Tag Archives: Jesus passion and death

Good Friday; our words are approximations of eternity.

Before we begin… a few pointers to help you get the most from our celebration of Good Friday.

Firstly, it’s not just the person of Jesus that’s rejected, it is God’s truth! He is Truth in human flesh. It’s also Truth – absolute Truth – that’s rejected.

Secondly, I’d like you to notice in the opening lines of the Gospel that when they go to arrest Jesus they don’t know who they’re looking for. He’s not a big name in society!

Thirdly, I’d like you to notice that the State and the religious leaders do their best to get rid of Jesus, but in their best efforts to get rid of him they’re actually fulfilling God’s will! The wisdom of man is foolishness to God!

Image of Christ crucified 7But most of all I’d like you to notice that Jesus suffering is redemptive. If you redeem something you give something away to get something back. God gave his Son to get us back… “to ransom a slave you gave away your son!” (Easter Proclamation: Exsultet).

This is the Mercy of God. Mercy is the heart of God and it’s the heart of the Gospel. Mercy means that there is ultimate Justice! For only if Justice has been transgressed can anyone be merciful. To put it in legal terms; only if a ‘law’ has been broken can anyone be merciful. So if God is merciful then there is an absolute law, God’s law, by which we are all judged.

If we think of what it means to be merciful ourselves we know that to be merciful costs. It’s difficult. Perhaps some of us are so hurt that we cannot be merciful, and if we are to be merciful it will be like crucifixion. There you have it… there you have it in your own experience; the seeds of the eternal. Therefore if God is to be merciful, God must suffer. Only if we live in a meaningless universe can it be otherwise – only in a world where words are empty and meaningless, meaning only whatever we want them to mean at any given time. But unknown to ourselves our words are approximations of eternity.

Here’s a way to get inside God’s Mercy. He died without sin for you. He died without sin on your behalf. Therefore you will die without sin if you allow Jesus Christ to ‘wash’ you. If he died without sin for you, that means you’ve done it! Put it this way: If you owe a debt and can’t pay, what happens? Now supposing someone else pays the debt on your behalf, what happens? You’re free! Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world? How does he take them away? By taking them on himself.

Here’s an exercise for those who struggle with guilt and at the same time a lesson for those who think that there’s no sin at all – two extremes to be avoided, everything is a sin (broadly equates with the past) and nothing is a sin (broadly equates with the present): Focus on the figure of Christ crucified on the Cross… Now imagine him calling your name… “Paddy, Paul – whatever your name – I did not die on the Cross for you to bear the burden of your sin.”

When that comes as grace, you’ll cry!

 

 

Palm Sunday: Murdering God’s absolute truth!

Jesus is God’s truth in the flesh, in human form. He’s thinking, talking and walking absolute truth!

As a matter of interest what part of this truth needs updating? What do you think?

IMG_1263God’s truth is unwelcome, it’s not wanted, they’ll slap it, punch it, kick it, spit on it, make fun of it, and eventually murder it.

Interestingly it’s an unlikely marriage of religious and civil-political authority that murders God’s truth. We need to be careful that we’re not doing the same!

Remarkably in the face of this violence he’ll remain silent: “But to Pilate’s amazement Jesus made no further reply.” The silence is born of absolute truth. Jesus’ silence in the face of Pilate’s questioning speaks loudly of something greater than death, indeed life itself. This is a truth that’s more than capable of defending itself. We can kick it this way and that way, murder it, but it’ll never go away. Put it down and it’ll pop back up!

This is why those who suggest that the Church will die out are spiritually naive. The Church is being pushed out to the margins, but she’s just living the great themes of salvation history, she’s being purified by her Master, same old, same old. She’ll have her time in the desert and like Christ she’ll return, trained for battle. Besides, everything about Jesus Christ points to human failure, but it is always human failure into ultimate victory.

As for Pilate? Well, Pilate does what every political leader will do whenever and wherever possible; he placates the crowd. It’ll improve the chances of holding on to political power! But where will Pilate go in the end?

As for the crowd, we can hardly but notice the stark contrast between ‘Hosanna in the highest heaven’ on Palm Sunday and ‘crucify him, crucify him” on Good Friday although it’s something of a false contrast because they’re probably two very different crowds – disciples and friends on Palm Sunday but seething enemies on Good Friday. Nonetheless crowds are always fickle. If you don’t believe me ask yourself why a drinks company will spend €4m on a TV advert?

Here’s an interesting detail about Christ’s passion; we’ve got God’s truth in the flesh, we’ve got the mass of ordinary people, the electorate so to speak, we’ve got the religious leaders, we’ve got political and civil leaders – the same essential elements that we’ve got now – and still the one thing that’s sure to be the casualty in this mix is Gods truth!

