Palm Sunday – 29th March 2015

Humility, Love & Forgiveness

Scripture Reading – Mark 14:1-15:47

READ THE GOSPEL

It was two days before the Passover and the feast of Unleavened Bread, and the chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by some trick and have him put to death. For they said, ‘It must not be during the festivities, or there will be a disturbance among the people.’
Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper; he was at dinner when a woman came in with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the ointment on his head. Some who were there said to one another indignantly, ‘Why this waste of ointment? Ointment like this could have been sold for over three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor’; and they were angry with her. But Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. Why are you upsetting her? What she has done for me is one of the good works. You have the poor with you always, and you can be kind to them whenever you wish, but you will not always have me. She has done what was in her power to do: she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. I tell you solemnly, wherever throughout all the world the Good News is proclaimed, what she has done will be told also, in remembrance of her.’
Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, approached the chief priests with an offer to hand Jesus over to them. They were delighted to hear it, and promised to give him money; and he looked for a way of betraying him when the opportunity should occur.
On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was sacrificed, his disciples said to him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the passover?’ So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the city and you will meet a man carrying a pitcher of water. Follow him, and say to the owner of the house which he enters, “The Master says: Where is my dining room in which I can eat the passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large upper room furnished with couches, all prepared. Make the preparations for us there,’ The disciples set out and went to the city and found everything as he had told them, and prepared the Passover.
When evening came he arrived with the Twelve. And while they were at table eating, Jesus said, ‘I tell you solemnly, one of you is about to betray me, one of you eating with me.’ They were distressed and asked him, one after another, ‘Not I, surely?’ He said to them, ‘It is one of the Twelve, one who is dipping into the same dish with me. Yes, the Son of Man is going to his fate, as the scriptures say he will, but alas for that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! Better for that man if he had never been born!’
And as they were eating he took some bread, and when he had said the blessing he broke it and gave it to them. ‘Take it,’ he said ‘this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and when he had returned thanks he gave it to them, and all drank from it, and he said to them, ‘This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, which is to be poured out for many. I tell you solemnly, I shall not drink any more wine until the day I drink the new wine in the kingdom of God.’
After psalms had been sung they left for the Mount of Olives. And Jesus said to them, ‘You will all lose faith, for the scripture says: I shall strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered, however after my resurrection I shall go before you to Galilee.’ Peter said, ‘Even if all lose faith, I will not.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘I tell you solemnly, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will have disowned me three times.’ But he repeated still more earnestly, ‘If I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ And they all said the same.
They came to a small estate called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Stay here while I pray.’ Then he took Peter and James and John with him. And a sudden fear came over him, and great distress. And he said to them, ‘My soul is sorrowful to the point of death. Wait here, and keep awake.’ And going on a little further he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, this hour might pass him by. ‘Abba (Father)!’ he said ‘Everything is possible for you. Take this cup away from me. But let it be as you, not I, would have it.’ He came back and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Had you not the strength to keep awake one hour? You should be awake, and praying not to be put to the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ Again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And once more he came back and found them sleeping, their eyes were so heavy; and they could find no answer for him. He came back a third time and said to them, ‘You can sleep on now and take your rest. It is all over. The hour has come. Now the Son of Man is to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up! Let us go! My betrayer is close at hand already.’
Even while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, came up with a number of men armed with swords and clubs, sent by the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now the traitor had arranged a signal with them. ‘The one I kiss,’ he had said ‘he is the man. Take him in charge, and see he is well guarded when you lead him away.’ So when the traitor came, he went straight up to Jesus and said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. The others seized him and took him in charge. Then one of the bystanders drew his sword and struck out at the high priest’s servant, and cut off his ear.
Then Jesus spoke. ‘Am I a brigand’ he said ‘that you had to set out to capture me with swords and clubs? I was among you teaching in the Temple day after day and you never laid hands on me. But this is to fulfil the scriptures.’ And they all deserted him and ran away. A young man who followed him had nothing on but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the cloth in their hands and ran away naked.
They led Jesus off to the high priest; and all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes assembled there. Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the high priest’s palace, and was sitting with the attendants warming himself at the fire.
