Greetings to you, dear friends, from the monks of Mount Angel.
Here we are, almost at Palm Sunday, which begins the great Holy Week. Each year at the Palm Sunday liturgy, we read an account of the Passion, either from Matthew, Mark, or Luke. This is Mark’s year.
Of the four evangelists, Mark’s account is an especially stark version of the crucifixion. The gospel starts with Jesus in the house of Simon the leper and moves quickly to the Last Supper on Thursday evening. In my video this week, I zero in on those hours of the crucifixion which begin at nine the following morning. Mark describes the crowd at the scene of the crucifixion, and he records people taunting Jesus. When you listen to the video and then hear the account read at Mass, pay attention to these taunts.
“Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself by coming down from the cross.” That is the taunt. But Jesus did not come down.
The next hour that Mark notes is noon, and “darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.” It is quiet until three-o-clock, when Mark tells us that Jesus “cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’” It’s translated, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Finally, Mark records, “Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.”
Mark puts it right in our face. How could Jesus be the Messiah that he claimed to be? How could he be the Son of God if he is abandoned like this? By all accounts, Jesus has lost the bet.
But a centurion, a Roman soldier, facing Jesus and seeing that he died in this way, exclaimed, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
The words of the centurion are what reveal the transcendence of Jesus to all nations. It’s worth remembering about all the gospels that the story is told from the perspective of the resurrection of Jesus. We could say it’s only from this perspective that we can understand the depth of the crucifixion. This is certainly true with Mark.
These are deep mysteries. To understand the death of Jesus and see how magnificent the resurrection is, we must spend Holy Week inside these gospel texts, and let their mysteries be revealed to us.
All the monks here at Mount Angel are praying that this Holy Week be a time of tremendous blessing for you as we recall the mysteries of our salvation in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Abbot Jeremy Driscoll, O.S.B.
To view other talks by Abbot Jeremy please click here