John E. Deegan, O.S.A.
Director of Justice and Peace
Province of Saint Thomas of Villanova
Mk 11: 1-10 or Jn 12: 12-16
Is 50: 4-7
Ps 22: 8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24
Phil 2: 6-11
Mk 14: 1 - 15: 47
Brennan Manning tells the following story which he calls “The Signature of Jesus”: An elderly man meditated each morning on the bank of the Ganges River. One morning as he finished his prayers and opened his eyes, he saw a scorpion floating helplessly in the water. As the scorpion washed closer to the tree, the man stretched out on one of the long roots extended over the river and reached out to save the dying creature. As soon as he touched it, the scorpion stung him. Instinctively, he withdrew his hand. A few minutes later when he had regained his balance, he stretched himself again on the tree root to save the scorpion. Again, the scorpion stung him. This time the sting was so severe that the man’s hand became swollen and bloody and his face contorted in pain.
At that very moment, a passerby saw the man stretched out on the tree root and shouted, “Hey, stupid old man, what is the matter with you? Only a fool would risk his life for the sake of an ugly evil creature! Don’t you know you could kill yourself trying to save that ungrateful scorpion?”
At that, the old man looked directly into the passerby’s eyes and said: “My friend, just because it is in the scorpion’s nature to sting, that does not change the fact that it is in my nature to save.”
The Gospel story of Jesus’ passion and death is one of coming to terms with the reality of God’s will.
The will of God for Jesus was not excruciating suffering and death; rather, that was the price that Jesus was willing to pay to accomplish God’s will.The chief priests wanted Jesus captured and silenced. Judas was willing to betray him for money. The Apostles all ran away. Why? Because Jesus was a savior who was to establish a kingdom not of this world but a spiritual kingdom. Judas was looking for a Messiah who would make him powerful and rich. The leaders of the Temple were looking for a king who would defeat the Romans and restore the glory of the sons of Abraham. The Apostles were confused and, being human, ran for their lives.
But Jesus was consistent. He would not compromise His integrity for power, fame or money. He exhorts us to empty ourselves for the other and not be filled with false pride and self fulfillment. He wants us to be obedient and not willful; he wants us to be open to new insights and not stubborn in our old ways.
Jesus is an example for us. As he emptied himself for us, so too, we are asked to empty ourselves for others. We need to enter into Holy Week by identifying with those with whom Jesus identified: those who never used rank to force their will on others. If we are to be saved, we must go where salvation takes place. As Pope Francis says “we must go to the periphery.” We must bring the peace of Christ into the streets and into our homes where violence rages and tears down the fabric of community support; we must bring the light of Christ into the dark corners of life where despair seems to hold sway; we must bring the healing mercy of Christ wherever the innocent are abused or the needy neglected; we must bring the compassionate forgiveness of Christ wherever there is misunderstanding, fear or jealousy. We must go wherever Christ empties himself for our salvation.
Are we willing to be persons of integrity as Jesus was? Are we willing to speak the truth no matter what? Will we defend the poor, the powerless, and the voiceless when no one else will? Will we oppose greedy corporations or even our own government officials when they seek to balance the budget on the backs of the poor? Are we ready to take up our cross for righteousness? Are we willing to change the world by our acts of mercy?
As we reflect, pray and sacrifice during this Holy Week of 2018, and see a world hungry for an end to war, genocide and harassment in all kinds of relationships; as we see a world thirsty for the waters of healing and conversion, we need to ask ourselves: Who is to join with a crucified and resurrected Christ in creating a world of peace, forgiveness and reconciliation? Who is to reach out to save the lost even if it is painful? If not me - who? If not the body of Christ, the Church-who? If not now-when?