The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus on which they might pass the death sentence. But they could not find any. Several, indeed, brought false evidence against him, but their evidence was conflicting. Some stood up and submitted this false evidence against him, ‘We heard him say, “I am going to destroy this Temple made by human hands, and in three days build another, not made by human hands.”’ But even on this point their evidence was conflicting. The high priest then stood up before the whole assembly and put this question to Jesus, ‘Have you no answer to that? What is this evidence these men are bringing against you?’ But he was silent and made no answer at all. The high priest put a second question to him, ‘Are you the Christ,’ he said, ‘the Son of the Blessed One?’ ‘I am,’ said Jesus ‘and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.’ The high priest tore his robes, ‘What need of witnesses have we now?’ he said. ‘You heard the blasphemy. What is your finding?’ And they all gave their verdict: he deserved to die.
Some of them started spitting at him and, blindfolding him, began hitting him with their fists and shouting, ‘Play the prophet!’ And the attendants rained blows on him.
While Peter was down below in the courtyard, one of the high priest’s servant-girls came up. She saw Peter warming himself there, stared at him and said, ‘You too were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.’ But he denied it. ‘I do not know, I do not understand, what you are talking about’ he said. And he went out into the forecourt. The servant-girl saw him and again started telling the bystanders, ‘This fellow is one of them.’ But again he denied it. A little later the bystanders themselves said to Peter, ‘You are one of them for sure! Why, you are a Galilean.’ But he started calling down curses on himself and swearing, ‘I do not know the man you speak of.’ At that moment the cock crew for the second time, and Peter recalled how Jesus had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows twice, you will have disowned me three times.’ And he burst into tears.
First thing in the morning, the chief priests together with the elders and scribes, in short the whole Sanhedrin, had their plan ready. They had Jesus bound and took him away and handed him over to Pilate.
Pilate questioned him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ ‘It is you who say it’ he answered. And the chief priests brought many accusations against him. Pilate questioned him again, ‘Have you no reply at all? See how many accusations they are bringing against you!’ But, to Pilate’s amazement, Jesus made no further reply.
At festival time Pilate used to release a prisoner for them, anyone they asked for. Now a man called Barabbas was then in prison with the rioters who had committed murder during the uprising. When the crowd went up and began to ask Pilate the customary favour, Pilate answered them, ‘Do you want me to release for you the king of the Jews?’ For he realised it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over. The chief priests, however, had incited the crowd to demand that he should release Barabbas for them instead. Then Pilate spoke again. ‘But in that case,’ he said to them ‘what am I to do with the man you call king of the Jews?’ They shouted back, ‘Crucify him!’ ‘Why?’ Pilate asked them ‘What harm has he done?’ But they shouted all the louder, ‘Crucify him!’ So Pilate, anxious to placate the crowd, released Barabbas for them and, having ordered Jesus to be scourged, handed him over to be crucified.
The soldiers led him away to the inner part of the palace, that is, the Praetorium, and called the whole cohort together. They dressed him up in purple, twisted some thorns into a crown and put it on him. And they began saluting him, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ They struck his head with a reed and spat on him; and they went down on their knees to do him homage. And when they had finished making fun of him, they took off the purple and dressed him in his own clothes.
They enlisted a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, father of Alexander and Rufus, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha, which means the place of the skull.
They offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he refused it. Then they crucified him, and shared out his clothing, casting lots to decide what each should get. It was the third hour when they crucified him. The inscription giving the charge against him read: ‘The King of the Jews.’ And they crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left.
The passers-by jeered at him; they shook their heads and said, ‘Aha! So you would destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days! Then save yourself: come down from the cross!’ The chief priests and the scribes mocked him among themselves in the same way. ‘He saved others,’ they said ‘he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the king of Israel, come down from the cross now, for us to see it and believe.’ Even those who were crucified with him taunted him.
When the sixth hour came there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you deserted me?’ When some of those who stood by heard this, they said, ‘Listen, he is calling on Elijah.’ Someone ran and soaked a sponge in vinegar and, putting it on a reed, gave it him to drink saying; ‘Wait and see if Elijah will come to take him down.’ But Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The centurion, who was standing in front of him, had seen how he had died, and he said, ‘In truth this man was a son of God.’
There were some women watching from a distance. Among them were Mary of Magdala, Mary who was the mother of James the younger and Joset, and Salome. These used to follow him and look after him when he was in Galilee. And there were many other women there who had come up to Jerusalem with him.
It was now evening, and since it was Preparation Day (that is, the vigil of the sabbath), there came Joseph of Arimathaea, a prominent member of the Council, who himself lived in the hope of seeing the kingdom of God, and he boldly went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate, astonished that he should have died so soon, summoned the centurion and enquired if he was already dead. Having been assured of this by the centurion, he granted the corpse to Joseph who bought a shroud, took Jesus down from the cross, wrapped him in the shroud and laid him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb. Mary of Magdala and Mary the mother of Joset were watching and took note of where he was laid.

