(Readings for today from Matthew 26-27; Mark 14-15; Luke 22-23; & John 18-19)
The gospel of the day is John 18-19
Jesus is the grain of wheat that falls to the earth and dies.
His life appeared to be a horrible failure. Hatred seems to have conquered love.
And we see Jesus on the cross, the naked king, stripped of his dignity, his divinity obscured by blood and spittle, dirt and grime.
Disciples of all ages throughout the ages suffer rejection, are mocked, misunderstood, laughed at, pushed aside, ignored, sometimes tortured and killed for their faith, for truth and justice.
They have become like Jesus.
A grain of wheat has to die in order to bear fruit.
Many people today continue to be crucified today, living in what seems to them senseless pain, a pain that has many faces and forms - broken relationships, living in violent homes, experiencing unhappy marriages, illnesses, disease, and untimely death.
They struggle to find dignity and freedom and meaning. Many lose faith. They call out to us as men and women of compassion to stand by them, like Mary and John at the foot of the cross.
So are we willing to embrace this death?
This is what we are being invited to participate in: the suffering, the pain and also the glory that lies over the hill of Calvary.
Jesus is betrayed by one of his own disciples, a friend.
Simon-Peter denies he even knew him, while another Simon, a stranger from Cyrene helps carry the Cross.
A condemned man recognizes his own sin and turns to Christ for mercy and belonging and calls him by name.
The women remain faithful - faithful to the Cross - at the foot of the Crucified.
His own Mother beholds in agony the death of her Son as the beloved disciple comforts her in her grief.
And Joseph of Arimathea risks everything by asking for the body of Jesus while Nicodemus secures his own expulsion from society for finally following Christ in light.
They were willing to belong to Jesus in the most gruesome moment of his life.
So what about us? How committed are we to the crucified Lord?
Are we willing to embrace this ugliness, this abandonment, this pain?
For if we are not willing to belong to all of this, if we cannot take up the Cross, we cannot share in the resurrection.
From the moment when Christ was raised upon the Cross, it seemed to be a sign of failure, but it was the new beginning: for from the depths of his death is raised the promise of eternal life.
This horrifying story of violence, hatred, and cruelty ends with an immense ray of hope.
Death does not have the last word! Violence and hate have been transformed into tenderness and forgiveness through the power of God.
When JESUS died upon the Cross, he disrupted and interrupted the world’s escalating violence that was displayed against him in the Crucifixion.
Jesus stretches his arms on the cross and absorbs all of the world’s violence and does not retaliate. He robs the violent of their strength and energy.
"Jesus’ message directly challenged the core values of the Roman Empire. Pontius Pilate condemns and executes Jesus in order to eliminate a threat to the authority of the Roman Empire. He wants to stop Jesus’ message of a kingdom of justice with compassion for the poor, with leaders who are first and foremost servants of others. The irony is that in executing Jesus, Pilate sets in motion the events bringing the kingdom of God to its fulfillment. Pontius Pilate’s actions are unable to defeat God’s purpose, proving that the Kingdom of God will triumph over all earthly empires despite all their efforts to keep it from happening." - Brian Singer-Towns (From THE PASCHAL MYSTERY: Christ's Mission of Salvation, published by St. Mary's Press, 2011, Winona, MN)
May today be an opportunity for us to embrace His Cross so that we can have a share in his Resurrection.