This week begins with the festive procession with olive branches: the entire populace welcomes Jesus. The children and young people sing, praising Jesus. But this week continues in the mystery of Jesus’s death and his Resurrection. We have just listened to the Passion of our Lord. We might well ask ourselves just one question: Who am I? Who am I, before my Lord? Who am I, before Jesus who enters Jerusalem amid the enthusiasm of the crowd? Am I ready to express my joy, to praise him? Or do I stand back? Who am I, before the suffering Jesus?
We have just heard many, many names. The group of leaders, some priests, the Pharisees, the teachers of the law, who had decided to kill Jesus. They were waiting for the chance to arrest him. Am I like one of them?
We have also heard another name: Judas. Thirty pieces of silver. Am I like Judas? We have heard other names too: the disciples who understand nothing, who fell asleep while the Lord was suffering. Has my life fallen asleep? Or am I like the disciples, who did not realise what it was to betray Jesus? Or like that other disciple, who wanted to settle everything with a sword? Am I like them? Am I like Judas, who feigns loved and then kisses the Master in order to hand him over, to betray him? Am I a traitor? Am I like those people in power who hastily summon a tribunal and seek false witnesses: am I like them? And when I do these things, if I do them, do I think that in this way I am saving the people?
Who am I?
Am I like Pilate? When I see that the situation is difficult, do I wash my hands and dodge my responsibility, allowing people to be condemned – or condemning them myself?
Am I like that crowd which was not sure whether they were at a religious meeting, a trial or a circus, and then chose Barabbas? For them it was all the same: it was more entertaining to humiliate Jesus.
Am I like the soldiers who strike the Lord, spit on him, insult him, who find entertainment in humiliating him?
Am I like the Cyrenean, who was returning from work, weary, yet was good enough to help the Lord carry his cross?
Am I like those who walked by the cross and mocked Jesus: “He was so courageous! Let him come down from the cross and then we will believe in him!” Mocking Jesus…
Am I like those fearless women, and like the mother of Jesus, who were there, and who suffered in silence?
Am I like Joseph, the hidden disciple, who lovingly carries the body of Jesus to give it burial?
Am I like the two Marys, who remained at the tomb, weeping and praying?
Am I like those leaders who went the next day to Pilate and said, “Look, this man said that he was going to rise again. We cannot let another fraud take place!” and who block life, who block the tomb, in order to maintain doctrine, lest life come forth?
Where is my heart? Which of these persons am I like? May this question remain with us throughout the entire week.
Hope in God in Our Darkest Hour: Wednesday in Holy Week
Today, midway through Holy Week, the liturgy presents us with a regrettable episode: the account of the betrayal of Judas, who goes to the leaders of the Sanhedrin to bargain for and deliver his Master to them: “What will you give me if I deliver him to you?” At that moment, a price was set on Jesus. This tragic act marks the beginning of Christ’s Passion, a dolorous path which he chooses with absolute freedom. He himself says it clearly: “I lay down my life… No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (Jn 10:17-18). And thus by this betrayal Jesus’s journey of humiliation and despoliation begins. As though he were an article for sale: this one costs thirty pieces of silver… Once he has taken the path of humiliation and self-abandonment, Jesus travels along it to the very end.
Jesus attains complete humiliation through “death on the cross”. It was the worst form of death, that reserved for slaves and criminals. Jesus was considered a prophet but he died like a criminal. As we contemplate Jesus in his Passion, we see reflected the suffering of humanity, and we discover the divine answer to the mystery of evil, suffering and death. Many times we feel horror at the evil and suffering that surrounds us and we ask ourselves: “Why does God allow it?” It deeply wounds us to see suffering and death, especially that of the innocent! When we see children suffer it wounds our hearts: it is the mystery of evil. And Jesus takes all of this evil, all of this suffering upon himself. This week it would benefit all of us to look at the crucifix, to kiss the wounds of Jesus, to kiss them on the crucifix. He took upon himself all human suffering, he clothed himself in this suffering.
Darkness before dawn
We expect God in his omnipotence to defeat injustice, evil, sin and suffering with a triumphant divine victory. Yet God shows us a humble victory that, in human terms, appears to be failure. We can say that God conquers in failure! Indeed, the Son of God appears on the cross as a defeated man: he suffers, is betrayed, reviled and finally dies. But Jesus allows evil to be unleashed on him and he takes it upon himself in order to conquer it. His Passion is not an accident: his death – that death – was “written”. Truly we cannot find many explanations. It is a puzzling mystery, the mystery of God’s great humility: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (Jn 3:16). This week let us think deeply about the suffering of Jesus and let us say to ourselves: this is for my sake. Even if I had been the only person in the world, he would have done it. He did it for me. Let us kiss the crucifix and say: for my sake, thank you Jesus, for me.
When all seems lost, when no one remains, for they will strike “the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered” (Mt 26:31), it is then that God intervenes with the power of his Resurrection. The Resurrection of Jesus is not the happy ending to a nice story, it is not the “happy end” of a film; rather, it is God the Father’s intervention there where human hope is shattered. At the moment when all seems to be lost, at the moment of suffering, when many people feel the need to get down from the cross, it is the moment closest to the Resurrection. Night becomes darkest precisely before morning dawns, before the light dawns. In the darkest moment God intervenes and raises.
Jesus, who chose to pass by this way, calls us to follow him on his own path of humiliation. When at certain moments in life we fail to find any way out of our difficulties, when we sink in the thickest darkness, it is the moment of our total humiliation and despoliation, the hour in which we experience that we are frail and are sinners. It is precisely then, at that moment, what we must not deny our failure but rather open ourselves trustingly to hope in God, as Jesus did. Dear brothers and sisters, this week it will do us good to take the crucifix in hand and kiss it many, many times and say: thank you Jesus, thank you Lord. So be it.