REFLECTION

This Sunday, we gather to remember the passion of Jesus and to enter into its mystery. The story of Jesus’ passion is filled with drama, violence and suffering. Yet, the key messages are about peace, love, humility and forgiveness. It is a difficult story for us to hear, and to journey through, but we cannot hurry through it; it slows us down as it unfolds. We hear the story today on Palm Sunday, and we hear it again on Good Friday. It draws us in, even when we would rather turn away, as we relive the shocking brutality that Jesus suffered. A shocking brutality, that is, sadly also evident in our world today, in places where life is not valued.

Jesus enters Jerusalem being hailed as a King and a hero – he had healed the sick, and raised the dead to life; normally a triumphant King, entering a city, would enter on a regal chariot with a stately stallion, flanked by soldiers in a victory procession. Jesus’ entry was very different – he entered Jerusalem on a colt – the foal of a donkey. His followers laid palm branches before him as he made his way in. His entry was not one of flourish and flair – he entered Jerusalem in meekness and humility. The colt and palm branches are symbols of the peace that he offers to his people. His earthly beginnings were humble – born in a stable and laid in a manger. His final days on earth were also humble – the wood of the manger, replaced by the wood of the cross.

Jesus knew what awaited him in Jerusalem; betrayal, rejection and crucifixion. Yet, he entered willingly into it, enduring all of these on our behalf.

We encounter several examples of Jesus’ betrayal in the story of the passion. The betrayal of Jesus by Judas shows us a man whose loyalty was undermined by his desire for money – he sold his loyalty to Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. He thought he could get a better deal by siding with the High Priests’ soldiers.

Is there an element of Judas in us?

Do we sometimes stray away from the right path because we think that we might gain more in the short term by following an easier path?

A second example of betrayal is when Peter denies Jesus 3 times. Peter was one of the good guys yet when it came to the crunch, through fear, he denied that he knew Jesus – his human weakness overtook his honourable side in the moment.

Do we sometimes experience situations where we are paralysed by fear and find it difficult to make the right choice?

A third example of betrayal is when the crowd who welcomed Jesus with jubilation when he arrived in Jerusalem later turned on him to demand the release of Barabbas and to ask Pilate to have Jesus crucified.

Do we sometimes allow ourselves to be pulled along with the crowd instead of standing up and speaking out when we see an injustice?

There is a significant message of hope for us in the midst of all this betrayal – despite the fact that Jesus knew Judas would betray him he still chose him as a disciple. Despite the fact that Peter was not courageous enough to identify himself as a follower of Jesus, Jesus still chose him as the rock on which to build his Church. Despite the fact that the crowd turned against Jesus he still laid down his life for them.

The message for us is that God’s love for us is so immense that he is always ready to forgive us and walk with us, guiding us in choosing the right path and helping us through the rocky patches. We are called to be steady in our trust of God, even when our hope is challenged. The passion is a clear reminder that even those that stumble are given the opportunity to be forgiven and continue to spread the good news; to be signs and bearers of God’s love and compassion to those that we meet along our journey.

