This past Sunday, faithful Christians listened to the proclamation of the Passion Narrative from the Gospel of Matthew. Remember, the Passion Narratives of the Gospels are testimony to the event of the torture and execution of the Lord Jesus. This testimony, gathered from eyewitnesses to the event, is presented in the form of a story.
It is the Church’s faith that the story or narrative presented in the Gospels about the Lord Jesus’ terrifying death is true and presents the essential details concerning what happened.
But why did this happen? The mystery of this is revealed in reference to the Old Testament scriptures, particularly the prophets, and in this regard, particularly Isaiah, who speaks of the revelation of God in what he understood as a “suffering servant”.
This “suffering servant” would accomplish the transformation of Israel and the world through his suffering. This is how God would act to reveal his divine life and presence to the world. This is how God would act to invite Israel and the world to receive the gift of communion with his divine life.
We Christians believe that Christ is this suffering servant foreseen by the prophets, but even more than this, God surprises Israel and the world by becoming himself the suffering servant.
This is what we see in the cross and it is the reason we reverence the cross. The cross does not simply display a man who suffered a terrible injustice, but it is the revelation of God, who accepted a human nature, lived a real, human life, and suffered and died.
This is why for us Christians the cross is the pivotal event of all of history- because it is on the cross that God in Christ suffers and dies, and in doing so, changes suffering and death forever.
The meaning of this transformation of suffering and death is revealed to us in Christ’s resurrection.
The rituals and devotions of Holy Week are meant to take us ever deeper into the mysterious revelation that God in Christ suffers and dies. These mysteries culminate in the celebration of Easter, which is not for us merely a celebration of springtime, but the solemn remembrance that God in Christ became for us the “suffering servant”.
Both yesterday and today, Christ’s Gospel presents the tragic figure of Judas.
Judas fascinates many. His betrayal compels us to consider our own refusals of Christ. It is likely that our refusals are not as dramatic as that of Judas, but lurking within us all is a dark “no”. The “no” we offer to God is always a betrayal and it is in our “no” to Christ that we inhabit the same dark reality as Judas.
We have only hours before the Church’s solemn celebration of Christ’s Paschal Mystery begins. In these mysteries, we will be compelled again to a decision, the same decision faced by Judas- are we for Christ or against him? Will we gather with Christ into the Church or will we scatter?
Will we scurry off like Judas into the darkness of our refusals of Christ or place our lives in loving service to Christ, who in his suffering, death and resurrection, reveals himself to be the Light of the World.