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Shake up

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Gospel Commentary, MT 26:14-27:66

The coronavirus has radically disrupted our lives and forced all of us to look at life with new eyes. We are rethinking family, health, work, leisure and God. Ironically, this is the normal purpose of Lent. It has become clear to me that this is one way in which our heavenly Father can bring good out of this present evil —  by inviting the whole world to a new perspective on life.

One way to gain a new perspective on life is to spend more time pondering the majesty of God and the marvels he has done in our world. Well, it just so happens that we are entering the week in which we celebrate the most marvelous of his deeds —  the moment when God chose to demonstrate the depth of his love, heal a horribly broken world, save us from sin and death, restore our severed relationship with God, bestow abundant new life on us and open the gates of heaven to his beloved children. 

This last week of Lent begins with our solemn celebration of Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord. This year we read through the passion narrative of Matthew, which shines a focused beam on the baseness of our broken human nature as well as the greatness of our God.

Let’s take a peek at the prideful and selfish actions of the men in the Gospel and compare them to the humble and selfless acts of Jesus in the last days of his earthly journey. Most of us are familiar with these events. However, it is good to ponder them anew.

Judas, one of Jesus’ closest collaborators, betrays our blessed Lord with a kiss.

Immediately after the kiss, all Twelve Apostles abandon Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. 

Not long after, Peter, arguably the closest collaborator of Our Lord, is confronted by a woman in the courtyard of Caiaphas, the high priest, and responds with those frigid words, “I do not know the man.” 

During the false trial of Jesus before the high priest, members of the crowd “spat in his face and struck him, while some slapped him … ” 

Soon after Jesus reveals the truth about his identity to Caiaphas, the people exclaim, “Let him be crucified.” 

The soldiers of the governor “stripped off his clothes and threw a scarlet military cloak about him. Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head, and a reed in his hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him … ”

The actions of these weak, selfish, proud and blind men are starkly contrasted by the actions of Jesus, God’s only begotten Son. 

Our Lord makes a promise in the Upper Room to lay down his life in order that we might be restored to life: “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Jesus refuses to return evil for evil and turns the other cheek in the face of each of these profoundly confused and misguided human beings.

Jesus confronts the great fears welling up in his human nature and the agony that lies before him as he carries the weight of every sin on his back and still resolves to do the will of the Father: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.”

Jesus chooses not to lie or play with the truth in order to avoid disapproval when confronted by Caiaphas: “I order you to tell us under oath before the living God whether you are the Christ, the Son of God.” He responds quite simply, “You have said so.”

Jesus loves us and remains faithful to the end when he cries out in a loud voice and gives up his spirit to his Father.

May the most humble, selfless and generous actions of Christ poured out in his last days for our redemption shake up your life more than the coronavirus and call you to rethink family, health, work, leisure and God.

Fr. Peterson is director of mission and development for the Youth Apostles.

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020