Homily: Find Yourself in His Passion Story
Today’s Gospel is a personal story; it recounts a lengthy list of people who were present during the Lord’s Passion, some to disappoint, some to support the suffering Jesus.
We are asked by Luke to look into the story and to find ourselves – which person or persons show us for who we are in the face of the suffering of others, especially those who are close to us and who suffer.
The list is long: Simon Peter, promising even to die with Him who ultimately denied Him, Judas, who betrayed him, Pilate, who gave in to public opinion, Barabbas. who the crowd exchanged Jesus for and who was saved by Him, the Women, the Good Thief, the Centurion, who ultimately brought about His death, who was just doing His job, and Joseph of Aramathea, who took His body into his own grave
The sobering details of the Passion story point out how easy it is for any one of us to sacrifice genuine integrity. Judas is not the only one who ever betrayed a friend, nor is Peter alone in protecting himself at the expense of another. Many of us know how easy it is for people in positions of authority to sacrifice an individual for what they consider the best interests of the group.
People in positions of authority, even religious leaders, convinced of their own legitimacy, have been known to silence any opposing voice. Finally, we should not underestimate the force of the crowd mentality. It is easy to join it and lose our sense of justice in the process, or to be so frightened by it that we fail to stand by those who might become its victims. There is enough guilt here to go around.
The heart and soul of the wisdom of Jesus is found in this story of his passion and death. His suffering came from his unselfish loving. And so, we must try to discern the causes of our own suffering.
Not all suffering comes from loving. Indeed, it is far more likely to come from frustration or disappointment or feeling sorry for ourselves because we cannot have everything we want.
To walk with the suffering Christ is to feel the pain that inevitably accompanies any love that sacrifices for the sake of others. Good parents do this for their children. And good children love and obey their parents, even when it means giving up something they want. Good teachers sacrifice for their students.
Loving presence can easily mean you have to change your personal plans; so a loving person often has to say, “My life is no longer my own”.
The amazing thing about this kind of loving is that, though it is often very painful, there is a joy in it also. This should not be very surprising, because, after all, we were all basically created to be make truly free through the love of others and then to convert that precious personal freedom into loving service. Nothing is more compatible with our true nature as God’s children than this kind of loving…and nothing is finally more successful than the resurrection victory that follows such generous and faithful concern for others.
Let us enter into the Passion of Jesus in a way that will move us toward genuine conversion and transformation. Let us recognize our own strengths or limitations in the characters of the story and note how Jesus calls them to greater fidelity. Or let us identify with Jesus. He willingly set aside privilege for the sake of others; he remained true to his calling, despite the cost that was exacted; he refused to meet violence with violence. Through it all, Jesus remained tenaciously faithful to God and lovingly open to all others. As we travel through this Passion week, let these insights challenge – and, hopefully, tranform — all of us.
Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B. & Dianne Bergant, C.S.A., professor of biblical studies at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.