“On the First Sunday of Lent we heard the Gospel account of the temptations of Jesus. At the end of Saint Luke’s account of the temptation it was noted that: “When the devil had finished every test, he departed from [Jesus] until an opportune time”.
Now that time has come. Today, in the reading of the Passion of the Lord, we have heard how Jesus is once again to be put to the test. Once again he must reject the temptations of Satan, those of power, wealth and success. Jesus remains faithful to the will of his Father, even at the price of enduring the ignominious death on a criminal’s cross. Jesus follows this path with all the anguish and fear it entails, but he does not flinch or waver. And he does this so that we can be saved. Through handing himself over, Jesus shows us that God is always faithful to his people.
His disciples react in a very different way. Even as, in the intimacy of the Last Supper, Jesus shares with his disciples what was to happen in the days to come, his disciples show just how easily they fall into temptation. One leaves the room and heads off to betray Jesus. Others even at this most solemn moment are still concerned about prestige and who should be considered the most important among them. Peter, the rock chosen on which to build the Church, promises in big words never to betray Jesus, but in that same evening Peter will betray Jesus three times. In the face of temptation the disciples flee and abandon Jesus.
At the final moment on the cross Jesus is tempted once again: “If you are the Son of God, save yourself”, they cry. But Jesus had not come to save himself. He had come to give his life out of love for us, so that we could have life. Jesus who is just – and is recognised as such by Pilate – is unjustly condemned, yet he forgives those who orchestrate his death.
This Gospel account teaches us something about the Church; it tells us something about the Church today and in every time; it tells how we are called to live if we wish to bring reform and renewal to the Church of Jesus Christ.
The Church will not be reformed as the Church of Christ by cries from outside, of those who do not believe. Renewal is a matter of faith and of understanding what it means that Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. His kingdom is not of this world but it must be realised day by day within this world, by those who understand the meaning of Christ’s self-giving love, which aimed not to save him but to bring life to others.
So many things damage the face of Christ in his Church. So many things damage the body of Christ. If we really understand how we all belong to the one body then we cannot feel that the answer to renewal in the Church can come about by leaving the Church or by leaving it to others.
When we journey along the way of the Cross we do not know what that way will entail and how long our journey will take. The challenge is not to follow the short-cuts of the disciples who found that fleeing was the quick and easy answer; the challenge is not to follow the hypocrisy of Pilate who places his own position and comfort ahead of his responsibility towards an innocent man; our challenge is not to get trapped in irrelevant questions of prestige and status as did some disciples at the Last Supper. Our challenge is to be like Jesus who, with all the anguish and fear it entails, does not flinch or waver in remaining faithful to the will of his Father, even at the price of enduring the ignominious death on a criminal’s cross.
Jesus emptied himself and gave himself for us. The Christian life can never be a closed inward looking life, but always one which cares for others, gives oneself for others and works for a society with a special focus on the needs of others, rather than on power or prestige or personal gain.”