by Rev. Jerry Pokorsky
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
Jesus said: "I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father."
Memo to: Caesar. From: Pontius Pilate, Procurator, Jerusalem. Subject: My strategy for governing the Jews. 33 A.D (whatever A.D. means).
Yo, Caesar (no offense intended)! You’ll be pleased I’m at last tuning in to the culture according to your instructions and trying to reach out to the Jews to keep them “on the reservation” as they say in America. The natives are restless. There seems to be a lot of agitation — especially among the chief priests and Pharisees — over some itinerant preacher from Galilee, but I think it’s because everyone has way too much time on their hands. No worry. I have a plan.
It seems the preacher identified himself in recent days as a “Good Shepherd.” Now there’s a throwback image. Do they really fear a self-identified “shepherd” in a city like Jerusalem competing with the politically astute (I must admit) likes of Herod and Caiaphas? Their overreaction is stunning.
Besides, the preacher is not up to date and doesn’t even bother with the modern means of communication. He thinks, as Shepherd, he needs to “know (His) sheep” just as the sheep “know” Him. He doesn’t seem to realize how time- and energy-consuming the “personal touch” is. “Shepherding” according to His methods is not the stuff of political leadership. Yet the leaders of the Jews somehow feel threatened by Him, and it’s hard to convince them otherwise.
The other day on the Sabbath, one of our spies in a synagogue took notes on the behavior of two children and their mothers. (Stick with me because I think I’m on to something.) The first child was on-again-off-again unruly, and the mother was valiantly trying to tame the little twerp to no avail. She took the child into the courtyard when it got too loud and returned when it settled down — only to repeat the cycle to her annoyance. Folks were shushing in the direction of the child and looking with scorn at the mother. The struggle continued throughout the entire service, and the mother was clearly exhausted at the dismissal.
There was another mother with her child who presented the congregation a model of good behavior. In her wisdom, the mother gave her 3-year-old the latest Caesar phone (Julius Caesar Model, version 2.1). The child was absolutely fascinated with the device, poking in numbers and calling up images and remaining occupied in silence through the entire service. The congregants were offering smiling and appreciative glances in the direction of mother and child. Problem solved.
I got to thinking about this and I’m sure you’ll appreciate — pardon my presumption — these genius insights from my spy: “In time, it must be said, the persistent and vigilant mother with the unruly child will very likely tame the child. The boy will learn that the parents believe ‘something really important’ is taking place in the worship of the synagogue requiring attention, patience and good behavior. In a few years the child may even voluntarily join them as a good practicing Jew.” So the mother is playing the part of a “good shepherd,” to borrow the phrase of our itinerant preacher. And it’s time-consuming and yielding important results for the Jews.
On the other hand, my spy suggests, “The child busy with the Caesar phone is, for the moment, the very model of good child-like synagogue behavior. But he will never come to realize that prayer and worship are important. He will learn to text and have long vapid conversations with friends. But worship? Boring. No time for that.” And it’s a way of life we can exploit.
My precocious infiltrator concludes: “Imagine the entire Jewish population fixating on electronic devices produced on the cheap by child laborers on the Roman frontiers. Imagine a television in every house sucking the air out of personal interaction and quiet time for every family. Visualize televisions in the rooms of every nursing home, babysitting the elderly and filling their minds with useless images before they enter their sepulchers. Imagine the kids in the basement numbing their brains with video gladiator games for hours without end. Imagine the countless hours spent viewing the erotic images from the Roman bathhouses on their Caesar phones.”
There will be no time for or interest in “the classics” — if that’s the word you want to use for the work of that gadfly Shakespeare who is constantly reminding us about what happened to poor Julius. There will be no time or interest for prayer or worship. No time or interest for thought. And above all, there will be no time and interest for truth (whatever that means). They will become our sheep under the wise direction of you, Caesar.
Now if I might persuade you and the Roman Senate to provide funds for all those electronic devices and make them available for cheap purchase at Roman depots throughout Israel, we have a real chance to tame the population in short order. I think it’s best to ignore our itinerant “Good Shepherd” because He’s already out of date and just can’t keep up with the times. And the grievances of the leadership against Him seem to be a local Jewish thing, so I’m not too concerned. But I’ll remain vigilant and keep you posted.
We’ll just have to keep those Caesar phones out of the hands of our centurions.
Your obedient servant, Pilate.
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