What a 24 hours it must’ve been between the Last Supper and the removal of Jesus’s lifeless body from the cross. Imagine the urgency he must have been feeling as he dined for the last time with his closest followers, his friends. There was so much he still wanted to tell them, to teach them, and to reassure them one more time that everything that was happening and going to happen was all part of the plan. Perhaps he had to likewise remind himself that it was part of the plan.
“Okay, friends, remember when you take this bread and this wine and bless it to share with others, remember the sacrifice that I am about to make. When you do this, remember me.” So many things to tell them, so little time. And yet if the entire scenario was to play itself out, he was essentially out of time. He had to release Judas to go play his part by betraying him to the authorities, and he still needed a little time to prepare himself, because once it all started to go down, these very same beloved disciples would scatter and desert him, cowering in fear that the same fate that befell Jesus would likewise fall upon them.
And so when the conversation and dining was over, as was often his habit, he retreated to pray. He brought some of his disciples with him, asking that they keep watch and likewise pray. He walked a little deeper into the garden, before “falling with his face to the ground” crying out in agony to God. In the garden, the Son of Man agonized and fretted in such anguish that it was said that his sweat came out like great drops of blood. He essentially asked God if he really had to go through with it, the suffering and death he knew was coming. He really was, in those hours, the son of man, for what human being would want to endure what he knew was to come. And, perhaps the worst part of it was that through the ordeal he would be separated from God, the one constant voice, connection, he’d enjoyed throughout his entire life. Yes, I suppose I would also be lamenting and crying out and sweating blood.
At the end of a long day, and the end of a much longer week, one which began with triumph and adulation and would end with ignominy and rejection, he spent those last solitary hours in mental torment.
This evening I was talking to my friend about how I envisioned various parts of the “passion story.” We talked through some of the gory, painful details of what we imagined happened to Jesus from the time Judas kissed him and turned him over to the mob to the time he spoke his last anguished words that told of his disconnection from his father, “my god, my god, why have you abandoned me?” Such a heart-wrenching and excruciatingly painful story. Whether one is religious, agnostic, or even atheist, a story of such human suffering touches all but the coldest, deadest heart. And so we mourn.
I find my heart breaking for all the other innocent victims who are tortured, suffer, and die in agony, ignominy, and rejection. So very many, all around the world. Can we not see Jesus in them recognize their humanity? I have been on a news fast for many, many weeks. I simply could not turn on the evening news, even the local broadcasts, and take in the sorry state of the world. One cannot act if one is overwhelmed and depressed by the sheer magnitude of the problems we face in healing this planet. And so, I stopped watching, particularly the over-sensationalized stuff I had been dining with each night after I came home from work.
I have the privilege to simply turn off the television, stop reading the news on my Facebook feed, and engage my mind in mundane pursuits. But the passion of Jesus, commemorated today in particular, but every day in Catholic masses around the world, invites me to turn and face those things I find difficult to bear and ask, “What can I do? How can I serve?” I am not sure I have the answer in its entirety; perhaps I only have an answer for myself and we each must seek our own. As I wrote two weeks ago:
“How can we hope to make a change, given all the strife around us? And then a light goes on and I remind myself that it starts and ends with me, doing what I do where I do it. If I focused on all that needs to happen in the world, my heart would go out of me at the near impossibility of the task. I have to remember that it is not my job to change the whole world, I need to work in my own back yard. That is the way to change the world: by changing my world.” ~Another Forty Days, Day 24
And so it goes. On this the 39th day, I bow my head in remembrance.