February 11, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from Matthew 27:62-66.
The next day, the one following the day of preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember that this imposter while still alive said, ‘After three days I will be raised up.’ Give order, then, that the grave be secured until the third day, lest his disciples come and steal him and say to the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead.’ This last imposture would be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “The guard is yours; go secure it as best you can.” So they went and secured the tomb by fixing a seal to the stone and setting the guard.
Matthew is the only one of the gospel writers to give us this information and the follow-up scene in the next chapter about the chief priests bribing the soldiers of the guard to lie about Jesus’ body being stolen while they slept.
The chief priests remind me of agnostics who aren’t willing to either believe in or deny the existence of God. It’s as if they want to hedge their bet. That’s what the chief priests seemed to do. They, of course, refused to accept that Jesus was the Son of God. Yet, something made them uneasy about that. There was the niggling doubt that maybe he was; maybe God would raise him from the dead. So, they want to cover their bet by having the tomb sealed and guarded. And they went one step further: they planted the seed with Pilate that if the tomb were found empty it was because his deceitful followers had stolen the body to make it appear that he had been raised from the dead. They thought they had all the bases covered.
I am at times somewhat like the chief priests in reverse. I believe, but I have a niggling doubt about whether Jesus was really the Son of God. In a sense, I’m covering all my bases, too. I attend Mass regularly; I say my prayers; I do most of the things expected of me as a Catholic and Christian. Just in case. Really not much different than the chief priests.
The only real difference is that I want to believe; they didn’t. Some times I can’t be more sure that it’s all true; I’m absolutely convinced. Those are the times when I let the experience of God take hold of me. The times when my heart has rule over my head. The defenses of my intellect are overcome.
Franciscan Richard Rohr’s meditation today seems pertinent. He wrote, “What I consistently find in the mystics is an overwhelming experience of how God has loved them. God is always the initiator, God is the doer, God is the one who seduces us. All we can do is respond in kind.”
All I need to do is allow God to seduce me. Once and for all, not over and over again. My niggling doubts do neither of us any good. They just keep me from allowing myself to be loved completely as I am and from being the instrument of His love for others. I don’t need to hedge my bet, I just need to go all in.