Today we take a good hard look at sin while we marvel at salvation. The gloom of sin is a foil for the brilliance of salvation. We stare in wonder as the Lord Jesus conquers the treacherous betrayal of a disciple through the stupendous love of the cross. On Passion Sunday the crucifix is decorated with palms! It signifies the suffering caused by sin and the victory won by Christ.
Let’s take a few minutes to stare sin in the face not only the sin of Judas and Peter, but our sin. As he sits at table with the Twelve, Jesus says, “One of you will betray me, one who is eating with me” (Mark 14:18). This saying is vague, so each one of the Twelve begins to say, “Surely, it is not I?” We know that Jesus is talking about Judas, but he is also talking to all those “eating with him.”
As we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, we should always remember that Jesus was betrayed by one of the Twelve who ate with him at the Last Supper. The stories in the Gospel are not merely a record of history. They are also our stories. Jesus is addressing us when he says, “One of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.”
Jesus continues to offer his Body and Blood to us, even though we sin against him. We gossip and betray one another almost daily. We fail to love Jesus in the least among us – whether the unborn, sick, elderly, prisoner or immigrant stranger. We hold grudges, harbor anger, look with lust, and tell lies.
To proud Peter, Jesus says, “This very night before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times” (Mark 14:30). There is a little bit of Peter in all of us. Even when we fully intend to be faithful to Jesus, we stumble and fall. He knows that we will deny him in times of temptation.
With full knowledge of our sinfulness, he keeps pouring out his love. In Baptism he washes us with the water flowing from his side; in Confession he says, “Father, forgive them. They do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34); in Holy Eucharist he graciously feeds us with his mercy. Today, as you receive Communion, marvel at his faithful persevering insistent love.
Learn from his love. He loves so well because of his deep relationship with the Father. As he prays in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus says, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will” (Mark 14:36). Jesus is fully confident in the Father’s almighty power over the universe. “Father, all things are possible to you.” The Father is in control ……. not Judas, or the chief priests, or Pilate.
Jesus’ love is rooted in faith that the all-powerful Father is with him and that his providence is guiding him in the darkest hour. We also can win the battle over evil if we have that kind of faith.
More than anything else, the cross is an event between Jesus and the Father. So he says to him, “Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.” Jesus wants one thing, to do the Father’s will. His love is perfectly obedient. “He humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8). Today, ask God for obedient faith, for the grace to seek God’s will alone.
As you deal with an illness or cancer, or if you have been wronged or betrayed, or if you feel helpless because of your own sins, don’t focus on the sickness or your enemy or your sin. Rather, focus on the Father’s almighty providence. Ask the Lord Jesus for obedient faith to trust that his grace conquers all evil.
On Passion Sunday the crucifix is decorated with palms. It signifies the suffering caused by sin and of the victory won by Christ. Stare in wonder as the Lord Jesus continues to conquer the treacherous betrayal of mankind through the stupendous love of the cross.