We begin this week by reading Matthew’s account of Jesus’ passion (Matthew 26:14–27:66). It is perhaps the most familiar story in our imagination, but we can refresh it by letting it become the conscious focus of our week. This will give us vivid images that we can reflect on in the context of our everyday life this week.
The Last Supper (Matthew 26:14–30)
We reflected on the Last Supper last week. Now we focus on it as the beginning of the Passion. When we read about Judas’s betrayal and Peter’s promise never to deny him, we have fruit for our week. We can say, with Peter, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never say I don’t know you.” Throughout the week, I can become more highly conscious of times I hide how much I know Jesus.
The Garden (Matthew 26:36–56)
The garden is a powerful image of Jesus, asking his disciples to pray with him. Instead, they fall asleep. All week, in small in-between times, we can remind ourselves how much Jesus wants us to be with him in prayer about his Passion this week. It is important for us to see Jesus agonize in prayer over his surrender. His words can come to us throughout the week, to shape the way we make our choices to open ourselves to God’s desires in us. To pause here to be with Jesus, as he is kissed by a betraying friend and as all his friends just run away, is a powerful communion with the one we love in a moment of deep abandonment.
The Religious Trial (Matthew 26:57–68)
Caiaphas and the religious leaders can’t find an opening in their hearts for Jesus. How painful it must be for Jesus to face his failure to win over the very people he came to save. To mock his self-revelation as the indictment for his execution must have stung bitterly. All week I can focus on this part of his Passion as I observe how little he is accepted in so much of our culture today.
Judas and Peter (Matthew 26:69–27:10)
They both betray him. Judas can’t perceive how God could forgive him, and he kills himself. How much Jesus must have grieved Judas’s despair. Peter becomes transformed by his denial. He is able to be used by Jesus to lead in great humility and gratitude.
The Roman Trial (Matthew 27:11–21)
The Roman trial is full of ironies. He will not have his death sentence commuted. Pilate will wash his hands of the whole affair, and he will say he finds him innocent but then have him whipped and executed. We can place this trial in our memory this week as we are filled with a sense of sadness, outrage, gratitude for what Jesus went through, for me.
The Way to Crucifixion (Matthew 27:22–66)
We have provided an online prayer experience, “The Stations of the Cross,” to help with this part of the contemplation on the Passion. Perhaps we can do one or two stations a day, to enter more deeply into the journey of Jesus into intimacy with our suffering. The grace we desire is to experience a growing compassion with Jesus and to know most intimately that this is all an experience of his love, for me.
Pray with Psalm 22. The Gospel writers must have found it to be a powerful source of inspiration about how Jesus must have used this prayer in his struggle and trust in God.
Begin each day by focusing on a part of this mystery, perhaps just for a few moments while doing something very routine (putting on slippers, while showering, while dressing). Throughout the day, recall these reflections in the background of our consciousness. Notice the mystery of the Passion of Jesus revealed in the smallest of things I see and experience in my day. End each day expressing some gratitude for what I am learning and feeling in Jesus’ Passion this week.