The drama of the Passion story, with parts and voices and narrative is re-told in our churches today. It is the Passion - only – no resurrection account is retold just yet.
Perhaps the exchange between Jesus and those who protest his anointing for death is an interpretative key. The stand- off of the Pharisees and the leading Jews that we have read in recent days at Mass now ends with the betrayal by Judas and Jesus’ handover to the Sanhedrin.
Jesus’ own body is treated with reverence only at the beginning and end of the account. The gentleness and tenderness in which he is held in regard by the faithful few is in stark contrast to the noise and blows that are in the middle
Throughout the Passion he is abandoned, alone, betrayed, interrogated, accused, ‘dealt with harshly’ (Isaiah) rained on with blows, scourged, mocked, stripped and crucified by the mob. The words of Jesus become fewer as the narrative proceeds. ‘Harshly dealt with, he bore it humbly, like a dumb lamb before its shearers.’
Shakespeare famously said:
‘All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances..’
We stand in Church today at Mass and read out our assigned parts – that of Jesus, or the Narrator, the Crowd, the Others. Why? Because all of us sinners have played our part and continue to so one way or another, as one of the ‘good guys’ or ‘bad guys’.
We can list out the good: the compassionate woman who anointed him, the disciples, most of them women who took care of his body, Nicodemus.
The bad: Judas, Pilate, the priests and elders, the Romans, the thieves, the people who rained down blows, those who carried out the mockery and scourging, the wavering uncertain commitment of the disciples, those who watched with disdain as Jesus lay dying.
If ‘All the world's a stage’, how then is the Passion being continually played out in today’s stage of our world and our Church? How is Christ’s Body the Church, being treated?
‘The poor you will always have with you’ at the beginning of the Gospel are the other Christs, or corresponds to the presence of Christ anew in those in our world - the downtrodden who experience injustices - isolation, mockery, are stripped of their rights, condemned, persecuted, pass by on our streets ignored, and die by the whim of the mob of popular opinion.
Who are the poor today in my own life? Where is Jesus being treated unjustly today in the person of my neighbour by me personally, because ‘whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren that you do unto me?’
We think of the poor; the persecuted Christians; those rounded on by the mob, subject to media ridicule, even at times certain members of Christ’s Body the Church.
What part are we playing today? Who can we identify with? Christ, the disciples, particularly the men who do not come out of today’s Passion, smelling of roses. Or the compassionate women, Simon of Cyrene, Nicodemus?
Have I, like Christ, ever experienced isolation, betrayal, mockery, condemnation?
Have I ever practised, or meted out on the other hand, isolation, betrayal, mockery, condemnation of others?
Likewise have I practised or experienced the examples of mercy?
Regarding ‘the players’, therefore, the two questions the Passion challenges you and me with are:
Which of the characters do I aspire to be?
Which of them am I, in reality, at present?
Posted by FrJohnCobh