March 16, 2008 Year A
Reflections on the Readings
By Dennis Hankins
Theme: Let Him Be Crucified
And he (Pilate) said, "Why, what evil has he done?" But they shouted all the more, "Let him be crucified."
As Lent is reaching a climax we move quickly into the events of Holy Week. The Passion of our Lord is reflected upon today to allow us to see the end from the beginning of this holiest of weeks. Also, for those unable to participate in the Good Friday Liturgy, the whole meaning of Lent and this coming week is emphasized to give shape and order to our understanding of this final week, which reveals the mystery of our salvation.
The Gospel passage is read today allowing our participation with those who shouted all the more, "Let him be crucified." The old spiritual asks, "Were you there when they crucified my Lord." The answer is Yes! This is disturbingly uncomfortable. There are two reasons for this discomfort. One is that we want to believe we would have behaved differently. We want to believe that we would not have betrayed our Lord. We really think we would have owned up to knowing Jesus and not betrayed him as Peter did. Second, we are not comfortable taking up our cross and being crucified with him. But crucified with Christ is to truly live, because that is the way the life of Jesus increases in us.
Today's Gospel of the Passion of the Lord is presented as follows.
The Last Supper the First Time
Our Lord's celebration of the Passover culminates in his invoking it as a memorial of himself. This is the first time Jesus has spoken of this Passover meal in this way. "Take, eat, this is my body," he says. The cup also is no longer wine but is "my blood of the covenant," he says.
Some ask to this day what the Jews disputed long ago when they said, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat." And some of Jesus' disciples as well found this saying too difficult and no longer walked with him. But at that final Passover, when Jesus is alone with the 12, he gave them himself in the bread that he broke and the cup that he shared. And the Church has been celebrating the same presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist for 2,000 years.
Gethsemane, the Hour of Sorrow and Trouble
The weight of the hour and the sins of humanity were already beginning to press upon the Lord. Gethsemane is a Hebrew word meaning "oil press." This Mount of Olives is now a prelude of what would soon follow. And it is here where Jesus shows us the way to embrace and to love the will of our Father.
As we reflect upon our Lord's experience, it is not always possible to have the support of those nearest us. From our Lord we are to learn even for ourselves the agony of the prayer, "Not as I will, but as thou wilt." I say agony, because it is not an easy prayer. The flesh is weak. Much of what passes for spiritual existence today is only well pampered religious flesh. But Gethsemane is the place we must go to find and to know the fullness of the will of the Father.
When Politics and Religion Mix
A mock trial and false witnesses and then finally someone remembers halfway Jesus saying something about destroying the temple and rebuilding it in three days. And then the fatal question, "Are you the Christ, the Son of God?" It is this that lets us know that it is possible to stand right in front of Jesus and not know him. And Jesus, who cannot deny himself lest he truly blaspheme His Father, speaks of his place at the right hand of Power.
Only the Roman authorities could carry out capital punishment. Whereas the Sanhedrin could claim Jesus was a blasphemer worthy of death, they had to persuade Pilot that Jesus is also a political rival. So Pilate asks, "Are you the King of the Jews?"
Trumped up charges, religious and political intrigue all move the drama of redemption forward. So the Just one suffers for the unjust, and the Lamb who opened not his mouth is led like a sheep to the slaughter.
On A Hill Far Away a Life is Poured Out
At the institution of the Lord's Supper, Jesus spoke of the cup as the blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. The impact of his death on all that is seen and unseen cannot be overstated.
The veil in the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And the earth shook. The tombs also were opened. Some stood from afar while others like John the Beloved and Mary the Mother of Jesus remained close by. Our Lord's libation of himself came forth from his wounds and a centurion's spear released the blood and water from his side. And the centurion and those who were with him were filled with awe and he said, "Truly this was the Son of God."
It is the libation of his love on Golgotha that draws us into our Lord's heart. It is under that sacred Cross where we find a refuge for ourselves and for those we love. It is to the Cross we are drawing near to this Holy Week. There, looking upon Him who hangs from that sacred tree do we seek for ourselves some measure of his sacred heart.
Let us pray: Dear Jesus, help me to never neglect or ever be inattentive to the wonders of your love poured out on Mount Calvary. May I embrace the power of your Cross and never be ashamed of the message of the Cross. May I ever cling to the old rugged Cross. Amen.