Sunday, May 8, 2011

Passion Sunday

De Testis Christi Passionum
Lectio Sext [1]

Instruction for the Passion of Our Lord
17th of April, 2011

Parish of Saints Peter and Paul
Rev. Mr. Michael Taylor

·         First Sunday of Lent: Concerning the knowledge of good and evil
·         Second Sunday of Lent: Concerning the call to holiness
·         Third Sunday of Lent: Concerning why hope is necessary
·         Fourth Sunday of Lent: Concerning what is pleasing to God
·         Fifth Sunday of Lent: Concerning why our faith is salvific
·         Sunday of Our Lord’s Passion: Concerning being a witness of Christ’s suffering

Pilate therefore said to him: Art thou a king then? Jesus answered: “Thou sayest that I am a king. For this was I born, and for this I came into the world; that I should give witness to the truth. Everyone that is of the truth heareth my voice.” Pilate saith to him, “What is truth?” [2]

Today, one of the great paradoxes of Jesus’ life is presented to us. The crowds which less than a week earlier had shouted, Hosanna to the son of David; blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest, [3] now cries out with unified voice, crucify him, crucify him! [4] What evil had he done? What harm had Christ wrought? What changed so drastically in so few days? The simple answer is that Christ did not fulfill what the people thought He should fulfill. Throughout Jesus’ life, it was asked of Christ if He was going to restore the kingdom of Israel.[5] At least two of the twelve apostles are known as zealots, Simon and Judas. The zealots were a political faction more than a religious entity, their goal the restoration of the kingdom of Israel, free to worship as it saw fit. The people of Israel had suffered under the Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Greeks and then the Romans. So when people greet Jesus with Hosanna to the son of David, they are hoping for a restoration of the throne of David. But that is not what Jesus came into the world to do.
            Why did Jesus come into this world? When Pilate asked if Jesus was a king, Christ’s response was enigmatic. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this reason I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the Truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” [6] Now, Jesus kingship is not of this world,[7] and for this reason, Pilate and the world cannot understand Him. This is why Pilate asks, “What is truth?” Pilate is a skeptic. He cannot understand the truth because he thinks only of power. What is truth? Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. No one comes unto the Father except through [Him].[8] Jesus came into the world, not to establish an earthly rule of power, but to bring about the salvation of humanity through his life, death and resurrection. Jesus told Nicodemus earlier, just as the Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believes in him may have eternal life.[9]
            Yet the people huddled around Jerusalem do not understand this. They want Jesus to do what they think is best. They want Jesus to preach a message that creates a world they think is just. Do we not do the same thing? We gather here together today, and we hold our palms in the air, proclaiming Jesus to be the messiah. But who do we think that Jesus is? What do we expect from Him? And if what He tells us contradicts what we think, will we dismiss Him? How many times do we hear people say, “well, if the Church would only change this teaching….” Or, “this teaching of the Church is really old fashion, the Church needs to get with the times….” Yet what are we asking for? Let us consider the moral teachings of the Church. Our moral code goes back over 3,500 years. The Ten Commandments went with the Israelites when they entered Canaan. It remained the same during the reign of David, the Babylonian exile and the restoration of the temple. The moral life of God’s people remained the same with Jesus, who came not to abolish the law and the prophets but to fulfill them.[10] It was the same rules that Paul took with him to Corinth which were the same as the one’s Peter took to Rome. It is the same moral code that Saints Augustine of Canterbury took to England and Patrick took to Ireland. Saints Cyril and Methodius did not change them when they met the Slavic peoples nor did Saint Boniface change them for the Germans. Saint Francis of Xavier did not change them for the Chinese nor did Saint Peter Clavier change them for the Caribbean. Saint Isaac Jogues did not change them for the Mohawks nor did Blessed Juniper Serra change them for the Pamé Indians in Baja California.
            The prophets of old said, stand by the roads and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.[11] So why do we think that the faith should change? Why do we think that we should conform ourselves to the world? Did not Jesus tell us, you are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?[12] Saint Paul warned Timothy, For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itchy ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.[13] Our faith will never be acceptable to the world, because it is not of the world. Jesus told His apostles, if the world hates you, know that it hath hated me before you. If you had been of the world, the world would love its own; but you are not of the world, because I have chosen you from out of the world, and therefore the world hateth you.[14] And when Jesus was in the garden, He said to His Father, I pray for them. I do not pray for the world, but for them whom thou hast given me: because they are Thine.[15] Why then do we try to make ourselves palatable to the world? Why do we try to appease what the world wants? The world has made its own those practices which the Lord finds abominable. We do not preach a life without conflict, but a life of the cross. We preach Christ crucified: unto the Jews indeed a stumbling block, and unto the Gentiles, foolishness.[16] The Christian faith finds its meaning in the cross. The Apostle said God forbid that I should glory in anything but the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom the world is crucified by me, and I to the world.[17] There can be no hope of reconciliation without the cross.[18] For the Lord God has blotted out the handwriting of the decree that was against us, which stood against us. And He hath set them aside, nailing them to the cross.[19]
            The Christian message, with Christ and its cross, and the moral life of perfection it calls us to live,[20] will lead us to lose colleagues, close friends and even family. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus warned, Do not think that I came to send peace upon earth: I came not to send peace, but the sword. For I came to set a man at variance with his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.[21]  We come to the point of a decision this Lenten season. Do we follow Christ or do we follow what the world wants? Do you come with the kiss of Judas or the kiss of peace? Do you come with the crown of earthly glory or the crown of thorns? Do you come carrying palms or do you come carrying the cross? Our Lord goes to die this week for our sins.[22] He is to be wounded for our transgressions, He is to be bruised for our iniquities; upon Him is the chastisement that makes us whole, and with His stripes we are to be healed.[23] Our Lord wants us to walk with Him.[24] Will you come and pray with Jesus this Thursday in the garden? Will you come this Friday and stand at the foot of His cross with Our Blessed Mother and the beloved apostle? Will you come and bear witness to the empty tomb this Saturday? Our Lord was taken beyond the gates to sanctify the people through His own blood. Therefore let us go forth outside the camp and bear the abuse He endured. For we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come.[25]

