The wicked say: Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings… (Wis 2:12)
Hamlet to Polonius: … Will you make sure the actors are made comfortable?
Polonius: My Lord I will give them all they deserve
Hamlet: Good heavens, man, give them more than that! If you pay everyone what they deserve, would anyone ever escape a whipping?
Justice is giving to each person that which he deserves. What he or she deserves are all the rights (and duties) customary to human nature created by God. What he or she ultimately deserves will still be determined at the final judgment by God alone as either: reward or punishment, heaven or hell.
Man should be eternally grateful for God’s mercy, since no one can stand guiltless in God’s justice. As the psalmist declares: If thou O’ Lord shouldst mark iniquities, who could stand (Ps 130:3)? We are all sinners. We are also all liars if we would not admit that at least once in our lives we thought the presence of Jesus to be “obnoxious”: His very presence pressed our conscience; we wanted to be left alone to pursue “our doings”; and the thought of His teaching made us angry or guilty or shameful.
Let it never be said that the Church’s Ordinary Time is ordinary. This week our readings compel us to reflect upon the conspiracy against Christ which receives its greatest reflection in Holy Week. However, rather than calling us to reflect primarily upon Christ’s suffering we are led from the 1st reading to the Gospel reading for this 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time to consider our evil desires that led to Christ’s suffering. Vengefulness, pride, jealousy, and ambition are the vices we are to avoid. Gentleness, humility, compliance, and mercy are the virtues we are to pursue so as to follow Jesus the “just one” (1 Pt 2:23).
Jesus is the just one beset by His enemies: beset before entering the world (Gn 3:15); beset at the time of His arrival (Mt 2:16); beset at the outset of His earthly mission (Lk 4:29). His mission came to completion through the cruelty of his enemies (Lk 23:21). Yet he did no wrong (Lk 23:22).
Hence, to bring forth the genuine spiritual emotion of sorrowfulness so necessary to seeing our own sins of jealousy, vengefulness, pride, and ambition toward each other we place on our bulletin cover a work of the Early Renaissance painter, Antonello de Messina, entitled Ecce Homo (“Behold the Man” – 1474). Messina’s work is sometimes acknowledged as being of the “Venetian School”, yet he first trained in Naples while immediately afterward setting up shop in his native Messina in Sicily. Messina introduced oil painting into Italy and was a master of religious portraiture as seen in the painting we examine today.
Here we see Jesus, the “just one”. His eyes and mouth speak of sadness, but also of great disappointment in those who have been unjust. The cord around the neck of Christ indicates His acceptance of bondage as the price of our release from it. Not much more ought to be said here. This is an image better approached in silence. We should all spend time meditating upon it.
-Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services