In common with most, if not all human beings, we Religious have an in-built tendency towards keeping up with the Jones’. We all know people, perhaps other Religious, whose lives appear to be pretty much perfect, and we may yearn to be more like them, and even live their lives. Each element of their perfect life only highlights our own shortcomings and makes us feel more and more inadequate.
This is one way to understand how the people described in today’s first reading responded to “the just one” in their midst (Wisdom 2:12). They couldn’t measure up, and in their envy, they wanted to rid themselves of this reminder of their failure.
As we approach the end of Lent we begin to see the dark clouds gather around Jesus as he moves inextricably towards the Cross. We will see him bear his fate heroically yet humbly. He will meet his persecutors, as Isaiah says: “not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street” (Isaiah 42:2). It will be hard to look at Our Lord as he is described in the liturgical readings of the next few weeks. Who among us could endure all the unmerited abuse meted out to him, and never once raise a word of protest or a promise of revenge? Surely, we would fail miserably at any test of faith that comes our way.
Our Lord didn’t come to condemn us, he came to save us. He considers us to be members of his own family, children of God who are precious and valuable to the Father. He also sees the good that is already in us, as well as all the good that God still wants to do for us. It may be that we need to be sifted a bit more so that old sins and pride can give way to his grace. But the One who does the sifting is gentle and compassionate, not harsh and judgmental. And it’s even better to know that the sifting will bring us to a place of greater peace and confidence.