Who are you on Holy Week?
Readings: Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Matthew 26:14-27:66
The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew
One of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said,
“What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver.
And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him. On the first
day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where do you want us to
make the preparations for you to eat the Passover ?” He said, “Go into the city to a
certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover
at your house with my disciples.” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and
they prepared the Passover meal…… Matthew 26:14-27:66 (Passion reading for Palm
With this celebration of Palm Sunday, we begin Holy Week – a week of much activity, much tension,
anguish and turmoil, a week culminating in a sense of tremendous relief.
In Matthew’s account of the Passion, we see Jesus as a still-point in the maelstrom, as God’s fidelity
amidst a whirlwind of sin. In the course of the Passion, Jesus confronts betrayal, laziness, violence,
untruth, abuse of power, self-destruction, and wanton cruelty—the whole cacophony of human
dysfunctions. And he takes away and overcomes all this sin precisely by his obedience and his mercy.
As we being Holy Week, we mediate on sober and somberly on Jesus’ journey towards death and new
life. In Mathew what we see clearly is that Jesus’ journey takes him into the far country of sin,
cruelty, humiliation, insults, rejection, hate and finally death on the cross, where he bears the weight of
all sin that separates us from God.
Yet Jesus is the friend of sinners. Throughout the Gospel he associates with the marginalized, the law
breakers, the tax collectors and people of the periphery, standing in the muddy waters of the Jordan,
shoulder to shoulder with sinners. Jesus is the one who goes into sin, in order to bring divine light
there, and bring divine life back to us. Jesus goes into sin, but through a path of obedience and in
fidelity to God and thereby, takes away our wages of sin.
Saint Mathew opens his passion narrative with Judas’ betrayal of Jesus for a few piece s of coins of
silver. In Dante’s ‘Divine comedy’ the traitors are placed at the lowest point at hell. Dante saw
betrayal, turning against a friend or loved one, as a most grave sin.
Jesus then leads his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane. He goes by himself to pray, one of the
most painful and climatic moment in Jesus life – wrestling with the will of his Father. Jesus struggles
in this prayer, so intense is this struggle that Jesus sweats blood. But what do the disciples do during
this struggle? They sleep. There is an air here of spiritual laziness, of sloth. Karl Brag said “the
greatest of sin is spiritual loathness.
Jesus is very attentive, his disciples are sleeping disciples anther phase of sin. In the Book of
Revelation the Lord says, ‘if you are look worm I will omit you out.
Then the soldiers come to the garden, armed with swords and clubs, to arrest the Prince of Pace, the
one who said love your enemies, pray for those who ill-treat you, and to turn your left cheek when
one hits you on the right. Now in the Garden of Gethsemane comes the worldly ways of violence, the
way the sinful world orders itself – by taking an eye for an eye. When it was clear that Jesus would be
arrested, his disciples who insisted that they will stand with him all fled. Here is spiritual cowardice:
when I know that I ought to do, but I cannot summon the courage to do it.
The symphony of sin only intensifies now as the story unfolds. Jesus is brought before Pilate –false
witness, scapegoating violence, the unjust anger of the mob – all this and more unfolds. Peter too his
accent giving him away. Those who look differently, a terrible scene. He denies it again and again.
Whom do you dislike those who act differently, those who think differently, Scapegoating violence.
Judas in his despair in his deep regrets hangs himself. Judas was not worse the peter, both betrayed,
both denied, both fled, peter too betrays Jesus and denies him three times to the angry mob. Yet,
Peter’s betrayal ends in regret and the seeking of forgiveness. Judas’s betrayal ends in despair and he
hangs himself. Both betrayed, but Judas failed to seek forgiveness and choose the most depraved of
sins self-destruction and a refusal of mercy.
It is mercy, forgiveness, the restoration of the goodness of life that Jesus gave for us through the
Cross. So let us not refuse his mercy and forgiveness. Know that Jesus came to die for you and for
me. Never forget the redemptive value of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross.
With whom are you identifying yourself on Holy week? With the twelve disciples at the Last Supper,
with those who disputed who was the greatest among them, with Simon who said, “Lord I am ready
to go with you to prison and to death”, but later denied him three times, with the three closest disciples
of Jesus who could not keep awake while Jesus was going through agony on the Mount of Olives, with
Judas who betrayed him with a kiss of 30 pieces of silver, with those who mocked him, beat him and
humiliated him, with the chief priests and scribes, with Pilate who washed his hands, with those who
preferred Barabbas to Jesus, with those who cried” Crucify him, crucify him!”, with Simon of Cyrene
who helped Jesus to carry His cross, with the women who bewailed and lamented him with Veronica
who wiped his face with a cloth, with the criminals who were crucified beside Jesus, with the criminal
who mocked him with the criminal who prayed, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingly
power”, with Joseph of Arimathea who helped lower the body of Jesus, with John the beloved disciple
who took Mary as his mother, who accompanied him throughout his agony, passion and death? This
week, you cannot be a passive spectator. You have to be involved in the happenings of the Holy
Week. But what is your part, your place and role in this?
The story we have just heard invites us to identify with those who saw Jesus with the eyes of faith and
love, who recognized the light of God in the darkness of Jesus’ passion and death. When we look upon
the passion and death of Jesus with such eyes, we see a divine love that is stronger than sin, a divine
light that shines in all our darkness, a divine power that brings new life out of all our deaths, a divine
poverty that enriches us at the deepest level of our being. We have heard the story of Jesus’ last
journey. This Holy Week, the church invites us to travel that journey at a much slower pace, day by
day as it were. We are invited to enter into that journey with the eyes of the anointing woman, the
centurion, Joseph of Arimathea and the group of faithful women. We look beneath the surface of what
is happening, we listen deeply to all that is taking place, so as to recognize the good Shepherd who
laid down his life for us all, so that we might have life. Without this sincere love of Christ, we are no
true followers of his. We cannot say we fully love him, until we appreciate what he suffered for us.
So like Little Therese of the Child Jesus, offer your little pains for the salvation of the world also. Do
not waste the difficulties you undergo in your day-to-day life. The sufferings in your body, the taking
care of kids, your financial constraints – offer them all! Offer them at the feet of our Lord Jesus for
the salvation of sinners.
The road that Jesus trod on Palm Sunday was the same road he had always walked. It was the road of
humility, of love, of patience, of hope, of encouragement. It was the way of salvation, not the way of
the empire. It was the way of the kingdom, not of the king. It was the road to glory, not to
government. It was the way of righteousness, not of Rome.
The road trod by the Messiah was not the road to freedom and worldly power that many Jews of
Jesus’s time expected. It was the road to sacrifice. It was the road to humility. It was not the road to
fame; it was the road to death. It was not the road the crowd thought; it was the road God had
Identify your place and role and show to the world where you stand in relationship with the Suffering
Servant, with your creator and Savior. Are you prepared to keep your gaze on Jesus who keeps
looking at you with both his hands stretched on the cross, as a sign of wanting to embrace you and the
entire humanity in love, in forgiveness and reconciliation? What is your response to him? Will it
result in change of heart, change of life, change of behavior, transformation of your relationships for
the better? Choose between salvation and damnation, between eternal life and spiritual death, between
Christ the Light and Devil the Darkness, between pride and humility, love and hatred, between the
Gospel of Joy and the Sad News of Despair and earn your reward accordingly. What do the various
characters mentioned above awake in you?
God bless and happy Easter.