Day 23: Thursday of 3rd week of Lent

Crowd of men approach the wailing wall

THE CROWD

 

  1. Document: Holy Scripture Readings

1.1.  First Reading: The Book of the prophet Jeremiah 7: 23-28

1.2.  Gospel Reading: The Gospel of St Luke 11: 14-23

1.3.  Simple Comment: The prophet Jeremiah laments the repeated refusals of Israel to listen, to obey and to walk in the way of God’s commands. He cries: faithfulness has disappeared; the word itself is banished from their speech. The same can be found in the Gospel passage today: the crowds were amazed at Jesus casting out devils and yet were so adamant to ask for more signs. In the end they totally rejected Jesus by accusing him of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul!

 

  1. Monument: The Crowd in Jericho and in Jerusalem

2.1.  The evangelists use the term crowd as people who were up and about the whereabouts of Jesus but who were nowhere among his followers. Sometimes, particularly in the Gospel of St Mark, the very disciples of Jesus had also a crowd mentality; they too have not changed their perception of Jesus despite their constant presence with him.

2.2.  In the story of Zaccheus (St Luke’s Gospel) and of the blind man Bartimeus (St Mark’s) which both occurred in the oasis of Jericho, the crowd were characterized as people fighting to get near to Jesus and yet ironically, as also the people who never came any nearer to his message and attitude. In contrast, the crowd prevented the sinner to come near to Jesus. They even complained that Jesus went near to the sinner!

2.3.  The crowds in Jerusalem were the loud voices to claim for Jesus’ condemnation; they were the cries of protest to Pilate for thinking to set Jesus free; they were the rowdy group to set Barabbas off from prison. At Calvary they were the taunters and the jeerers; but, in the end when darkness came upon the whole land and the veil of the sanctuary of the Temple was torn right down the middle, they went home beating their breasts.

 

  1. Lenten Reflection

3.1.  We crowd our schedule of prayer with many devotional formulas; we mouth prayers we hurriedly say just to finish off the required practice. We attempt to come close to Jesus but without seriously meaning to be converted by him. The challenge of the prophet Jeremiah is that we truly listen to his word, that we courageously strive to obey his will and that we doggedly pursue his ways. We are asked to be follower!

3.2.  It is good to read the many examples of persons in the Gospels who seemed to the Jewish perception to be far away from God: tax collectors, publicans, adulterers, gentiles, possessed by demons, lame, lepers, blind, deaf, mute, Samaritans. But because Jesus came near to them and they were open enough to put faith in him, what wondrous changes occurred in their lives. The challenge of Jesus is that we can experience the same conversion because he has not ceased to come to us in numerous and varied ways. All we need to do is to be open, to put faith in him; the rest will happen.

 

  1. Contemporary Filipino Question: In the last 30 years we have produced different assortments of crowds: the hundreds-of-thousands crowd of Ninoy’s wake and burial, the hundreds-of-thousands crowd of ATOM with yellow confettis on Ayala Avenue, the two-million crowd of EDSA One, the five-million crowd of the 1995 World Youth Day, the one-million crowd against Cha-Cha, the one million-crowd of EDSA Dos, the El Shaddai crowd, the Wowwawee fateful crowd, and so on. We are capable of raising a crowd but we have not succeeded in forming principled men and women, disciples of the Master. Remember they were just twelve, in fact merely Eleven at some point. All we need is       a few good men!