What sort of path are you on right now, as we begin Holy Week?
Yesterday’s Passion reading at Sunday Mass came from the Gospel of St. Matthew. In St. Matthew’s account, after Jesus is arrested and brought before the chief priests and the elders, He does not respond to their questions and accusations, until the High Priest Caiphas orders Him to answer under oath before God. In other words, if he but had the humility to know it, Caiphas is ordering God to swear by Himself.
This type of oath, in which God swears by Himself, occurs in a few places in Scripture. For example, fed up with the selfishness of the Jewish people, God makes the oath, “I swear by Myself” via the prophet Jeremiah, that they will be punished if they do not turn away from their path of unrepentant sin and paganism. When they choose not to listen, Jerusalem and the Temple are destroyed. The Jews are quite literally taken off their path, and forcibly marched off down another: that to exile in Babylon.
When God asks Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac – which of course is paralleled in the Father’s sacrifice of the Son in the Gospels – Abraham humbly and, one suspects, a bit sorrowfully, takes the path up into the mountains in order to do God’s Will. When he is about to act and kill his son, God stops the sacrifice, and forms His covenant with Abraham. “I swear by Myself,” God promises, that Abraham’s descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky, or the sands on the seashore, and be a blessing for the whole world.
In St. Matthew’s Gospel, Caiphas is so intent on protecting his position, that he doesn’t want to hear anything that will make him have to change the path he is on. He tears his clothes when Jesus tells him the truth, because he is not willing to humble himself, let alone be obedient. The signs pointing to Jesus as the Messiah have been before Caiphas for years, both in the prophecies from Scripture and in the words and deeds of Jesus Himself. Yet Caiphas has fallen so far off the path of seeking God’s Will in his life, that if he was truly open to considering the possibility that this was the Messiah, he would have been a bit more careful with his words. For clearly, having God swear by Himself is not something to be taken lightly.
Holy Week is the perfect time to follow the signposts in your life leading you back onto the path of humble obedience to the Will of God. After all, this is the path Christ Himself trod, and what we as Christians are called to imitate. And the best way that you can do that this week, is by following the signs to your local church’s confessional. I’ll be in line there myself, and afterwards, we can all go get back on the right path together.