The Tract from today's Mass:
Many a time have they fought against me from my youth.
V. Let Israel now say: They have often attacked me from my youth.
V. But they could not prevail over me: the wicked have wrought upon my back.
V. They have lengthened their iniquity: the Lord who is just, will cut the necks of sinners.
From The Liturgical Year:
During the preceding four weeks, we have noticed how the malice of Jesus’ enemies has been gradually increasing. His very presence irritates them; and it is evident that any little circumstance will suffice to bring the deep and long-nurtured hatred to a head. The kind and gentle manners of Jesus are drawing to Him all hearts that are simple and upright; at the same time, the humble life He leads, and the stern purity of His doctrines, are perpetual sources of vexation and anger, both to the proud Jew that looks forward to the Messias being a mighty conqueror, and to the pharisee, who corrupts the Law of God, that he may make it the instrument of his own base passions. Still, Jesus goes on working miracles; His discourses are more than ever energetic; His prophecies foretell the fall of Jerusalem, and such a destruction of its famous temple, that not a stone is to be left on a stone. The doctors of the Law should, at least, reflect upon what they hear; they should examine these wonderful works, which render such strong testimony in favour of the Son of David; and they should consult these divine prophecies which, up to the present time, have been so literally fulfilled in His person. Alas! they themselves are about to carry them out to the very last iota. There is not a single outrage or suffering foretold by David and Isaias, as having to be put upon the Messias, which these blind men are not scheming to verify.
In them, therefore, was fulfilled that terrible saying: ‘He that shall speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come.' [St. Matt. xii. 32.] The Synagogue is nigh to a curse. Obstinate in her error, she refuses to see or to hear; she has deliberately perverted her judgment: she has extinguished within herself the light of the holy Spirit; she will go deeper and deeper into evil, and at length fall into the abyss. This same lamentable conduct is but too often witnessed nowadays in those sinners, who, by habitual resistance to the light, end by finding their happiness in sin. Neither should it surprise us, that we find in people of our own generation a resemblance to the murderers of our Jesus: the history of His Passion will reveal to us many sad secrets of the human heart and its perverse inclinations; for what happened in Jerusalem, happens also in every sinner’s heart. His heart, according to the saying of St. Paul, is a Calvary, where Jesus is crucified. There is the same ingratitude, the same blindness, the same wild madness, with this difference: that the sinner who is enlightened by faith, knows Him whom he crucifies; whereas the Jews, as the same apostle tells us, knew not the Lord of glory [1 Cor. ii. 8.] Whilst, therefore, we listen to the Gospel, which relates the history of the Passion, let us turn the indignation which we feel for the Jews against ourselves and our own sins; let us weep over the sufferings of our Victim, for our sins caused Him to suffer and die.
Everything around us urges us to mourn. The images of the saints, the very crucifix on our altar, are veiled from our sight. The Church is oppressed with grief. During the first four weeks of Lent, she compassionated her Jesus fasting in the desert; His coming sufferings and crucifixion and death are what now fill her with anguish. We read in to-day’s Gospel, that the Jews threaten to stone the Son of God as a blasphemer: but His hour is not yet come. He is obliged to flee and hide Himself. It is to express this deep humiliation, that the Church veils the cross. A God hiding Himself, that He may evade the anger of men - what a mystery! Is it weakness? Is it, that He fears death? No; we shall soon see Him going out to meet His enemies: but at present He hides Himself from them, because all that had been prophesied regarding Him has not been fulfilled. Besides, His death is not to be by stoning: He is to die upon a cross, the tree of malediction, which, from that time forward, is to be the tree of life. Let us humble ourselves, as we see the Creator of heaven and earth thus obliged to hide Himself from men, who are bent on His destruction! Let us go back, in thought, to the sad day of the first sin, when Adam and Eve bid themselves because a guilty conscience told them they were naked. Jesus has come to assure us of our being pardoned, and lo! He hides Himself, not because He is naked - He that is to the saints the garb of holiness and immortality - but because He made Himself weak, that He might make us strong. Our first parents sought to hide themselves from the sight of God; Jesus hides Himself from the eye of men. But it will not be thus for ever. The day will come when sinners, from whose anger He now flees, will pray to the mountains to fall on them and shield them from His gaze; but their prayer will not be granted, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven, with much power and majesty [St. Matt. xxiv. 30].
The fury of the Jews is evidently at its height, and Jesus is obliged to hide Himself from them. But He is to fall into their hands before many days are over; then will they triumph and put Him to death. They triumph, and Jesus is their victim: but how different is to be His lot from theirs! In obedience to the decrees of His heavenly Father, and out of love for men, he will deliver Himself into the hands of His enemies, and they will put Him to death; but He will rise victorious from the tomb, He will ascend into heaven, He will be throned on the right hand of His Father. His enemies, on the contrary, after having vented all their rage, will live on without remorse, until the terrible day come for their chastisement. That day is not far off, for observe the severity wherewith our Lord speaks to them: ‘You hear not the words of God, because you are not of God.’ Yet there was a time when they were of God, for the Lord gives His grace to all men; but they have rendered this grace useless; they are now in darkness, and the light they have rejected will not return.
You say that My Father is your God, and you have not known Him; but I know Him. Their obstinacy in refusing to acknowledge Jesus as the Messias, has led these men to ignore that very God, whom they boast of honouring; for if they knew the Father, they would not reject His Son. Moses, and the Psalms, and the Prophets, are all a dead letter to them; these sacred Books are soon to pass into the hands of the Gentiles, who will both read and understand them. If, continues Jesus, I should say that I know Him not, I should be like to you, a liar. This strong language is that of the angry Judge who is to come down, at the last day, to destroy sinners. Jerusalem has not known the time of her visitation: the Son of God has visited her, He is with her, and she dares to say to Him: Thou hast a devil! She says to the eternal Word, who proves Himself to be God by the most astonishing miracles, that Abraham and the prophets are greater than He! Strange blindness, that comes from pride and hardness of heart! The feast of the Pasch is at hand; these men are going to eat, and with much parade of religion, the flesh of the figurative lamb; they know full well that this lamb is a symbol, or a figure, which is to have its fulfilment. The true Lamb is to be sacrificed by their hands, and they will not know Him. He will shed His Blood for them, and it will not save them. How this reminds us of those sinners, for whom this Easter promises to be as fruitless as those of the past years! Let us redouble our prayers for them, and beseech our Lord to soften their hearts, lest trampling the Blood of Jesus under their feet, they should have it to cry vengeance against them before the throne of the heavenly Father.