LAST Week of Lent
Evangelium: Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 12:1-11.
Thought of the day: You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.
Task for the Day: Reflect on what would Jesus might think on your attitude towards the poor.
Tuesday 22nd March
Evangelium: Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 13:21-33.36-38
Thought of the day: It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.
Task for the Day: The rooster is crowing… ‘Have I denied Christ?’ Should be your question today. Make your own a self-examination..
Wednesday 23rd March
Evangelium: Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 26:14-25.
Thought of the day: and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.
Task for the Day: Judas had a price. And you? What is your price? Today, in your daily prayer, ask Jesus to not fall into temptation, regardless the ‘reward’ is.
Thursday 24th March
Evangelium: Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 13:1-15.
Thought of the day: Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed
Task for the Day: Tonight, when your parents return home from work, dare to wash their feet and thank them all they have done and do for you.
Friday 25th March – VII. Week of Lent
The mock coronation (Mk. 15:16-20; see Mt. 27:27-31) and the crucifixion (Mk. 15:21-47; see Mt. 27:32-61; Lk. 23:26-56)
16 The soldiers led him away to the inner part of the palace, that is, the Praetorium, and called the whole cohort together.
17 They dressed him up in purple, twisted some thorns into a crown and put it on him.
18 And they began saluting him, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’
19 They struck his head with a reed and spat on him; and they went down on their knees to do him homage.
20 And when they had finished making fun of him, they took off the purple and dressed him in his own clothes. They led him out to crucify him.
21 They enlisted a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, father of Alexander and Rufus, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross.
22 They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha, which means the place of the skull.
23 They offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he refused it.
24 Then they crucified him, and shared out his clothing, casting lots to decide what each should get.
25 It was the third hour when they crucified him.
26 The inscription giving the charge against him read, ‘The King of the Jews’.
27 And they crucified two bandits with him, one on his right and one on his left.
29 The passers-by jeered at him; they shook their heads and said, ‘Aha! So you would destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days!
30 Then save yourself; come down from the cross!’
31 The chief priests and the scribes mocked him among themselves in the same way with the words, ‘He saved others, he cannot save himself.
32 Let the Christ, the king of Israel, come down from the cross now, for us to see it and believe.’ Even those who were crucified with him taunted him.
33 When the sixth hour came there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.
34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’
35 When some of those who stood by heard this, they said, ‘Listen, he is calling on Elijah.’
37 But Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.
38 And the veil of the Sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.
41 These used to follow him and look after him when he was in Galilee. And many other women were there who had come up to Jerusalem with him.
42 It was now evening, and since it was Preparation Day — that is, the day before the Sabbath-
44 Pilate, astonished that he should have died so soon, summoned the centurion and enquired if he had been dead for some time.
45 Having been assured of this by the centurion, he granted the corpse to Joseph
The cruel mockery of the high priest’s court was repeated by Pilate’s soldiers. A scarlet cavalry cloak and a rough crown made from the thorn bushes that grow everywhere in Palestine were enough to show a mock king. The soldiers’ ‘Hail’ was what they might have given to a king like Herod, or even to Caesar himself, but all was mockery. The Roman force of occupation was feared by the ordinary people of Palestine for its cruelty and oppression. Abuse, if not actual torture, was common, as we can see from John’s words to the repentant soldiers in Lk. 3:14. So we should not be surprised at the beating and spitting, or even at the cruel flogging that left prisoners half dead before execution. Yet one soldier at least was so moved by what he saw and heard at the cross that he confessed that Jesus was the Son of God (15:39). (In Acts 10 we read of a Roman soldier who was baptized by Peter.)
Now we are at the heart of the coronation of the king, for now we come to the ‘way of the cross’, the walk from the governor’s house to the place of execution. This last journey of Jesus’ is still commemorated by Christians each week in Jerusalem to this day.
It looks as if Simon was not known to the Christian group in Mark’s day but that his sons were. If Rom. 16:13 is a reference to the same Rufus, then he at least was known to the Roman church. It may have been that carrying his cross won Simon to Jesus. Usually, the condemned man carried the crossbar of his own cross to the place of execution, but Jesus must have been too weak after his flogging. People sometimes died as a result of the flogging (there was no limit to the number of strokes) that always preceded crucifixion. Those in whose lands flogging has been re–introduced as a legal punishment will understand how damaging it can be.
Golgotha (‘Calvary’ or ‘Skull Hill’) got its name from its shape. The site is covered over today by church buildings, but a nearby hill, sometimes called ‘Gordon’s Calvary’, gives some idea of what it must have looked like. The wine mixed with myrrh would have had a bitter taste but was actually a narcotic, given by pious women of Jerusalem to deaden the pain of crucifixion (23). Jesus refused it to keep his mind clear for his last great fight. As usual at all such executions, the criminal’s clothes were the reward of the executioners, and the soldiers threw dice to see who got which piece of clothing, for they would be of unequal value.
