Passion Sunday, Year C
First reading: Is 50:4-7
Second Reading: Phil 2:6-11
Gospel reading: Lk 22:14-23:56
This Sunday, “the liturgy of the Church solemnly opens Holy Week”, says the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
It begins with “the long gospel”, which recounts the Last Supper of Jesus and his agony, betrayal, arrest, trial, torture and death by crucifixion.
It was “a death which he freely accepted”, says the Church. “I gave my back to those who beat me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from insults and spitting,” Isaiah prophesied. Jesus “did not view equality with God as something to be exploited,” said St. Paul; he “humbled himself and became obedient unto death – even death on a cross”.
It was all for us. “He was pierced for our trespasses, crushed for our sins,” says Isaiah.
Jesus took on our sins in his incarnation, when he said to his father, “I have come to do your will. He accepted “his mission as a suffering servant of God” when he was baptized, letting himself be “counted among sinners”, becoming “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”.
However, it was at the Last Supper, when he gave himself to us as food and drink, that God “made him who knew not that sin was sin, that in him we might become holiness even of God”. In this union, he was infected by our sin.
A few days earlier he had stood before the tomb of Lazarus and addressed his father with “filial audacity”, the Catechism said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. I know you still hear me, but I said that for the good of the crowd.
Now, however, he kneels in the garden, in such anguish that his sweat falls to the ground like drops of blood, and pleads, “Father, if it be your will, take away this cup from me. Now he seems to be unsure of his father’s will; he seems to submit to it rather than do it.
He has become sin and he begins to suffer the consequences. The most distressing is the separation from his father, culminating in his cry on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
It was all for us. As we listen, we are horrified at the pain our sins have caused him; we are filled with pity as he is mocked by the soldiers, falls under the cross, meets his mother and moans, “I am thirsty”.
We long to respond to his heartrending reproach: “Couldn’t you watch an hour with me?” We want to accompany him to the cross instead of fleeing, wiping his face as the tradition of Saint Veronica says.
What can we do?
First, we can stop sinning. We were “the authors and ministers” of all his sufferings, says the Catechism; we bear “the most serious responsibility” for his torments; we crucify him again when we revel in our vices and sins.
Secondly, we can accompany it by participating in the mass, in the sacramental representation of Calvary. On the cross, Christ, as priest, offered himself, as victim, to God the Father, in the one perfect sacrifice offered for all men and for all times. On the altar, his priests, acting in his person, offer it, under the appearances of bread and wine, to God the Father, in the same perfect sacrifice.
At Mass, we become contemporaries of the passion of Christ: his passion is present for us and we are present to his passion. When we hear Were you there when they crucified my Lord? we can answer “Yes!”
This representation is possible through the two sacraments that Jesus instituted on Maundy Thursday: the Holy Eucharist – when he said: “This is my body…this is my blood” – and Holy Orders, when he said: “Do this in memory of me. ”
If we neglect the Mass, we neglect Christ and what he has done for us.
Father Hawkswell teaches again The Catholic faith in simple English. The entire course is available in written form and sessions 1-27 in YouTube form at beholdvancouver.org/catholic-faith-course. Session 28, “Holy Week”, will be available on YouTube from April 10.