24 March
Jn 11:45-56

Many of the Jews who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, “What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.” He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on they planned to put him to death.

            Poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
            In the valley of its saying where executives
            Would never want to tamper… (W.H. Auden)
These lines are part of a poem written in memory of another poet, W.B. Yeats, but I think Yeats was not so sure that poetry made nothing happen.  He once had reason to wonder:
            Did that play of mine send out
            Certain men the English shot…?

Sometimes words can be a substitute for action (see yesterday’s reading).  But this is not always the case.  Sometimes they don’t “survive in the valley of their saying,” as Auden put it; sometimes they flood down from the mountaintops and shake an Empire.  The Sanhedrin knew this.  “The Romans will come and sweep away our Holy Place and our nation.”  So they were determined to kill him.  “It is better to have one man die for the people than to let the whole nation be destroyed,” said the High Priest, exactly according to Nietzsche’s saying: “Where there are four of you a fifth must die.”  These people were not the first, and they were not the last, to kill someone in order to silence him.  Most of us don’t go that far, but we go some of the way.  An interesting list to compile: all the people I silence in subtle or unsubtle ways.


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This page gives a very brief commentary by Donagh O’Shea on the gospel reading for each day of the month. 


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