Mark does not play on our emotions when he describes the crucifixion, as modern accounts might do. He simply records the facts, for that is enough to move us. Perhaps because of his Roman background, Mark seems to count hours differently from the Greek way (cf. Jn. 19:14), so that we are not sure at what exact time Jesus was crucified. Asia and Africa also have, or have had, different ways of counting time too. All that matters is that Jesus died for us there.
Now Jesus’ kingship was plain for all to see, on the placard nailed to the cross as Pilate’s last taunt to the priests. The crowds mockingly called him the Messiah, the king of Israel; only a Gentile would speak of a king of the Jews. The jeers of the priests and people at the crucifixion are the strongest possible proof that Jesus did indeed claim to be king and Messiah and saviour. Otherwise, the bitter mockery would have had no point. The sign that they demanded (32) was an impossible one. If Jesus was to save us, as suffering Messiah, then he could not save himself from the cross. When he did give them a far greater sign, the sign of the resurrection, they still would not believe. That is why earlier in his ministry Jesus gave the answer that he did to the Pharisees (8:12). Faith would see a sign in everything that he did; unbelief would never be convinced by any sign.
Darkness at noon (by Mark’s timing) was a symbol of God’s judgment (Am. 8:9). What sort of darkness it was, we do not know. It might have been one of the blinding sandstorms of the area. It could not have been an eclipse of the sun, as Passover occurred at full moon. The darkness seems to have pictured God’s wrath not just directed at those who had rejected his Son but also at the sin which Jesus was bearing at that moment for us, as our sinoffering. Why else would Jesus have cried aloud, in the words of Ps 22, that God had deserted him? (34). We cannot conceive what this separation meant to one who from before all eternity had known no separation from his loving Father; yet it shows, as nothing else, how terrible is sin. Jesus’ cry came from his heart and Mark translates the Aramaic as usual. Half–understanding, or deliberately misunderstanding, the bystanders saw it as a call to Elijah, who according to Jewish legend would return to save Jews in great danger.
Perhaps, along with the soldiers’ mockery there was some sympathy, for one soldier gave Jesus a drink from his rations of wine vinegar, egg and water. Jesus had refused the wine mixed with myrrh, perhaps he accepted this second drink (Jn. 19:30) to gain the strength to make his last great cry of triumph ring out. After this Jesus gave a loud cry and died. According to John, Jesus’ final words were ‘It is finished’ (Jn. 19:30). The Roman officer in charge of the execution squad heard and realized that the one who cried out like that, and died as he died, must be the Son of God (39). (The Greek could mean ‘a son’ but it makes little difference; he was a soldier, not a theologian.) The early church saw in these words the confession by a Gentile that Israel had failed to make, and if our suggestions about Mark are correct, this would have been very important to him and his church. In a sense the gospel of Mark is built around the confession of Christ by Peter at Caesarea Philippi, and the confession by this centurion at the cross. Alternatively, we can see it as the contrast between the denial by Peter and the confession by the centurion. This centurion may possibly have become a Christian later, though Mark does not say so. The later story that he went to Britain carrying the gospel is probably a pious fiction.
Mark does not record the earthquake mentioned in Matthew nor the earthquake that introduced Jesus’ resurrection; but he does mention one of its results. The great woven curtain of the temple, shutting off the holiest place from the gaze of worshippers, was torn in two. Access to God was now open to all, Gentile as well as Jew, lay person as well as priest.
A group of faithful women had watched the crucifixion from a distance, those who had supported Jesus and the Twelve with money and food and loving care (41). If it is said, intended as criticism, that the church today is largely made up of women, the answer is that they have never been lacking, even in the time of Jesus. If Jesus had his band of men as apostles, he also had his faithful band of women followers, of whom we have some names here. Two of them witnessed the hurried temporary burial of Jesus before the Sabbath began. No pious Jew would leave the body of an executed man exposed after sundown, particularly if the next day was a Sabbath.
God had, as he always has, the right man for the moment. He was Joseph, influential enough to ask for the body (normally, the property of the Roman government in such cases), and rich enough to own a rock–cut tomb to use for the temporary burial (46). As customary, a great stone was slidden down a groove in the rock to protect the body from animals or tomb–robbers. The fact that the two Marys saw where Jesus was buried meant that there could have been no mistake when they returned when the Sabbath was over. Two ‘witnesses’ had seen the place, and they were women. For those who live in countries where a woman’s witness is not accepted in court as being of equal value to that of a man, this is a liberating thought.
Thought of the Day: But Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.
Task for the Day: Do not forget to eat just 3 times a day, no desserts, no sweets between meals
Saturday 26th March
Evangelium: Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 24:1-12.
Thought of the day: the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day.
Task for the Day: attend the Easter Vigil