Saint Vincent Archabbey
Matthew's passion narrative begins with the plot of Judas Iscariot to betray Jesus and continues through the well-known scenes: celebration of the Passover meal; the promises by Peter and all the disciples that they would never lose faith in Jesus; the agony in the garden called Gethsemane; the arrest of Jesus; the abandonment of Jesus by all his disciples; the trial; Peter's denial of Jesus; the suicide of Judas; Pilate's release of Barabbas and condemnation of Jesus to death by crucifixion; the torture and mockery by the Roman soldiers; the crucifixion accompanied by dramatic signs of a new age; the burial of Jesus..
Jesus began his mission with his baptism at the Jordan. The Spirit of God came upon him, and a voice came from heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased" (Mt 3:13-17). Immediately following this event, Matthew tells us that from that moment until the end Jesus would undergo temptations to reject his truth of being beloved Son, pleasing to God. The passion narrative presents the last and most severe trial of Jesus' fidelity. Every earthly reason is progressively removed for trusting in God's love, even to experiencing a horrible and shameful death on a cross.
Matthew in his passion narrative gives us some insight into the mystery of how the Spirit enabled Jesus to pray through his experience of suffering and dying. It is in this pattern that the Spirit of Jesus now enables us to pray through the trials of our own life and death.
Jesus begins his passion with the observance of the Passover meal with his disciples.
The structure of this sacred ritual meal consists of readings, hymns and psalms of the biblical tradition he knew so well. Through these prophecies and prayers of the Hebrew scriptures, he recognized and accepted his sacrificial role in the divine plan to create a new covenant with all humanity. Matthew mentions that after Jesus sang a final hymn with his disciples, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
With three of his disciples Jesus went to a place called Gethsemane, where he began to feel sorrow and distress. Here again, now foreseeing his imminent suffering and death, Jesus prays, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will" (Mt 26:39).
Finally, Jesus dying upon a cross, cries out in prayer the heart-rending plea of the twenty-second psalm: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me" (Mt 27:46)? In his dark night of the soul, emptied now of every human evidence of God's loving presence, Jesus is sustained in hope through the pure light of faith. Trusting that even in this fearful moment of dying he is beloved Son, Jesus freely gives up his life into God's hands (Mt 27:50)..
Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.
Palm Sunday, Modern
Sunday, April 9, 2017
Lectionary 37 and 38 Gospel Matthew 26: 14-27:66
The first processional antiphon for Palm Sunday reads, "The children of the Hebrews, carrying olive branches, went to meet the Lord, crying out and saying: 'Hosanna in the highest’”. The "children of the Hebrews” are the subject of this acclamation although that phrase appears nowhere in the Bible.
The precision of those words, and the fact that they do not come from the Bible, caught my notice and made me reflect on the journey of the "children of the Hebrews” and on our closeness to them. Two sons of the Hebrew people in particular emerge in the gospel for Palm Sunday as illustrating the possibilities that face every human person, no matter their race or nation, at the end of our earthly journey: life and death, redemption and despair, the blessing and the curse.
The gospel reading of the passion from St. Matthew describes these two men in terms of their profound betrayals of Jesus: the betrayal committed by Peter and that committed by Judas. Both men were part of God’s chosen people, both were elected by Jesus to be members of his most intimate band of disciples, and both were accompanied by him on their journey of faith just as we are.
Peter and Judas walked together with Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, they dined with him at the last supper, they sinned against him in ways that stand in the spotlight of world history—and that crouch in the shadows of every person’s heart of darkness. In a real sense, Peter and Judas dwell in each one of us, not only on account of our common capacity for sin, but on account of our common longing to cure the effects of sin in our lives.
Peter found resolution to the sin that marked the cardinal moment of his life by lamenting it and turning back to Christ, and thereby obtaining forgiveness and a new beginning. John tells us that Peter would later be commissioned by the risen Lord to be the chief pastor of his earthly flock and to give his life in witness to Jesus (see John 21:15-19). Judas on the other hand is so racked by the horror of his betrayal that he despairs of forgiveness and takes his own life, thinking that the only resolution to his action was death itself.
While we share with the "children of the Hebrews” in human weakness, we hold as well to the same hope for wholeness and forgiveness that they demonstrate time and time again. We believe as Catholics that this wholeness which is variously called salvation, redemption, justification, and reconciliation comes only through Jesus Christ. At the same time we believe that this treasure of divine grace which we hold in earthen vessels is found at least partially in many signs and movements of the spirit which animate our brothers and sisters who have yet to hear the gospel in its fullness.
We maintain also that the victory over sin and death in which we rejoice on Easter Sunday will in God’s own mysterious design bring salvation to the "children of the Hebrews”, for "if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead”, and because "the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable” (Rom 11:15, 29).
This year, in the very same days when the Jewish people celebrate Passover we mark our own observance of the Paschal mystery. Passover represents liberation from servitude, including sin in all of its dimensions, and the beginning of the long journey of Israel with God as his uniquely chosen people.
As we begin Holy Week, let us not forget that we too are a pilgrim people, making our journey of faith in this life by walking together not just with the "children of the Hebrews” but with the children of God of all nations and all ages—ultimately tracing the footsteps of Jesus himself, who humbled himself to share in our humanity, that we might share in his divinity, and might follow him into his Kingdom.
Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.