The readings today present us with Our Lord’s mounting sorrows. The Gospel speaks from the beginning of a week in early winter three months before his death. It was when the people of Jerusalem had their peculiar way of recalling the forty years when their ancestors wandered about the desert in tents. For a whole week at the beginning of winter they would abandon their homes to live in palm branch huts set up in the streets.
That year, it had become common talk that the leaders were planning to do away with Jesus; and the people, anxious to see him, were wondering if he would show up for the week-long feast. He surprised and delighted them by appearing, and Chapter Seven and Eight of John’s Gospel give us great pictures of Jesus addressing those crowds.
However, today it is not the Gospel but that first reading that calls for our attention. It recounts the hateful murmuring of the Jewish leaders. Jesus was immeasurably saddened listening to their plotting, knowing that in three months time they would succeed in stripping him and nailing him to a cross between two thieves.
From the distance of these many years, we can still hear Jesus calling to us. Like Job he pleads, “Have pity on me at least you my friends, for the hand of the Lord is on me.”