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Third Week of Lent

Call to radical conversion

Today’s gospel reading speaks of an episode of Pilate’s cruelty. Some pilgrims came from Galilee to offer sacrifice in the temple. 

It is possible that these Galileans with aspirations for freedom for their nation from the oppression of Romans, first exchanged some strong words with the guards, then made some provocative gestures, and finally act; a bit of pushing and shoving and a fistfight. 

Pilate orders the soldiers to intervene, with no respect for the holy place. They massacre the unfortunate Galileans. A brutal and sacrilegious gesture, an insult to the Lord, a provocation to the people who consider the temple, the house of their God.

Someone brings the event to Jesus’ notice expecting him to take an anti-Roman stance, to lash out against Pilate.

But Jesus keeps his calm and no uncontrolled word escapes his mouth. He rules out the connection between the death of these people and the sins they have committed. 

Then he invites us to learn a lesson from this incident, saying it should be a call to conversion. 

The oppressive social structures (and those of Pilate) are generally rock solid, have deep roots and are defended with powerful means. It is really an illusion to think that they can be reversed at any moment. 

Some believe that the use of violence can be an effective, quick and safe way to restore justice. 

It is the worst of illusions! The use of force does not produce anything good, does not solve problems but only creates new and more serious ones.

Jesus does not comment directly on the crime committed by Pilate. He does not want to get involved in those useless conversations where any comment would be limited to swearing and to cursing. 

He is certainly not insensitive to the suffering and misfortune, but is moved to tears for love of his country. 

However, he knows that aggression, disdain, anger, hatred and desire for revenge are useless, indeed counterproductive. These feelings only lead to reckless actions that complicate the situation even more.

The call of Jesus to conversion is a call to change ways of thinking. Jesus does not try to evade the problem; he proposes a different solution. He invites us to intervene at the root cause of the evil. 

It is useless to pretend that we can change something by simply replacing those who hold power. If the newcomers do not have a new heart and follow a different logic, everything will remain as before. It would be like changing the actors in a show without changing the role that they are playing. 

That is why Jesus does not adhere to the explosion of collective outrage against Pilate. He calls us to conversion, proposes a change in mentality. 

Only people who have become different, one person with a new heart can build a new world. This is the ultimate solution.

 

Father Fernando Armellini CMF
Claretian Publications