Download in PDF: Reflection – Psalm Sunday 29th March 2015 – by Rose O’Connor & Patrick Sullivan

INTRODUCTION TO LECTIO DIVINA

The witnesses of the Resurrection felt a need to explain the tragic death of Jesus, and from this need the accounts of the Passion arose. The witnesses claimed to have seen him alive. They felt they had to put on record the fact that he was executed, and to narrate the circumstances of his death in a way that would make sense of their paschal experience, for themselves and their listeners. For the account to be convincing, they had to do more than just report the chronicle of events. Mark shows how the facts fulfilled what was written in the Scriptures (Mk 14, 27.62; 15, 34). This was how God had willed it should be, and as Jesus himself had foretold (Mk 8, 31; 9, 11; 10, 33-34).

The cross was a stumbling block for the fidelity of the disciples. It was also the supreme moment of revelation of Jesus’ divinity (Mk 15, 39), and it became an obstacle to the faith of those who heard about it after the death of Jesus. Those who believe in the Crucified One will also believe in the Son of God. The authentic believer was one who became a witness to Jesus’ death and proclaimed his divinity, even though he had not lived with Jesus. This should be a matter for serious reflection for people who have lived for a time with Jesus but have not accepted his cross. The disciple of Christ who reflects today on the tragic end of the Lord should reflect also on the sad end of his first disciples. Today’s disciples should not pretend to be better than those first disciples. The Cross of Christ continues to be the obstacle that must be overcome.

LECTIO DIVINA

I. Read: understand what the text is saying, focussing on how it says it

We are indebted to Mark for the oldest written account of the passion and death of Jesus. He follows the probable sequence of events and his report is honest, almost like a court report. It is more, however, than just a simple account of what happened. He pays little attention to the effect of the events on those who took part, including Jesus, apart from what happened in Gethsemane (Mk 14, 32-42). Sometimes he includes seemingly unimportant details, for example, the insults offered before and during the crucifixion (Mk 15, 16-19.29-32), and the tearing of the Temple veil (Mk 15, 38). He does not hesitate to mention embarrassing events such as the betrayal by Peter and the other disciples (Mk 14, 10-11.17-21.26-31.66-72) . The actual death is reported with a precise detail: “it was the third hour when they crucified him.” (Mk 15, 25).  The first chroniclers were not greatly interested in relating what their listeners already knew. They were more concerned with explaining their deeper significance. They focussed, accordingly, on facts that showed clearly how the ancient prophecies were fulfilled. In this way they demonstrated that what happened to Jesus was in accordance with a precise plan of God.

The account opens with a reference to the imminence of the Jewish festival and the conspiracy of the authorities (Mk 14, 1-2). Mark begins by linking the feast of Passover and the death of Jesus, a death that was preceded by conspiracy and intrigue. In contrast to this sombre beginning is the devout gesture of the woman of Bethany who anticipates the anointing of the body of Jesus in preparation for his burial (Mk 14, 3-9). The disciples thought the money should have been used for the poor, but Jesus accepted the woman’s gesture with the comment, ”You have the poor with you always.” (Mk 14, 7). The poor can wait, but not Judas who handed over his master in return for money (Mk 14, 10-11). These three brief scenes form a good introduction to the account. All are ready – the executioners, the victim and the traitor.

The account of the Passover supper (Mk 14, 12-31) shows that Jesus is completely aware of what is happening and in complete control of events. He knows where he is to celebrate the feast and he allows his disciples to make the necessary preparations (Mk 14, 12-16). He foretells, both before (Mk 14, 17-21) and after (Mk 14 26-31) the institution of the Eucharist (Mk 14,22-25), his betrayal by Judas, his abandonment by all the disciples, and Peter’s repeated denial. Alone, even though the disciples are still with him, Jesus sums up in a gesture of total communion the gift of his life, by giving himself beforehand to all in the form of bread and wine. And notice – he does so, knowing that they are not worthy, for he knows that they will not remain faithful.

He handed himself over to his closest friends in the supper-room, and immediately afterwards he was handed over to his adversaries in the garden (Mk 14,26-31). But Gethsemane was not only the place of betrayal and arrest – it was also the place of his supreme trial. And while Jesus was fighting for his life, and asking to be spared the will of his Father, his disciples slept, and God remained silent. If he is to remain the Son of God, Jesus is left with no other choice than to do, not his own will, but the will of the Father (Mk 14,36), and to be handed over “into the hands of sinners” (Mk 14,41). He allows himself to be betrayed with a kiss (Mk 14, 45), captured by an armed crowd (Mk 14, 48), and abandoned by God and by his followers.

