Sep 28, 2011
Last week’s reflection on suffering and beauty introduced the topic with the many questions it raises. In Part Two, let us reflect on the mission of Jesus and two modern-day figures who died for their respective causes.
The Mission of Jesus
Jesus spent his life for others. He shared with them his mission and taught a universal commandment of love. Crowds marveled at him; he won disciples. Still, he irritated political and religious leaders, for his way of life challenged theirs. This itinerant rabbi associated with people of all types but, instead of ingratiating himself with the powerful, he stood with the lowly. According to the religious authorities, he blasphemed by daring to call God not Avinu but his Abba–his loving papa whose kingdom he was proclaiming. His Abba was also ours, who forgives us, and makes us his children once more. To some, Jesus seemed like the Messiah, with an aura of glory about him, to others, he was a pretender and rabble rouser. How could this man be God in human form? Jewish leaders had to deal with him under the eye of Roman rule. He faced their criticism without retaliation, though human malice brought about his crucifixion. The person of Jesus remains the unique standard by which beauty, truth, goodness, all aspects of love, are judged. Through the ages, his disciples have lived and have even endured martyrdom for his sake.
The Jewish Pasch
Every year at Passover, Jews throughout the world recall, re-live, and celebrate the saving mystery of God’s deliverance of them. The Jewish Passover prepares Christians for the paschal mystery of the Lord. At the time of the Exodus, the angel of death passed over Jewish homes marked by the blood of the lamb (Ex 12ff). To make their escape, they hurriedly baked unleavened bread, ate and consumed the roasted lamb. This act completed the blood sacrifice of the Old Covenant, for to eat the sacrificial victim was to partake of the fruits of the sacrifice (Jer 11:19-20;1 Cor 10:18). The blood of the unblemished lamb was a scapegoat that spared the Israelites from continued slavery. Henceforth, the Feast of the Unleavened Bread was to be kept as a sacred memorial, for the blood of the unblemished lamb spared the Israelites. Jesus celebrated the Passover for the final time with his disciples; Christians refer to this night as the Last Supper.
The New Pasch
Each Holy Week, Christians recall, re-live, and celebrate the saving events of Christ as the Passover Lamb, the Lamb of God who fulfills the Hebrew prophecies. The liturgies summarize them: the fall of Adam through pride and disobedience, the consequences of the first sin, Jesus’ earthly life, passion, death, and Resurrection. Like the Passover ritual, the liturgies wash over the faithful as together they experience their personal and ecclesial salvation. The mystery of the Lamb is a powerful symbol that has inspired artists, writers, and composers throughout history. On Good Friday, the most solemn day of the liturgical year, a hushed Christian world ponders Christ’s death expressed in many texts, one of which reads: “Behold the wood of the cross on which hung the salvation of the world. Come, let us adore.” Human logic recoils at this proclamation.