As we go straight from hosanna in the highest, to crucify him in a very short amount of time, let’s consider some of the characters that played a part in the passion story. I identify with several of the key players in the narrative of the last days of the life of Jesus. These people who are part of salvation history aren’t unlike myself and probably everyone else in some way. Their stories resonate deeply with me, and so since we’ve made it to Holy Week, I’m going to give them a shoutout.
Mary from Magdala has an amazing story of conversion and transformation that is not unlike my own. She came to me one day when I was having a dark moment, to sit and chat, telling me that she was my patron and that she thought I’d be able to relate to her story. Her life is an incredible testament to the power of Christ.
This woman had seven demons that Jesus cast out from her, which means that until she met Jesus, she was pretty fucked up. Jesus changed her life so much that she loved him dearly, and I have this same opportunity to love him much and follow him all of my days. Mary Magdalene shows what a life redeemed by Jesus can look like.
It is her name that God gave me as the first half of my first name, and I’m so grateful for that. I want to follow Mary’s example. She stayed by Jesus’ side until the very end, and even afterwards, when she came to the tomb to tend to his body. She was the first witness of the resurrected Christ.
Mary, Mother of God
Holy Week is the time when I most relate to Mary as Mother of Sorrows. She knew when she consented to God’s plan that she was going to suffer, but I doubt she understood just how much she would suffer.
I have a disabled child who, if he lives to see his 21st birthday, certainly isn’t expected to see his 25th. I used to think that perhaps it was easier to know up front that I will probably bury him, rather than the opposite. He’s already past half of his projected life span. I do hope for a long life for him, and that’s possible, but not probable. It’s hard living with the knowledge that this is likely to be what is in store, and I can only hope that when the time comes, he will get all the dignity he can get.
Mary knew Jesus was going to die, and she knew it was going to be brutal. It was part of the plan from the very beginning. Knowing this wouldn’t have made it any easier to bear, but I know that when I start to feel sorrow about my son, I remember that Mary knows how it feels and she can offer comfort.
Here comes one of my favorite Biblical characters, Peter. He’s definitely my favorite disciple because I get this dude. He’s rough, uncouth, loud, obnoxious, and impulsive. He swears like a sailor (fisherman) and he does impulsive shit like chop off a guy’s ear with his sword to defend Jesus, who didn’t want defending. If somebody can fuck up this process of following Jesus, it’s this dude.
And yet…Peter loved Jesus. His story shows me that even when I fuck things up, Jesus wants to fix it. Peter is a person who beat himself up when he failed, and that’s something I do. I need to learn some of the same things that Peter learned: to forgive myself as God has forgiven me, to give up the need to beat myself up over my sin, and to let go of the need to punish myself. Instead, I need to embrace the love, goodness, mercy, and grace of God and continue to follow him.
Despite his ultimate denial of Jesus, Peter loved him very much, and when the risen Christ came to him offering forgiveness, Peter accepted it and became the founder of the Church. His legacy lives on even today.
It makes me sad to say that I definitely identify with Judas, as someone who has betrayed and even attempted to desecrate Jesus. The Gospels tell us that Satan himself possessed Judas when he betrayed Jesus. I keep coming back to the story of Judas because after the betrayal, Judas repented, but he went out and killed himself in despair. What made him respond differently than Peter did? Judas was unable to live with himself and what he had done. I have to live with myself and the knowlege of what I have done also, but Jesus has shown me great mercy and love despite it. Unlike Judas, I am alive, and I know that Jesus has forgiven me.
Simon of Cyrene
The Gospels tell of how Simon was compelled to carry the cross for Jesus, which makes me think, with the wording of that statement, that Simon didn’t really have a choice in the matter. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time, or whas he in the right place at the right time? Either way, Simon becamse part of the story, part of salvation history.
A lot of the good things in my spirituality come from being in the wrong place at the wrong time which, when Jesus enters the picture, ends up being the right place at the right time. Like Simon, I kind of randomly stumbled upon Jesus when I was doing other things. I wonder if Simon ever knew that his deed was acknowledged, that his name made it into the Gospels.
Joseph of Arimathea
I have mad respect for this man. He was unable to stop what happened to Jesus because he did not have that power, but, unlike Pilate, he voted against crucifying Jesus. He was heartbroken that he was powerless to stop this brutal murder, but he did the good that he could in giving the tomb that he had purchased for himself, to Jesus. This was not only a public display of his disagreement with this evil, it was also a gift. Joseph took care of Jesus in death because he could not help him in life. I hope that when it comes down to it, that I stand up for Jesus despite what everyone else is doing.