out – not to be a burden of the state.
There are two kinds of doctors, by the way, medical doctors, those who believe in immortality and those who don’t.
So it’s the state. That’s the point. And all the commentators on Scripture point this out: Pilot symbolizes the oppression and crucifixion of Christ in his own person, and Christ in his mystical person ever since.
It’s good to know that, so we’re not thrown off our guard and what’s coming off. It’s more massive, but same principle. Pilot, in other words, symbolizes the state oppressing the Church. What we call separation of Church and State in the United States – it’s not separation.
And John Dewey – no Christian he – the great philosopher of American education. He said we mistakenly talk about the separation of Church and state – no, no – it’s subordination of Church to the state. Amen.
The Way of the Cross, Crucifixion and Burial of Christ
Twenty-fourth day: The Way of the Cross, crucifixion and burial of Christ.
I asked you people, do you have your crucifixes with the way of the cross? You can make the way of the cross by just holding the crucifix. And I, really, with all my heart I recommend, get into the habit of making the way of the cross everyday. It will change your lives. Course, you have to know what the fourteen stations are. I think I told you how many times I’ve made them in this chapel. No more. I make them of course. We need that. Christ’s way of the cross. In other words, absolutely speaking, even if Christ wanted to die he did not have to, you might say, die the way he did, having to carry his own cross. Except for whatever rest Simon gave him; being forced, coerced, to help Christ carry his cross. And within the way of the cross there are certain stations. There are fourteen, as you know. But there are certain people in the way of the cross.
First of all, the first station. Who was there? Pilot. Fourth station….our Lady. Fifth station…Simon of Cyrene. Sixth station….Veronica. Eighth station…the women of Jerusalem. And the tenth and eleventh stations…the Roman executioners. Thirteenth station….again, Our Lady. And fourteen station…Joseph of Aramathea and others who then buried Christ.
And the actual crucifixion. If you could get yourself a copy of Archbishop Sheen’s little paper back on The Seven Last Words of Christ. They are a masterpiece. The seven last words. You should know what those words are and then, to reflect on them. When I make my own way of the cross, over the years, I try to identify Christ making the way of the cross with the Church making her way of the cross today. And let me tell you the Church is suffering agonizingly. Suffering from the Judases. Suffering from the Pilots. Suffering from the Peters. Suffering from the executioners.
One of the many statements of the present Holy Father that are worth remembering: “the Church’s normal condition is one of persecution”. That’s normal for the Church. And we wouldn’t be human if we weren’t scared.
Now Christ’s crucifixion. The Romans did on occasion crucify. But Cicero, the name of the great Roman orator, Cicero, he says… and here is the strongest word in Latin and then he uses the superlative of that adjective to say that the pain was terrerum, the most terrifying pain that any human being can possibly experience being nailed to the cross. And Cicero wrote that before Christ was crucified. However, remember, Christ being absolutely sinless could not, no way, could not have died of any disease, any sickness, any debility, from within. No way. His death could only have been caused from the outside. That’s why for the rest of your lives, remember, these two words go together; passion and passive voice. In other words, Christ’s sufferings are called his Passion. Why? Because his agony and crucifixion had to be inflicted from outside of him. In other words, Christ died indeed, but his death had to be caused by hostile forces outside of him. And the two hostile forces were, of course, first of all, the devil and then those who envied Christ.
And during the conference I’m giving the Sisters I’m now on the fifth commandment…going through the Ten Commandments, but as elevated by Christ. The Fifth Commandment says, “You shall not kill”. Well, Christ emphasizes the interior motives for murder. Christ was murdered. What are the two roots of all homicides? They are anger and envy. And anger is a consequence of envy. In the last analysis, why did the Jews condemn Christ to death and have him crucified? They envied him. And, oh, what books I could write on the subject of envy. Nobody envies a failure. Christ was, humanly speaking, phenomenally successful. Not just many people. Thousands! And they would go for even days without food. Gosh! And remember in St. John’s gospel, just before he gets into Christ’s Passion…this is John… he tells the long narrative of Christ raising Lazarus from the dead. And remember as Lazarus’ sister said, “Lord, by now…” I like the archaic English. “Lord, by now, he stinketh”. I like that. He was good and dead. And Christ says to Lazarus, “Come forth”. He couldn’t walk out. Because of the way the Jews bury their dead he couldn’t walk out. He come out anyhow! But, Christ was working miracles, why not work another one. Dead men coming out of the grave!
