There are many conspiracy theories floating around in our country.
Some fear that the U.S. Army is using military exercises — war games — to cover up an invasion of the state of Texas. Others claim that aliens from outer space crash-landed near Roswell, New Mexico, and the government is hiding the evidence of that astonishing event.
Still others maintain that Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone to assassinate John F. Kennedy, but that a larger group — including mobsters, Texas oil men and Cuban government agents — plotted to kill the president.
Most of these conspiracy theories sound far-fetched. On the other hand, occasionally, conspiracy theories turn out to be true. In Sunday’s first reading — Wis 2:12, 17-20 — we overhear a group of conspirators weaving their evil plans.
The reading only identifies the conspirators as “the wicked.” However, their conversation also reveals their deep cynicism and unbelief. They explain their torture and murder of the just one as a way to test his claims that God will protect him: “Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.” At the same time, they are confident that he will fail the test. They do not believe the just one.
The test is just a pretext. Their true motive for this persecution of the just one involves revenge: “Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training.” They see their attack upon the just one as a way to defend themselves.
And who is this just one, the target of these conspirators? Once again, the reading fails to clearly identify him. It calls him the son of God, but this term does not shed much light on the question. It could mean anyone who acts according to God’s will, much as we can say that we are adopted sons and daughters of God.
On the other hand, the plotting of these conspirators anticipates the plans that the opponents of Jesus will make to put him to death. Once again, the term “just one” applies very well to Jesus. And the term “son of God” fits in with our understanding of Jesus as the only-begotten Son of God — not merely someone who does God’s will, but who shares in God’s nature, who is consubstantial with the Father.
In light of the events surrounding Jesus’ suffering and death, the unnamed conspirators of the reading are unmasked. They are those who approach Jesus with disbelief and cynicism. At times, they may even be us.