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Gospel Commentary: Taught by his love

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Gospel Commentary Lk 22:14—23:56

 

In the blessed days of Holy Week, we have opportunities to enter into the events of Jesus’ “hour.” In prayer and love for him, we can accompany Jesus in these days, reliving our understanding of the great sacrifices he made for us and for all people. One simple way of entering into the Gospel accounts of the Passion is to note the many interactions Jesus has along the way. In less than a day, he will face crowds and individuals, speaking to them, loving them, teaching them and forgiving them. 

Where might we be in these scenes?

First, Jesus speaks to his apostles.  We hear the familiar words of Mass. We feel the depth of meaning his words have as he speaks of his fast-approaching suffering and death.

Next, still speaking to the apostles, Jesus speaks about (and to) the one who is about to betray him. He reminds them all that to be great in his sight requires being servants.

The reality of a great struggle occurring among them (and within them, and in the world) between good and evil emerges when Jesus tells Peter that he his praying for him not to fall when Satan comes to “sift them like wheat.” He reminds Peter of the strength he can be for the rest. And that he will soon deny Jesus.

After the supper, Jesus speaks to the disciples with him, telling them to pray for themselves that they not fail him when they are tested.

In his agony of spirit, Jesus next speaks to his Father. He speaks from a profound struggle within him and resolutely offers a perfect obedience to the Father’s will. After which he confronts his sleeping disciples and again tells them to pray for themselves.

The next tragic moment finds Jesus confronting Judas, his betrayer, and the armed crowd who have come to arrest him. He works a miraculous healing, restoring an enemy’s severed ear while stopping the disciples’ attempt at resistance.

While being taken away to the high priest, we can imagine some of the things in Jesus’ mind and heart, in his prayer. While Peter was denying his association with Jesus, we know that Jesus was still praying for him. We can try to imagine the merciful prayer of Jesus for the cruel soldiers when they beat him and made fun of him. 

In the morning, before the chief priests, the scribes and the Sanhedrin, Jesus admits that he is the Christ. Outraged, they bring him to Pontius Pilate, who finds no reason to punish him and sends him off to Herod. Herod, in his curiosity to meet Jesus, questions him at length — but Jesus doesn’t answer him. Jesus remains silent as the priests and scribes accuse him harshly, and as Herod and his soldiers mock and mistreat him. His calm silence, of course, was saying a great deal to them.

Before Pilate again, and with crowds shouting for his death, Jesus finds himself, at last, on the road to Calvary. His silence continues. His silence and weakness cause the soldiers to force Simon the Cyrenian to help Jesus. We can imagine the effect of Jesus’ prayer on Simon as they walk. Alongside them are crowds of people, including women who support him by their mourning and lamenting. He rewards them by speaking to them, teaching them.

As the soldiers nail Jesus to the cross and the crowds look on, we hear from Jesus the most impressive words, words which have to console us, even as they challenge us to imitate him: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”

Next, we find Jesus interacting with the two thieves being punished beside him. His merciful and saving words to the “good” one of the two have, no doubt, inspired many sinners away from despair and away from their pasts. 

As Jesus is dying, even nature seems to respond as the sunlight gives way to darkness during the Good Friday afternoon. From his physical weakness and from the depth of his love for the Father and for all people, Jesus speaks once more, and in a loud voice: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

In his love for us, Jesus continues to call us and to love us through these saving words and deeds.

Fr. Zuberbueler is pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Falls Church.

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019