The account of the trial is central to the whole account of the passion and is therefore more detailed. In fact, Jesus had to undergo two trials. Before the high priest in his palace (Mk 14, 53-72), Jesus cannot avoid answering the question of his identity, a question which is central to the whole gospel. The reply is held back by the evangelist to this crucial moment of the account. He is the Messiah. He has the power of God at whose right hand he sits, and he will come again (Mk 14, 61-62).   His admission is unequivocal. The Jews understood it and condemned him for blasphemy.

Meanwhile, the narrator tells us, Peter was busy denying the Lord. The servant-girl accused him of being one of them on account of his accent. His triple denial follows literally the prediction of Jesus (Mk 14, 30.72). He was condemned to death by the Jewish authorities (Mk 14, 64), and brought before Pilate (Mk 15,1-20). Here the accusation was changed from blasphemy to political sedition, so that Pilate would condemn him to death. Jesus showed little interest in replying to Pilate’s questions. He did not tell Pilate if he was King of the Jews, nor in what way he was King (Mk 15, 2.4). Rejected by his own people (Mk 15, 13) he was now at the mercy of the soldiers who offended him with insults and derided him (Mk 15,16-20).  Jesus reacted with silence, without losing his dignity, and accepting his fate.

The scene of the crucifixion and death follows (Mk 15, 21-41). It focuses more on anecdote than on the essential. On his way to the place of execution they offer the assistance of a passer-by from Cyrene, and a drink to relieve the pain. They share his garments among them, and they crucify him between two thieves. Even as he hangs on the cross, he is still insulted. There is no greater loneliness than that of feeling abandoned even by God (Mk 15, 34). The bystanders continue to mock him, shouting out the charge on which he had been condemned (Mk 15, 32).

His death is described factually: there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour (Mk 15, 34.37), the veil of the Temple was torn in two, and the pagan centurion professed faith in him as the son of God. This sequence of events may seem unlikely, from a historical point of view, but the narrator’s intention is clear – in his moment of greatest weakness and powerlessness, as Jesus is dying, abandoned by his followers and rejected by his people, it is still possible to have faith in his divinity (Mk 15, 39).  It was not his miracles nor his preaching, nor his disciples nor the admiration of people that led to faith in Jesus, but his death on the cross.

The account of the passion ends with a brief scene, that of Jesus’ burial (Mk 15, 42-47). The fact that a stone was rolled in front of the entrance to the tomb shows, in a manner beyond doubt, the triumph of death over Jesus, and the infidelity of his disciples. The mention of the women who were present at his burial confirms the authenticity of the death of Jesus and the silence of God.

II. Meditate:  apply what the text says to life

After listening, yet again, to the account of the passion, it might be more appropriate to let the heart speak, to remain silent and allow no word to take us away from the drama of the cross, or get in the way of our contemplation of Christ crucified. Often the less said, the better the understanding, in respectful contemplation. Moreover, we are generally unhappy in speaking about death and suffering. In the words of St John Paul II: “Modern man, despite his achievements, feels in his personal and collective experience the abyss of abandonment, the temptation of nihilism, the absurdity of so much physical, moral and spiritual suffering.” He is unable to make sense of this suffering, and does not reflect upon that fact that “all these sufferings were taken upon himself by Christ in his cry of anguish, and his trusting abandonment to his heavenly Father.”   Even Christians who celebrate the Passion of Jesus as our salvation, are not convinced that in and through the passion, “night has been transformed into day, suffering into joy, and death into life.”

We should not be too surprised at our inability to find our salvation in the cross of Christ. The death of Christ on the cross was then, and continues to be today, a scandal. Like the first disciples, the believers of today find it hard to accept that the violent and unjust death of his Son could be the way chosen by God to come to our help. We fail to understand that this ignominious destiny was inevitable. We cannot comprehend that God’s love should be revealed in such dreadful deeds. The death of Jesus is all the more illogical because of the brutality and injustice that brought it about. We find it hard to acknowledge that God was behind all that happened to Jesus on the Cross.

