Friday, March 29, 2013

The Passion Narratives

Twice during Holy Week the passion Gospels are read, the first reading on Passion Sunday and the second on Good Friday. The passion narratives are filled with a great deal of information that helps us to understand what we do at Mass each day.

The Salt Pot of Bible Life magazine divides the persons in the passion narratives into three groups: the religious leaders and their hypocrisy; the Roman politicians and their indifference and avoidance of responsibility; and the crowd with their selfish and fickle religiosity, first welcoming and then turning completely against Jesus, and wanting his death.

There are also persons in the passion narratives who showed great strength and helped support Jesus in his trial. What distinguishes this group of sympathizers from the other groups is that they were not the ones considered by the establishment as the  saner and stronger segment of society. They did not follow the crowd, or do the  diplomatic thing. They were the women who gathered at the cross, those who wept  for him, the Roman centurion, the condemned man hanging on the cross next to Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea--the Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin that condemned him--and the other Pharisee Nicodemus who anointed his  body after his death, and Simon from the country who helped carry his cross, though unwillingly.

Those who should have been at the cross were not, and those we would not expect to be there were. That is a lesson that gives us much to think about. The paradoxes in the life of Jesus that can teach us about life are easy to see on reflection.

Today, Good Friday, is the only day of the year without a Mass. To allow us to meditate on the reality of what happened on that day, without the usual support of a commemorating Mass, is the reason we read the passion, meditate on its  meaning and venerate the cross. We have the Liturgy of the Word today and participate in the communion rite from the Eucharist consecrated on Holy Thursday.

In Korea as in most parts of the Catholic World, we call the day Holy Friday, which does not need an explanation as does the word  'good' in "Good Friday," the term normally used in the English-speaking world. Paradoxes stand our strongly during this day's liturgy. God in the person of Jesus became man, and yet lacked all that the world of the East considers important for happiness.The Koreans have the expression 'five blessings' which names what the tradition considers necessary for earthly happiness; this was also true of the Israelites of the Old Testament. Jesus didn't possess even one of these blessings. This is a good lesson for us to bring to mind when we see what society presents to us as the great values of life.

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