Preparing for the Resurrection

03-28-2021Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

Our church uses the image of a "journey" during the Lenten Season. We are traveling to Jerusalem for the great events of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. During this journey we come to understand that the Passion and Death of Jesus is a necessary part of the journey and that we must share in these events in order to come to the full meaning and power of Easter Sunday and the Resurrection. We must in a significant way share in the Passion of Jesus Christ, if we are to share in His Resurrection. Although we share only in a symbolic way, it is also real and authentic for us. Our sharing requires us to go through the struggle and passion of letting go in particular of our natural narcissistic and egocentric desires, of always taking without giving, and of false pride and delusions. The great Passion of Christ calls us to become vulnerable as Jesus was vulnerable, to be actively open to being compassionate without understanding, to forgive rather than to measure and seek revenge, to advocate for unity not division and separation, and also to give ourselves over completely to live authentically.

In the first reading, Isaiah writes of the contradiction and contrast of the fulfillment of God's covenant with the image of the humiliated Servant who will ultimately be exalted. The deep and profound meaning of this passage about humiliation to glorification, that is from death to life, is made clear in the great and glorious hymn to Christ that makes up our second reading from Philippians. Paul writes to us to tell us that like the Suffering Servant, Jesus is obedient, even to accepting a humiliating death, and yet because of His obedience, God glorifies Jesus and bestows upon Him His true identity: Messiah and Lord.

The Gospel reflects the meaning and power of the first two readings and tells us that by taking on our flesh, Jesus, Servant of God, suffers and dies in order that the new covenant of God might take root in our hearts and lead us through death to life. 

Mark's account of Jesus Christ's passion records the events leading to His death graphically, plainly, and sparingly. Mark reels off the events so that we read them nonstop and the power of this is overwhelming. Mark writes that Jesus dies and that by His death He gives life to a fledgling faith for as it was said: "Truly this man was the Son of God!"

Of all the Passion Gospel accounts, Mark's is the most concrete, the clearest and easiest to follow for understanding. We must remember that although this is a story of tragedy, it is ultimately a story of glory, for Jesus rose from the dead. We must not get so mired in the death of Jesus that we forget the great miracle that He rose from the dead. His Resurrection validates the story, not His death. To wallow constantly in His death is to deny the reality of the Resurrection and to deny the saving power of Jesus Christ.

The Passion of Jesus Christ, especially as written by Mark, sets the tone for all that takes place this wee: all the holy Liturgies and Services that we use to commemorate the death and Resurrection of Jesus. The Passion Story of Jesus Christ heard at the beginning of this Holy Week and heard again on Good Friday helps us to prepare to participate in these great sacred moments and deepen our own faith. Although this is a different Lent and a different Holy Week for us with its Services and Masses, we too can still deepen our faith and love in the Risen Jesus Christ.