by Plinio Corrêa de OliveiraFirst Reflection
“Jesus, knowing all that would happen to Him, went forth, and said to them: ‘Whom do you seek?’ They answered him: ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus said to them: ‘I AM He.’ As soon as He had said to them: ‘I AM He’; they went backward, and fell to the ground. Again, He asked them: ‘Whom do you seek?’ And they said, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus answered, ‘I have told you that I AM He.’” (John 18:4–8)
When Our Lord was arrested, He did two seemingly contradictory things. On the one hand, He spoke in such an authoritative voice that His listeners fell to the ground. On the other hand, He stooped to pick up Malchus’ ear, severed by Peter’s sword, and reattached it to the man’s head. He Who terrified also consoled. The same One Who speaks forcefully replaces the severed ear. Is there not some teaching here?
Our Lord is always infinitely good. He was good to those who sought Him that night as Jesus of Nazareth, and also good when replacing Malchus’ ear. If we desire to be good, we should learn to imitate Our Lord’s goodness. We should learn from Him that there are moments when it is necessary to know how to energetically hurl the enemies of the Faith to the ground, as well as to know when it is necessary to show compassion to those who want to hurt us.
Why did Our Lord say, “I AM He”? Was it only to physically shake those who wanted to arrest Him? Why do such a thing when He would, a little while later, voluntarily give Himself up? The reason is that if He spoke so loudly to the ears, it was only so He could speak even more loudly to the hearts.
We do not know if those men ultimately profited by the grace they received, but the fear they certainly felt when falling at the sound of the Master’s voice was just as valuable as when that same voice shouted, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?”
Our Lord spoke loudly to the ears. Though they fell to the ground, the same voice that struck the bodies and deafened the ears raised the souls that were prostrate by opening the ears of the spirit that were deaf. Sometimes it is necessary to speak forcefully in order to heal.
“Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it, and struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. And the name of the servant was Malchus.” (John 18:10)
The Redeemer acted differently with Malchus. When He replaced his ear, cut off as a result of Saint Peter’s zeal, Our Lord certainly wanted to grant him a temporal good. However, by healing his ear, Our Lord wanted, above all, to open the ear of his soul. So, He Who had healed the spiritual deafness of a few with the forcefulness of His Divine voice, cured the same spiritual deafness of Malchus with words of sweetness, and a physical miracle.
We live in an epoch of terrible spiritual deafness. If there was ever a time when mankind needed to listen to God’s voice, ours is such a time; but ours is also an era that certainly has the hardest of hearts.
The Divine Master shows us that, if we want to cure our own spiritual deafness, as well as our neighbor’s, He is the only one who can do so, as mere human means are useless.
Let us be one with the blind man of the Gospel who shouted to Our Lord, “Domine, ut videam!” -- “Lord, that I may see!”
Let us take advantage of the celebrations of Holy Week to ask Him to help us to hear, “Domine, ut audiam!” -- “Lord, that I may hear!” We don’t know how Our Lord will heal our spiritual deafness—nor does it matter. Let us fulfil His Divine will whether He speak with the terrible voice of reprimand and punishment or with the sweet voice of consolations. What really matters is that we beseech Him, “Lord, that I may hear!”
Let us at least listen wholeheartedly to Our Lord’s voice and, by sincerely opening our souls to the graces He grants us, bring about within ourselves the fullness of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, which the enemies of the Church hope to banish from the face of the earth.