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  • Rev. Lawrence E. Polansky

Friday of the Passion of the Lord (B)

“Jesus loved them to the end ...”

First Reading: Is 52:13 - 53:12 – “He Himself was wounded for our sins. (Fourth oracle of the Servant of the Lord).”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17, 25 – “Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit.”

Second Reading: Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9 – “Jesus learned obedience and became the source of salvation for all who obey Him.”

Verse before the Gospel: Phil 2:8-9 – “Christ became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every other name.”

Gospel: Jn 18:1 - 19:42 – “The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.”


How do you prepare for the darkest hour of your life … the last day of your life? Jesus knew that the end was coming and He knew that it would be painful ... heartbreak for His friends and followers ... a supposed triumph for those who distrusted and even hated Him. After sharing a ritual meal with His friends and one last teaching about true service, Jesus withdrew to a quiet place and prayed for a reprieve (how human!), and then prayed for strength from above (how truly human!).


Today we stand beneath His cross hoping for a respite from our burdens, praying that there will be a happy ending to this story of salvation for Him and for us. Jesus died once for us (all that can be asked of a human being and a friend) and yet He continues to pour out blessings from His side so that we will be saved (so we will know that He is also truly divine).


Jesus knew.


Jesus knew His Bible. He knew that the people of God seldom treated their prophets well. As a man of Scripture He had prayed often over the writings of the prophet Isaiah. On one memorable Sabbath He had stood up in His hometown synagogue and read a section from the Isaiah scroll and proclaimed, “Today this passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” The words of Isaiah about the suffering servant echoed in His thoughts:


“it was our infirmities that he bore...pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed...like a lamb led to the slaughter...he was cut off from the land of the living...If he gives his life as an offering for sin...the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him.”


He knew that today this Scripture would be fulfilled in our sight. Jesus prayed the psalms. He took comfort in Psalm 31, putting His trust in a faithful God. Even when everyone reproaches you and you become a laughingstock and are forgotten, God would be faithful. His heart was filled with courage because the face of God was shining upon Him. It was all He had to hold onto.


Jesus knew.


Jesus knew the Passover story. Long ago God had saved the people from slavery and bondage in Egypt, that narrow place of no freedom, of oppression, of death. Moses was saved from the reeds to lead the people through the Red Sea into the Promised Land. Jesus’ own passion would forge a path from pain to peace, from apparent defeat to real victory, from loneliness to community, from death into resurrected life.


Jesus knew.


Jesus had watched the cycle of nature repeat itself year after year. “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat.” The mystery of the fertility of the earth was a sign of His Abba-Father’s creativity and power. Jesus knew that His one life needed to touch all peoples and all times. For one life to do that He would need to produce a hundredfold, a thousandfold, a miraculous infinity of wheat that could be turned into bread that could be turned into Holy Communion ... the Eucharist.


Jesus knew.


Jesus knew the power of the religious authorities and the absolute power of Rome. He knew that He would be caught between these two realities and no one would want to lose face or blink. Pilate was a weak puppet trying to impress his superiors in faraway Rome and the chief priests and elders were trying to keep the crowds under their sway. Jesus and His message of the kingdom of heaven would bring Him into conflict with both.


Jesus did not know.


Jesus didn't know how His disciples would react. After all, they had free will. It had been their choice to answer His call but how would they react at the end? He had given warnings and predictions and even Peter thought / hoped that His vision of the future would be wrong. His closest followers would betray and deny and abandon Him, leaving Him with only a small gathering of family and mostly women friends at the place of His execution.


Jesus probably did not know.


Jesus probably didn't know that He would have to look down into the beloved face of His mother from the cross. For two people who had this deep connection of love based in absolute confidence in God’s plan for this unique Child of God, this must have been an overwhelming moment of pain. A mother pledged to bring into this world the Messiah and share Him with the world … a Son who must be about His Father’s work. Hearts were breaking … this life of the promise was leaving this world.


Jesus does not know …


Jesus doesn't know if His pain and sacrifice will make a difference to you. In our free will each of us can turn our backs on who Jesus was and what Jesus did. Jesus did His part in accomplishing our salvation and freeing us from sin but He doesn’t know how we will respond. What choices will we make? Will we betray Him, deny Him, or abandon Him? Will we ignore, turn away, and live our lives with our own priorities? If the shadow of the cross doesn’t touch us, will we ever move into eternal light?


Jesus did not know ...


And He went up to Jerusalem, accepted betrayal and arrest and a mock trial and real scourging, carried his cross up to Calvary, and gave up His Spirit anyway.


Jesus knew.


What do we know?

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