[1] “Concerning the witness of the passion of Christ”
[2] John 18.37-38a
[3] Matthew 21.9; Psalm 118.26; Mark 11.10; Luke 19.38
[4] Mark 15.13-14; Luke 23.21; John 19.6, John 19.15
[5] Cf. Acts 1.6: “They [the apostles] therefore who were come together, asked Him saying, ‘Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom of Israel?’”
[6] John 18.37-38
[7] Cf. John 18.36: Jesus answered, “My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from this world.”
[8] John 14.6
[9] John 3.14-15
[10] Cf. Matthew 5.17: “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
[11] Jeremiah 6.16
[12] Matthew 5.13
[13] II Timothy 4.3-4
[14] John 15.18-19
[15] John 17.9
[16] I Corinthians 1.17
[17] Galatians 6.14
[18] Cf. Ephesians 2.16 “[That Christ] might reconciles us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end.” And Colossians 1.19-20: “For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.”
[19] Colossians 2.14
[20] Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1770: “Moral perfection consists in man’s being moved to the good not by his will alone, but also by his sensitive appetite, as in the words of the psalm: My heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God” (Psalm 84.2)
[21] Matthew 10.34-35; cf. Micah 6.8
[22] Catechism of the Catholic Church, §§602-603: “Consequently, Saint Peter can formulate the apostolic faith in the divine plan of salvation in this way: You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers…with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was destined before the foundation of the world but was made manifest at the end of times for your sake (I Peter 1.18-20). Man’s sins, following on original sin, are punishable by death (cf. Romans 5.12; I Corinthians 15.56). By sending His own Son in the form of a slave, in the form of fallen humanity, on account of sin, God made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (II Corinthians 5.21; Philippians 2.7; Romans 8.3). [§603] Jesus did not experience reprobation as if He Himself had sinned (cf. John 8.46). But in the redeeming love that always united Him to the Father, He assumed us in the state of our waywardness of sin, to the point that He could say in our name from the cross: My God, My God, why hath thou forsaken me? (Mark 15.34; Psalm 22.2; cf. John 8.29) Having thus established Him in solidarity with us sinners, God did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, so that we might be reconciled to God by the death of His Son (Romans 8.32; Romans 5.10).
[23] Cf. Isaiah 53.5
[24] Saint Lactantius, A Poem on the Passion of the Lord: Our Lord- “Follow the footsteps of my life, and while you look upon my torment and cruel death, remembering my innumerable pangs of body and soul, learn to endure hardships, and to watch after your own salvation.”
[25] Hebrews 13.12-14

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