We tend to think of Passion Sunday, Passion Week and the Passion of Jesus in terms of suffering. But, we could also look on the Passion of Jesus as that which drove his very heart and soul, namely establishing the reign of God. The Scriptures for Passion Sunday are packed with intensity of emotion. They are like a prelude to that symphony that will be played out in the movements of the coming week.
The person of Jesus is the character we follow through each scriptural piece. We see him humble, strong, not arrogant about himself, giving, working towards completion of his given task.
The humble entry into Jerusalem on a donkey is recognizable to the people and to the powers as a bold claim to Messiahship. This excites the crowd while it terrifies the authorities whose allegiance is to Rome rather than to God. If we read on in the Gospel we see Jesus taking his authority to the Temple to restore it to a place of worship. Then there gathers round him the lame and blind, coming to him for healing. Here is truly God’s reign, for which Jesus is passionate, come to the temple.
There is nothing weak in Isaiah’s servant who has a well trained tongue to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Not only does this servant not recoil from suffering, but does not turn back from that word that God gives morning after morning. As applied to Jesus, the people know his well trained tongue that comforts the weary and rouses them to their new possibilities. They know his deeds that lift them up. Now they will see in him that same character who has set his face like flint, and whose passion for God will not allow him to turn back from the suffering.
Though in the form of God, he did not grasp at equality with God. He had no need to flaunt himself, because he was sure of himself and of his mission. In fact, only in human form could he passionately and authentically promote the possibility of God’s reign for the world.
Then at his final meal with his followers, Jesus took the bread and wine to share with them, calling it his body which would be broken, and his blood which would be poured out. The pattern of his life had been a giving, so this symbol of giving his body, was not really surprising. Then came the mandate – to continue the giving, the breaking open, the pouring out in memory of him, all for the sake of the reign of God. So the Eucharist of Jesus is not a pious ritual in which we might feel obliged to participate. It is a way of living, patterned on Jesus.
Accepting death on a cross, this is where it all leads. It finishes here. We hear Jesus’ own words, “It is finished,” yes, finished not as ended but as completed, and a new phase begins. His passion for God’s reign led to the passion of suffering. As his followers, we are not invited but mandated to have this same passion for the reign of God among.
This is the Jesus of Passion. Dwelling on the passion of his suffering may lead us to some sense of sorrow and remorse. But it is our lot to dwell on the Passion of his life and actively participate in it.
May we ponder during these days the passion of our souls and hearts and whether or not it a passion for the reign of God.
Elizabeth Ferguson, OP