You know they have to walk out!
But immediately after Lazarus rose from the dead, what did the Scribes and Pharisees say? “This man must go. Otherwise….” Who remembers what else they said? “Otherwise, the whole world will follow him.” It’s that envy.
And, my friends, as I told the Sisters, and I looked them straight in the face: The main reason for unhappiness in the home, and for the nuns in a religious community… the main reason for conflict is envy. And people might not even know why they don’t like somebody.
But the Jews, therefore, envied Christ and that’s what finally decided “this is too much”.
And then Christ’s burial. You might wonder, well why do the evangelists tell us about Christ’s burial? We want to make sure, absolutely sure, there’s no doubt --- and listen --- historically, rationally that Christ was really dead. Men like Andrew Greeley. Pray for the conversion of Andrew Greeley before he dies. Only God knows his guilt. But the man can’t possibly save a soul if he knows what he is doing. That Christ’s resurrection was a subjective experience of the disciples. That’s a demonic lie.
And remember how careful the Jews were to make sure that Christ would not be stolen. Remember? First of all, they wanted guards. Remember? So the guards were there. Christ rose from the dead, guards or no guards. Then they, the guards remember reported, to the Jews. Remember? And then the Jews. And I’ve said this more than once, but in context, cost them more mazuma. Three times: Once to pay off Judas, then to pay the guards, and thirdly, to bribe the guards to tell a lie. Sure as I’m sitting here, 1993, you can read books published under Jewish auspices, that say exactly that: The body of Christ was stolen from the grave. It might just as well be Holy Week, right? Or Easter Sunday.
We go on.
With the burial of Christ we finish the third week of the Exercises. And let’s get this clear. Tomorrow is the twenty-second, right? Twenty-second, twenty-third, twenty-fourth, twenty-fifth, twenty-sixth. So that by the time we meet again, which Lord willing, will be next Monday, we will be already on the risen Christ. It’s the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ. That’s the fourth week.
First, by way of introduction. Remember? The heart of the Exercises is to make clear, definite choices in my life. And, mind you, the focus is, of course, in our following Christ, but the goal or the purpose is not holiness in ourselves. The purpose is that we being united with Christ, might then be used by him as a channel of his grace. And that, by the way, is the most fundamental charity we can exercise. Whatever else we give anybody else, unless we are channels of grace to these people. We call it charity.
As I told again the Sisters today, “Do you know the present Holy Father changed your Constitutions?” Mother Theresa founded the Missionaries of Charity in 1950. Their purpose was to … they take a fourth vow, “to provide for the free and whole - hearted service of the poorest of the poor.” That’s the words of the Constitutions, “to provide for the free and whole hearted service of the poorest of the poor.” So then the Holy Father called in Mother Theresa eight years ago. Told her, from now on… you’re doing great work …but from now on I want the Missionaries of Charity to continue providing the “free and whole hearted service of the poorest of the poor”. But, she told me, he told her, but from now on I want you to concentrate on the “spiritually poorest of the poor. Continue taking care of their bodies, but that’s a means to a further end.
That’s why, by the way, I’m finishing here in Detroit on the eighteenth. On the nineteenth I’m going to Mexico. I’m home for a couple of weeks, and then I go to Germany. My brethren ask me, “John, do you know what you are doing?” I think I do. Calcutta alone, the Missionaries of Charity, have forty-thousand under instruction. Forty-thousand! Missionaries have been hard hit by the revolution in the Church. Somebody better evangelize and catechize. Russia is wide open.
In other words, the purpose of the Exercises, as we enter the fourth week, is to imitate Christ indeed, to become more and more like him. But that like him or he is using us to be, well, Mother Theresa calls it “con-use” of grace. And the beauty is, that provided we co-operate with God’s grace in our lives, he is going to use us. Now, of course, not everybody will be converted. After two-thousand years. And not only will not everybody be converted, some who had been Christians, generations, fall away. So we need the fourth week to strengthen our motivation. In other words, there’s a goal, a goal in view. We are indeed now living in the Church Militant. I keep telling people we’ve all been conscripted. But we are on the winning side. Can’t lose!
So we go on.