Also known as Passion Sunday
Passion Sunday is the day on which we start to think about what Jesus would suffer up to and including his Crucifixion. The original Latin word meant suffering, and as our language developed it came to refer specially to suffering for love, and then to any deep love – even in such phrases as ‘I have a passion for chocolates’!
Last week we considered self-sacrificial love, with the implication that our love brings us to accept some sort of suffering on behalf of the person loved. It appears to be a natural instinct to make sacrifices for our loved ones, but Jesus teaches us to do more. As we prepare to follow the events of Holy Week from next Sunday, we might try to put others before ourselves, even those we find unlikeable or difficult. Some of the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount is difficult and challenging, but it can’t be ignored. We read there:
‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48).
In the Lutheran Church there was a custom to retell the narrative of the Passion in music – notably in the settings by JS Bach. Handel used Isaiah’s prophecy (chapter 53) as the basis of one of the high moments of his oratorio ‘The Messiah’:
‘He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account. Surely, he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. ‘
Jesus showed no hatred for his persecutors; he accepted his suffering without complaint. Not an easy example to follow. This little prayer might help:
Dear Lord, help us always to put the needs of others before our own,
following the example of your Son, Jesus Christ.