Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Listening to the passion on Palm Sunday has always been very inspiring for me, but sadly because it is so long priests seldom have time to preach and bring out all of the nuances of perhaps the climax of the Gospel. Here are a few points from Matthew's passion that we heard on Sunday that you may not know...which give one a slightly different picture.

1) Judas' kiss of betrayal
The word used for "kiss" is kata philien which literally means to "shower with love", in this case it leads one to the conclusion that Matthew is recording that Judas didn't just offer Jesus a kiss on the cheek--the way it is often portrayed but literally showered him with kisses. In my mind this makes the whole event much more sickening and disturbing.

2) Peter's accent and Jesus'
Both when Peter is accused of being a follower of Jesus, because his "accent" gives him away and Jesus being misunderstood when he cries out "Eli, Eli" point to the fact that Galileans were notoriously bad speakers of Aramaic. They were often misunderstood because of the way they mis-spoke the Jewish language. Geza Vermes in his book points out a number of places where Jesus spoke Aramaic rather poorly. This gives us an insight into the incarnation, God taking on, as St. Paul says the "form of a slave", lowering himself. It also points to the marvel that often God works through those who others consider ignorant....Solanus Casey was not allowed to hear confessions or preach doctrinal sermons but people traveled for thousands of miles to receive his counsel. "God's way are not ours."

3) Judas' repentance
Some can listen to the repentance of Judas, "he regretted what he had done" and wonder why he was not forgiven (at least in the Gospel). The word used for Judas' regret is metanoia "repent", but the difference between Judas and Peter is that Judas repented unto himself. He turned his regret toward himself. This is probably why he committed suicide. We should regret all of our evil acts but we should never punish ourselves but turn to God and pray for forgiveness and healing. Sadly, too many people imitate Judas when it comes to their sins, turning their regret inward and slowly killing themselves versus realizing that God has created them for a purpose and it is only by turning to God that we can truly be forgiven and do what he wants us to.

4) The High Priest tearing his garment
When Jesus is accused of blaspheming by the High Priest, the high priest rends his garments. Any God fearing Jew hearing this part of the Gospel would gasp in horror realizing that the High Priest was blaspheming."The priest who is chief among his brethren, upon whose head the anointing oil is poured, and who has been consecrated to wear the garments, shall not let the hair of his head hang loose, nor rend his clothes," (Leviticus 21:10).

5) His Blood be on us and our children
This is the passage of the passion that has often been used to justify anti-semitic behavior but sadly this misses the whole point. As in Genesis when Joseph tells his brothers that what they did to him they meant for evil but God meant it for good, so too here we have a passage where the people uttering the words intend one thing but God intends another.
Jesus had declared on the night before he died that his blood what the blood of the new covenant. The Jews who asked to have this blood placed upon their heads and on their children's heads were invoking salvation, albeit unwittingly, mirroring the ratification of the "old" covenant of Sinai where after Moses read the law he sprinkled blood on the people's heads.
Again, what we can learn from this is that God is guiding the world in spite of our evil deeds and refussal to turn to him. God desires our salvation to the point that even when he stands before us and we reject him he finds a way to turn our evil intention into the key to unlock the gates of salvation for us.