Painting by Salvador Dali
PASSION SUNDAY - B
Mark 14:1 - 15:47
Today is Passion Sunday. According to Henri Nouwen passion happens when things are being done to a person over which he has no control and becomes the recipient of other people’s initiatives. Jesus embraced his passion when starting in Gethsemane he was “handed over” by Judas, then later on by the Jewish religious leaders, by Pilate and ultimately by his Father. In the last three years of his life Jesus, he was in full control of his action in his public ministry: teaching, preaching and performing miracles. In the last three days of his life, when he was “handed over”, he was under the initiative of the action of other people. At the end the Son handed over his life in utter abandonment to the One he called Father and God who abandoned him: “My God, my God why have you abandoned me?”
Today as the Church processes with Jesus into Jerusalem, he invites us once again to enter into his Paschal Mystery. We embrace the “Boundless God” as he empties himself into the “mystery of love” that defines his divinity and our humanity as well. We enter into the “doors of the sacred” to see the countenance of God. Through the liturgical celebrations of this Holy Week we do not only commemorate the great events in the life of Jesus but as active participants we “make them present” by the virtue of our paschal character.
The Paschal Mystery of Jesus can be viewed in two ways: we can either see him as he “died for our sins” and/or as he “entered his glory”. The atonement theory is the expression of the juridical character of the salvific events that Jesus had to go through. Because humanity sinned against God, somebody had to pay the ransom, the price of which was suffering and death by the Messiah. The only way to expiate the debt was through a sacrifice that required the shedding of blood. This is why Jesus had to go through all the horrendous passion: the agony in Gethsemane, scourging at the pillar, the crowning of thorns, the carrying of the cross and eventually the dying on the cross. Most of us commemorate the Holy Week by reflecting the events more as the sacred works of Jesus that saved us. “By his wounds we were healed” (Is. 53).
The Paschal Mystery is not only redemptive but also revelatory. Whilst the atonement theory of his passion is focused more on the juridical aspect of suffering and death, another way of seeing the Paschal Mystery is in its revelatory nature. All that happened in the passion are the “unveiling” of the countenance of God when Jesus “entered into glory”. We don’t normally see it that way because we are more attuned to seeing glory as a shining splendour and immaculate perfection. Glory in the passion takes on a different twist that shakes the worldly standard of beauty and form. We see Jesus naked, crowned with thorns, bruised, spat upon, despised, mocked and died as a criminal. This is the “divine beauty” that continues to shakes and confronts the world. In this beauty the glory of God shines more in the Person of God who manifested himself as "Love-in-action".
The paschal character of Jesus’ Paschal Mystery is shared to us in every aspect of our being so that we can say that the life of every Christian is “paschal” in nature”. It means that we always carry within us the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus that continue to transform us as God’s children unto the being of the Son. “Though it belongs to one precise moment of our time it has an eternal actuality because never for an instant Jesus leaves the moment of redemption, the moment of death in which he is raised and glorified” (Francois X. Durwell). We do no only commemorate the Passion of Jesus as an event that happened as part of human history, but rather we re-live it as actors with chosen roles to play in this on-going, eternal drama of Trinitarian self-emptying.