It is bad enough that we do not understand the reason for his death. What is worse is that we fail to acknowledge that we are among those who caused it. What happened during the lifetime of Jesus is still happening today. The few followers who accompanied him during his last days in Jerusalem were quick to abandon him as inexorably he drew near to Calvary. Then and now, the place of Jesus’ death is the place where his followers betray him. The enthusiasm which Jesus had awakened in his disciples, died within them even before he died on the cross. There no longer seemed to be any benefit in following someone who was heading for such a bad end. We can understand very well those disciples who were unable to look at the spectacle of the cross. We are so like them ourselves that we even sympathize with them!

It is possible that today we find even greater difficulty, because in our time death is something we prefer to forget, as long as it does not concern us, and we are not interested in injustice and disorder, provided they don’t touch us. We share with those first Christians an unwillingness to accept that it is in the death of Jesus that we obtain eternal life and our final salvation. We think of the death of Jesus as something that happened in the past, two thousand years ago, and we run the risk of failing to recognise that it concerns us directly. We know that others killed him and so we do not feel responsible for his death. The fact that it happened long ago and far away, and that others were actively involved, allows us to distance ourselves from any feeling of guilt and adds to our indifference. We absolve ourselves from the sins we commit, and we do not feel responsible for the harm we do to others, because we refuse to acknowledge that we are saved in the cross of Christ. However, whether we like it or not, if we do not find our salvation in the cross, we will not find any other way, not to mention any better way, in which we can feel that we are saved by God.

We, therefore, the disciples of today, like the disciples of two thousand years ago, are the worst enemies and the most unwilling believers of the salvation that God has brought to the world through the cross of Christ. We lose God’s saving power if we let the cross of Christ fall from our hands and from our hearts. We may not realize it, but we think it would be easier to understand God without the cross. We would prefer a God who responds to our own image and meets all the desires of our hearts. The fact that we are unable to understand a God who loves us on the cross of Christ, need not stop us from feeling loved. The cross of Christ is the proof of God’s love, but it makes it more problematic, not more intelligible. We could never have imagined such love!

The cross puts an end to all man’s attempts to tame God. On the cross God’s personal freedom will remain always supreme and beyond our comprehension. On the cross God has proved his determination to remain faithful despite our unwillingness. And God’s option for the cross is not the hardest thing we come up against in our lack of understanding. Worse still is that we cease to believe in God’s love for us, because we do not appreciate the means he has chosen to show his love. If we do not value the cross of Christ, if we forget it or ignore it, how can we ever understand God’s reasons, the reasons for a love that is seen only in the cross of Christ? Nobody can ever feel truly loved by God, if he does not accept God’s way of showing his love. It would be really sad if, because we do not accept it in our minds, we were to reject it also in our hearts. If we do not accept the cross of Christ, then we do not accept God’s salvation.

And yet, this problem is as old as the following of Christ. From the time that Jesus called people to share his way of life and his destiny, his plans and his daily routine, he discovered that they followed him to the cross, but not all the way to the end. They left him there, alone. The one who promised fidelity most was the very one who denied him. One of those with whom he had shared his life, was the one who handed him over to his opponents. Living with Jesus night and day was not enough. The knowledge acquired on long journeys with him as he preached the kingdom was insufficient. Their enthusiasm and faith did not reach far below the surface. At the foot of the cross, to the great shame of the disciples, the only one to proclaim faith in him was a stranger, the man who had been responsible for his crucifixion.

The end of Jesus and the disciples who followed him should make us think. If we say we are living with Jesus and do not accept his cross, then we ought to reflect on the fact that all the disciples failed and the only one who stood by him was a pagan. Mark puts on record that the first Christian was born when a man declared faith in the dying Christ as the Son of God. The disciple of Christ who today remembers the tragic end of the Lord, should remember also the tragic, almost farcical, end of the first disciples. We have no reason to think that we are any better than those first disciples. The cross is still the great test to be overcome. It is the proof of Jesus’ fidelity and should also be the proof of our fidelity to him. Bearing this in mind will help us to celebrate the upcoming feasts with greater responsibility. Our faith will not be free of doubt until we accept the cross of Christ.