When Jesus came to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover He was met with great enthusiasm. Many believed in Him because of the signs He worked, the things He taught and the way He confronted the authorities of the day. The people saw Jesus as someone who was going to change things, bring them a better tomorrow. The way He cleansed the Temple and challenged the leadership that let this holy place become a market place was a sign of hope to the little people of the time. Jesus was their hero, their hope.
Then we read in today’s gospel, “But Jesus on His part would not entrust himself to them because he knew all people and needed no one to testify about human nature, for he himself knew what was in the human person.” Jesus knew this enthusiasm and excitement would not last. He knew this admiring crowd could be fickle and unpredictable. He was wise enough not to entrust Himself to them.
I find these words ‘He knew himself what was in the human person’ to be very consoling. As Christians we believe that Jesus of Nazareth is both human and divine. St. John begins his gospel stating, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Then John goes on to say, “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us.” We could say Jesus knew what was in the human person because He was God. But the reality is, Jesus knew what was in the human person because He was human. Jesus knew what was in the human person because He was bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. St. Paul tells us that, like us Jesus was tempted in all things but He did not sin.
Jesus knew what it means to have close friends, to love and admire them, people like Mary and Martha and Lazarus. Jesus knew what it is like to be accepted and He knew what is what like to be rejected. His own people drove Him out of His own town. Jesus enjoyed a good meal and good wine.
As we will see during our celebration of Holy Week Jesus knew the deep pain and disappointment of being deserted by his followers, betrayed by one friend and denied by another. Jesus knew the shame of being publicly humiliated, falsely condemned and sentenced to death. Jesus knew what it is like to feel like a failure. Jesus experienced the feeling of being forgotten by God as He suffered the agony of the garden and the cross. Being one like us in all things but sin He was no stranger to human love and human pain.
The Church is the extension of Jesus in time and space bringing His life and love to the world through word, sacrament and service. You’ve heard the saying, “I have no hands but yours, no eyes but yours, no ears but yours.” From over 2000 years of experience the Church knows and understands human nature, for the church itself is made up of us, human beings, and mistake making beings. But there are times when the Church, we ourselves and those who officially represent the church do not give witness to that understanding of the human condition. I wonder how Jesus or a more compassionate bishop would have handled that tragic situation in Brazil that recently made headlines around the world. A 9 year old girl pregnant with twins after being raped by her stepfather had an abortion. The whole situation is fraught with sadness and madness. This abused child, a product of a poor and abusive family life is the victim. How could a nine year old be expected to deliver twins? Instead of excommunicating the mother of this child, cutting her off from the community of faith wouldn’t have been more Christ like, more understanding of what is within the human person, to be there for this child and her family. Wouldn’t this bishop be more faithful to Christ if he had shown compassion instead of condemnation, understanding before judgment? This is what this mother and daughter needed and deserved. This was not an easy decision for a mother to make for her daughter. Don’t you think that Christ, Who knew what was within human nature would have embraced this wounded family and brought them healing?
As we continue to celebrate this Eucharist we can pray for ourselves and for each other that as we struggle with the strengths and weaknesses of our own humanity and seek the understanding of others for our faults and failings, we be gifted with the grace to be more understanding and compassionate when we are touched by, hurt by, disappointed with the human nature of others, be they bishops, priests, even ourselves.