I like today's Gospel for the same reasons that I liked the movie "The Passion
of the Christ" -- because although it reminds me of my sinfulness (Lent!),
it affirms God's loving forgiveness and the joy of salvation (Easter!)
I was not looking forward to seeing That Movie, but when I did, I found the
violence tolerable and the interpretation of The Story valuable -- in the
context of hearing the Scriptural narrations of the Passion many times, always
ending in Easter, and also Pentecost. I grew up knowing the devotion
we call "making the Stations" (and I know that the Stations of the Cross,
a devotion that follows about the same script as That Movie, goes back only
to the later Middle Ages.) I know, I truly love the great Story; I
accept the ironic fact that our crucifixes in our churches and homes depict
suffering and humiliation, but their meaning, for us Christians, is the joy
of salvation and God's tremendous Love for us. Mine is the insider's
view, and perhaps others, even others who share my beliefs, cannot "like"
That Movie's particular dramatization of our Lord's real suffering and death
for all of us sinners.
Surely, though, anyone looking for God's Word today must "like" today's Gospel
when that Word-made-flesh says "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God
is glorified in him." The line seems to confirm that the Passion of
Christ is part of a plan, a script, a working-out in time of what the passage
from Isaiah promises: "That my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth."
Today's Psalm repeats "I will sing of your salvation." Both Old Testament
readings mention that God knows and truly loves each of us "from my mother's
womb." And at the Supper narrated in John's Gospel, Jesus seems to
be freely choosing to fulfill his Father's plan to save us, whom He loves
at all times.
The Gospel begins by saying, "Jesus was deeply troubled," and so he told
his disciples that he would be betrayed. We must be deeply troubled,
knowing, as Mel Gibson has said in various interviews, that our Lord died
for our own sins. Not only Judas, but also Simon Peter will betray
Jesus -- even Peter, so eager and well-meaning. I confess: I may not
always hear the cock crow (notice my sinfulness) in all the rush and noise
of my life, but I know I have denied my Lord, so many times three times!
I am pained and humiliated to recognize myself in Peter, but also I take
comfort and delight in this scene: "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and
God is glorified in him."
Lord, you shared our life on earth, even into death. Let me share your
Suffering this week, as I will share the joy of your Resurrection at Easter.
Let me recognize my own real sinfulness, knowing also the Love in your Heart
for me and for all humankind.