Gathering the Scattered; Saturday in the Fifth Week of Lent

Image: Arctic Circle Crossing
Ezekiel 37:21-28  | Jeremiah 31:10-13  |John 11:45-56

Today’s readings are about gathering that which has been scattered. The Prophet Ezekiel talks about God’s promise that he would bring together the people God has chosen who have been divided into two separate Kingdoms. He wanted to see them united with one King to rule over them. In this new reality they would essentially start over. All their past transgressions would be forgiven, and they would be unified as one people under God.

In the Gospel, there is a reference to this Messianic promise as the Religious leaders conspire about what they are going to do with Jesus, who has been posing a great challenge to their authority. One of them, Caiaphas, has a unique solution. Caiaphas suggests that Jesus be used as a sign to unite the people while at the same time appeasing the Romans, who just want to see peace and order. For Caiaphas’ plan to work, Jesus would have to be put to death. He says,

“It is better for one man to die for the people, than for the whole nation to be destroyed…to gather together in unity the scattered children of God.” Jn 11.50-53

In a way, Caiaphas’ intuition was correct, Jesus was the one to bring together God’s scattered flock, but not in the way that Caiaphas imagined. It was not a cunning political move that would save the people but rather, God’s divine intervention through the gift of his Son who would freely give his life for us.

Our political divisions continue to this day, we find ourselves divided by race and ideology and so many other things. In these days we even find ourselves separated from one another by disease. But the one force that keeps trying to gather us is the love of God which knows no boundaries. I am reminded of the words of St. Paul who wrote,

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom 8.38-39

This is the unity which is real, which requires no compromise or political maneuvering.

Today as I think about coming together, I am keeping in my prayers a family which will be laying their loved one to rest. In this time of “social distancing” they will not be able to celebrate a traditional funeral and many of their friends and community members will not be able to draw near to comfort them. I pray that the love of God which knows no bounds will surround them and give them the peace that they desire and will comfort them in their grief.

The love of God motivates us to be united as God’s chosen people. The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross wants to gather us in to himself where our divisions will be healed. The gift of the Holy Spirit makes us one in spirit. As we enter in this most sacred time of Holy Week let us ask God to renew in us the spirit of unity that makes us whole.