Biblical commentators tell us that the passion narratives were the first parts of the Jesus story to be proclaimed. Each evangelist approaches the narrative with his unique perspective and one would expect an opening scene in the garden of Gethsemane or in Pilate’s courtroom where Jesus receives his sentence, is then tortured and taken off to Calvary for his execution. But in Matthew's account that’s not what we hear first. Instead there is a long narrative about Jesus and his disciples at the Last Supper and judging from the goings-on around that table we can imagine that Jesus’ passion has already begun.
Looking deeper at Matthew's Passion account, perhaps we can more powerfully come to understand how much we need to the experience suffering, dying and rising in our own lives. Holy Week gives us the opportunity to renew our faith and our hope and to find comfort in the love and power of our God, who will not allow evil, sin and death to destroy us. Perhaps we learn that we must not give in to despair; we cannot give up. The Risen Christ is our hope, and the guarantee of our ultimate victory.
In many ways, the world is waiting and watching. The Christian way of life, from the first Easter Sunday until today, continues to offer renewed vision and hope to the human family. Those who do not share this faith know what it claims and what it promises. But what they experience is nothing of the kind. They hear the Gospel of peace, of social justice, of reconciliation, of compassion. They know that these values could and should dramatically change the quality of human life all over the globe. But then they look around only to see hate and poverty and crime and suffering. They are quick to point to out injustice and death.
We must make the truth of the Resurrection real. We can make the Resurrection real. We are called to "love differently and radically." Faith should open our hearts, not close our minds to the world around us.
The experience of our Holy Week should be profound for each of us individually and for our community. We want, especially during these sacred days, to pour ourselves out, to be humble, obedient servants of God, so that we, like Jesus, will be exalted, lifted up, and deserve the name "faithful Christian." It is Christ our Savior who enables us to do this.
So we join Him in mind and spirit on Passion Sunday and enter Jerusalem with Him.
We will come to be with Him on Holy Thursday, learn again the meaning of Christian service through His washing of His disciples' feet, and recognize Him in the breaking of the Bread.
We will come to be with Him on Good Friday, watch with Him in the Garden, and share His pain and shame on Calvary.
And we will recognize ourselves: asleep in the Garden, fleeing in fear and abandoning Him at the foot of the Cross.
And finally we will come to be with Him at the Easter Vigil or on Easter Sunday, see again the mystery of the Resurrection with the eyes of faith, and rise ourselves with Him to new holiness of life and love, as we proclaim: "Alleluia! Jesus Christ Is Lord!"