Alan Culpepper commented that reading the arrest and trials of Jesus is, for him, like watching film footage of John Kennedy’s motorcade winding through Dallas in 1963 or the 1986 launch of the Challenger space shuttle. We know what is coming, we know we have no power to undo them, but are compelled to watch because we honor the loss of great people doing what was theirs to do.
At a more intimate level we know that the encounter of Jesus and Pilate is a scene wherein both face the test of their convictions. Pilate knows and announces the verdict – innocence, but in the face of an unruly crowd does not have the conviction to persevere. Neither Herod nor Barabbas provide an avenue to resolved the crisis when the leaders of Jewish Jerusalem are ever at work to animate the crowd to bend Pilate’s to their will. Continue reading
Where in the scene of Peter’s Denial (Luke 22:54-65), the focus and center of the narrative was Peter, here the focus returns to Jesus. Is this trial (hearing, meeting) by the religious authorities of Jerusalem, the role of Jesus as prophet and Messiah is at the forefront of the narrative. Jesus had foretold the primary events of this scene—both Peter’s threefold denial before the crowing of the cock (v. 34; vv. 56–61) and his own maltreatment (esp. 18:32; cf. 20:10–11 and 22:63–65). Continue reading
Today is known as “Spy Wednesday”, a reference to the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot for thirty silver coins. This event is described in the three Synoptic Gospels: Matthew 26:14-16, Mark 14:10-12, Luke 22:3-6. We know that Judas’ betrayal was but part of a larger vortex of events that would lead to Jesus’ arrest, trails, scourging, crucifixion, and death. Only Matthew (Matthew 27:3-6 ) narrates Judas’ own death.
For all this, Judas’ name is synonymous with betrayal, and Dante, in Canto XXXIV of his “Inferno,” places him in the very lowest circle of Hell, being devoured eternally by a three-faced, bat-winged devil. Virtually every image we carry about Judas comes from Dante or a later artistic portrayal of the man – e.g., reddish hair color (Harvey Keitel in “The Last Temptation of Christ”) or his fiery disposition (“Jesus Christ Superstar”). Continue reading
The arrest of Jesus leads into three successive and connected scenes: Peter’s denial (vv. 54-62), the mocking of Jesus (vv. 63-65), and the trial before the religious authorities (vv. 66-71). What is interesting is that in the midst of the Passion narrative of Jesus, there is the scene in all four gospels that concentrate on Peter and his response. Luke’s account is unique in the following respects: sequence – in that the denials occur in the courtyard before the mocking and interrogation; structure – Luke does not connect the denial as a caused by the trial; and detail – such as the servant girl sitting at the fireside where there is light to clearly recognize Peter – and most vividly, it is Luke that reports Jesus looked Peter “dead in the eye,” bringing the full gravitas of the denials to Peter. Continue reading
Of course we all know that after the meal with his disciples that Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane. Actually, no gospel says that. Matthew and Mark wrote that he went to a garden. John says he went to Gethsemane. Fuse them all together and you get the “Garden of Gethsemane.” What does Luke say? Luke only calls it “the place.” There is no garden specifically mentioned nor is Gethsemane. Is it important? Well, it is a reminder to be attentive to the text before you and not meld the familiar stories and scenes from other sacred writers. Each sacred writer has something distinctive that can be missed if one fuses all the details from other accounts. Continue reading
The experience of watching Notre Dame burn is at least a reminder that places matter. Physical places become sacred spaces because they are the places where we find God — or more accurately, places where God finds us. Cathedrals like Notre Dame were built to be a visual teaching tool in a largely illiterate culture. They proclaim the gospel without words. Historian Jon Meacham described the cathedral as a “physical manifestation of an unseen reality.” He said that one of the most important words in scripture is “remember” and that he shows up at mass whether he feels like it or not in order to remember and experience again the meaning of the death and resurrection of Christ.
Perhaps the image of the Notre Dame cross glowing amid the smoke and ashes will draw us back to the sacred places where we remember and experience the presence of the One who said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit…And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (John 12:24-32)
Jim Harnish, Why the Fire Matters
24 Then an argument broke out among them about which of them should be regarded as the greatest.
In the midst of the Passover to break out into an argument about who would be the greatest – imagine. This scene at table is reminder to be attentive and the problem of discernment to know what is important – especially in “real time.” The problem is that all of us have a Thanksgiving meal, a birthday party – a time when something important was at hand – and we argued about the most trivial of things.
Introduction to The Lucan Passion Narrative: The passion narratives provide the climax for each of the four gospels, catching up themes that weave their way through the evangelists’ entire portrayal of Jesus life and bringing them to a dramatic completion. In deft strokes the evangelists tell us of the final hours of Jesus’ life – his last meal with his disciples; his arrest in Gethsemane; his interrogation by the religious leaders; the trial before Pilate; and finally the heart clutching scenes of Jesus’ crucifixion, death and burial. Continue reading
Every year Christians commemorate the week before Easter Sunday with special traditions and devotions that help them enter into the Passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a special time of the year, culminating in the biggest feast of the Church’s calendar – Easter. Here are the basics of what Catholics look forward to during the week that precedes Easter Sunday.
Palm Sunday. This day inaugurates Holy Week with the triumphal entrance of Jesus in Jerusalem. In the Gospels Jesus comes to the city riding upon a donkey with the people placing palm branches in front of him. At Mass on this day the congregation relives this event with a procession in the church and a solemn blessing of palm branches. The Passion narrative is also read on this day. Continue reading
Back in the day, before becoming a Franciscan, back when the rhythm of my day was set by clients, projects, and things of the workplace, I let a different pattern take hold for Holy Week. I always took vacation. I took time off to relax, visit people, take long bike rides and decompress so I would be ready to celebrate Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil, and Easter Sunday.
But you know what? I have to admit, I did not pay a lot of attention to Palm Sunday. I wonder if I went to Mass and then to the office to clear up last minute things to make sure the week was free. Yet today is the gateway to Holy Week. Continue reading