Today's reading of the Passion of our Lord is one of the highlights of the Church year. This year we heard St. Matthew's account of the Passion. Next year we will hear St. Mark's account and the year after we will have St. Luke's account. Of course, on Good Friday we always have the Passion according to St. John. Although each of the Evangelists approaches the life of Christ in a different way, they draw very close to each other when it comes to the Passion.
The narrative of the Passion seems like a great drama with a cast of characters with whom we can all identify. If we could be in the drama, what role would we play? Would we be like the disciples who fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane? or would we be part of the crowd who mocked and taunted Jesus only a short time after cheering Him and waiving palm branches?
Maybe we would like a more important role. We could be Pontius Pilate who condemned Jesus, or Peter who denied Him, or even Judas who betrayed Him. Still, it is clear from today's readings that we are supposed to play the part of Jesus, Himself. The Church has always recognized that in His Passion and Death our Lord gave us an example which we must follow. Many times during His time on Earth Jesus said, "Follow Me”. Many times He urged us to take up our cross and follow Him.
Today's readings show that it is through the practice of humility and self sacrifice that we come to follow the Lord. Matthew begins his account of the Passion at the Last Supper. There Jesus told the disciples that He would give up His body and blood for us all, and that they should share in this sacrifice. When He asks us at every Mass to eat His Body and drink His Blood, he is also asking us to share in His sacrifice on Calvary.
Today's first reading is about humility and self sacrifice.
I gave my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;
my face I did not shield
from buffets and spitting.
St. Paul in the letter to the Philippians says that Jesus "humbled Himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."
This is the point of all of our little sacrifices during Lent. Everything that we gave up or did was to remind ourselves that we do not live just for ourselves. Humility means giving up our own pride and ambition for the sake of others. Didn't our Lord say that we must deny ourselves in order to save ourselves? that we must lose our life in order to find it?
Our Lord was a great teacher but the Passion shows us that He taught by example.
Reading 1. Isaiah 50: 4-7
Reading II. Philippians 2: 6-11
Gospel. Matthew 26: 14--27: 66 (the Passion).
* Image by Melissa DeStefano