Fifth Sunday of Lent: Jesus answers the Greeks and Stephen Fry too!

"If a man serves me, he must follow me, wherever I am, my servant will be there too." John 12:20-33 / Caviezel, Passion of Christ

“If a man serves me, he must follow me, wherever I am, my servant will be there too.” John 12:20-33 / Caviezel, Passion of Christ

In the Gospel today (John 12:20-33) we find Jesus turning toward Calvary.

The position he’s faced with equates to something like a diagnosis of terminal cancer without a morphine pump – without any kind of pain relief, comfort or consolation, nothing but the reciprocal love of his Father!

He takes the tsunami of human suffering that’ll soon crush him, and he uses it to teach us. All that’ll happen to Jesus is not just about him, it’s equally about us, it also represents human suffering and ultimately the death of every single human being.

The first thing Jesus does is place death in a far reaching context. Jesus describes death in terms of the necessity of a wheat grain falling on the ground and dying before it can reach its full potential. Death is not final but the necessary door to fulfillment.

Next, he says that if we serve him we must follow him. It’s easy to miss the brutal quality of this command. Jesus issues it while speaking of his suffering and death; “wherever I am my servant will be there too.” It’s as good as saying; you’ll have your share of human suffering, you’ll have your agony in the garden, your scourging at the pillar, your crowning with thorns, your crucifixion, you’ll follow my path – and children will get bone cancer! Thus the Greeks who “should like to see Jesus” get their answer, as does Stephen Fry; you’ll see me but don’t expect that you’ll be spared suffering and death.

Next, he echoes the cry of every person facing suffering and death but he does so while adding the extra dimension that places death in a momentous context. He puts this human cry in the form of a question to God: “What shall I say? Father, save me from this hour?” After all, I’m only 33 and there’s much I still want to see and do. He answers his own question: “But it was for this very reason that I have come to this hour.” He presents us with the inevitability of death, with the necessity of death if we’re to reach the fullness of our potential. Significantly he then adds, “Father, glorify your name!”

The Risen Christ. "If a man serves me, he must follow me, wherever I am, my servant will be there too."

The Risen Christ. “If a man serves me, he must follow me, wherever I am, my servant will be there too.”

This is a question we all face. What if we cure everything that brings death; what’ll we do then? Where will we go? How will we control the population of the earth? State controlled fertility and euthanasia? Most importantly how will we cope with living endlessly?

Imagine if time can’t reach fulfillment. We’ll go mad.

The message of Jesus is that time does reach fulfillment, for each one of us, through him, with him and in him, and the door to this fulfillment is death, death in him.

Twenty-second Sunday Year A: Anyone who loses his life for my sake…

Matthew 16:21-27

Peter’s reaction is the standard human reaction, “Heaven preserve you, Lord. This (suffering and death) must not happen to you”.

Jesus uses the prophecy of his own grievous suffering and death (described as put to death) to teach his followers something that’s completely counter cultural. We just don’t think in these terms.

“… anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.”

The use of “saving” here is interesting – it means keeping life for yourself, hoarding, accumulating, because you’re afraid to give it away, to give it to Christ.

“Saving your life” then means placing yourself and your own ‘kingdom’ at the centre of your existence which inevitably leads to materialism and consumerism. Most of us do this to some degree – herein lies the fundamental difference between the average Catholic (you and I) and someone like Padre Pio.

We do this because we want to be happy.. we’ve bought the belief that happiness is attained through consuming the material. But who told us that?

Actually, we must believe this in a society where the economy is “God” – although a false god.

The ultimate victory of this belief is to win the whole world – a point Jesus makes – but he then subverts the idea asking what good is it to win the whole world but ruin your life? He means ruin your eternal life; to possess everything the world can offer but have nowhere to go! But we don’t think like that because we’ve been conditioned to think that winning the whole world is life at its very best. But that’s not your life. Your life is your pulse!

Anyway, the inner dynamic is much the same; we give to receive…

However, Jesus is arguing that the secret to happiness is in placing not yourself and your own kingdom but rather Jesus Christ and his kingdom at the centre of your existence.

The inner dynamic remains; we give to receive which is what Jesus argues, “… anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it”. The loss here is to one way of life, a worldly way of life, but in return we enter into (find) the kingdom of God, the life of God, which is so much greater.

Indeed, only when a man can see something greater (when seduced as in the First Reading) will he begin to let go of what he already has…

An after-thought:
We can use these terms to understand much about the Christian life including a vocation to the priesthood.