Passion Sunday, Year C
Liturgy Of The Palms:
Liturgy Of The Passion:
Lk 22:14-23:56 or Lk 23:1-49
After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, "Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’" So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, "Why are you untying the colt?" They said, "The Lord needs it." Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying, "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!" Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, order your disciples to stop." He answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out."
The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens– wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. The Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord GOD who helps me; who will declare me guilty?
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death– even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, "Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!" Then they began to ask one another, which one of them it could be who would do this. A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But he said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. "You are those who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. "Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." And he said to him, "Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!" Jesus said, "I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me." He said to them, "When I sent you out without a purse, bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?" They said, "No, not a thing." He said to them, "But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted among the lawless’; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled." They said, "Lord, look, here are two swords." He replied, "It is enough." He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he said to them, "Pray that you may not come into the time of trial." Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done." Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to them, "Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial." While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd came, and the one called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him; but Jesus said to him, "Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying the Son of Man?" When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, "Lord, should we strike with the sword?" Then one of them struck
the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, "No more of this!" And he touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple police, and the elders who had come for him, "Have you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a bandit? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness!" Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house. But Peter was following at a distance. When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. Then a servant-girl, seeing him in the firelight, stared at him and said, "This man also was with him." But he denied it, saying, "Woman, I do not know him." A little later someone else, on seeing him, said, "You also are one of them." But Peter said, "Man, I am not!" Then about an hour later still another kept insisting, "Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean." But Peter said, "Man, I do not know what you are talking about!" At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, "Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times." And he went out and wept bitterly. Now the men who were holding Jesus began to mock him and beat him; they also blindfolded him and kept asking him, "Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?" They kept heaping many other insults on him. When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, gathered together, and they brought him to their council. They said, "If you are the Messiah, tell us." He replied, "If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I question you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God." All of them asked, "Are you, then, the Son of God?" He said to them, "You say that I am." Then they said, "What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips!"
Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate. They began to accuse him, saying, "We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king." Then Pilate asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?" He answered, "You say so." Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, "I find no basis for an accusation against this man." But they were insistent and said, "He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place." When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate. That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies. Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, and said to them, "You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. I will therefore have him flogged and release him." Then they all shouted out together, "Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!" (This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.) Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; but they kept shouting, "Crucify, crucify him!" A third time he said to them, "Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him." But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished. As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus. A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?" Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, "He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!" The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, "If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!" There was also an inscription over him, "This is the King of the Jews." One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." He replied, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise." It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, "Certainly this man was innocent." And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things. Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.
When the Church participates in the Eucharist, there are almost always several invariables whether one is Protestant or Catholic. These invariables include the passing of the peace, the words of institution and the act of communal eating. Each of these has an important role to play in the ritual process.
We recall that ritual is one of the pillars upon which human culture depends (along with prohibition and myth). We are all quite familiar with the value of rituals and are quite annoyed when anyone tinkers with them. For example, most of us have a ‘‘morning ritual,” things we do in a certain order every morning. Occasionally this order is interrupted and it usually frustrating or upsetting. Many of us have office rituals or eating rituals. There are dating rituals, community rituals, national rituals, religious rituals, even couples develop their own rituals. Bowling leagues and boyscouts, political conventions and baseball games have rituals. Life is suffused with rituals. Most rituals have one thing in common though, there is a hidden scapegoat.
When the church engages the ritual of the Lord’s Supper it is effectively radicalizing ritual, deconstructing it and transforming it. The Eucharist radicalizes ritual by explicitly exposing the innocence of the victim, it deconstructs it by shifting our perspective and it transforms all rituals in its four fold action (see Dom Gregory Dix The Shape of the Liturgy).
First, the radicalization of ritual. When the Eucharist is performed it is done in the context of victimage. The words of institution begin ‘On the night he was betrayed…’ Innocent blood was betrayed. A victim had been selected by ‘the system’ and it would be one of Jesus’ followers who would betray him. Not only the Synoptics and Paul report this, but the Fourth Gospel bears witness to this as well. This is a meal explicitly about human sacrifice. It doesn’t let us get away with just going through the motions in some churchly pious fashion. It pushes us to examine our own life, our own betrayals, to acknowledge our own scapegoats. Rather than turning us away from violence, it forces us to acknowledge ourselves as persecutors. The Eucharist is not a ‘fun’ meal. It is not a birthday party or a wedding feast. The Eucharist strips away the mythology that encrusts cultural rituals and faces us with the originary event of victimage. It ‘radicalizes’ or thus re-centers us.
The Lord’s Supper also deconstructs ritual. When we share in this meal, we are sharing as the community who kills. We are acknowledging that we kill Jesus. The proof lies in the ‘killing’ we do every day with our thoughts and words. Most of us will never actually kill someone physically, but we condone the deaths of others or we wish the deaths of others and so justify the killing rituals we engage as a culture. The Eucharist forces this to our attention. This is not a clean meal, it is a bloody and gruesome event we share. If our thoughts, wishes and hate were to show themselves in our flesh, how many of us would have clean hands? The Eucharist makes our hands unclean, it bloodies them, it forces us to accept that we spend way too much of our time and energy as persecutors, as haters and vengeful people. If we come to the Eucharist and think we walk away with clean hands, we deceive ourselves, for we do not acknowledge our mimetic tendencies to jealousy, rivalry and hate. We, you and me, are the betrayers of Jesus, we have all spilled innocent blood in our lifetime.
Third, the Eucharist transforms ritual by pointing up the self-giving nature of God as victim. When the community thinks it has taken Jesus’ life from him, they do not yet understand that his life was something he chose to lay down. He did not have to do that. He certainly could have escaped or gone into hiding or called legions of angels to conduct a holy war. He did none of the above. He did surrender his life. The only thing that stops a fight is surrender; it takes two to fight. Surrender eliminates rivalry. It is thus the true antidote to negative mimesis and its consequences. The Lord’s Supper is the institutionalizing of the principle of surrender. This should gall many and make many choke who see the Eucharist as a justification for their satisfaction views of the atonement. But surrender is the key principle enunciated in the gospels, “unless you lay down your life”, “unless you take up your cross.” Surrender is the truly ‘divine’ principle which underlies not only Christian theology but also Christian ritual. Surrender is a facet of love.
When we acknowledge together that we killed Jesus, we form the community who also stands under his word of forgiveness. “This blood is shed..for the forgiveness of sins.” He lets his blood be shed by us expressly so that he may demonstrate the extent of his forgiveness. Even to the point of death and a cross death at that (Phil 2:5-11). In our gratitude for this forgiveness we also extend our forgiveness to those who have hurt us in like imitation of Jesus. This is why we pass the peace, but we should pass it after the meal, not before. Before the meal we are full of conflict and strife. After the meal we may indeed forgive and seek forgiveness. If this was all we did as a Christian community it would shine so much brighter than our biggest ministries.
We do not have the time to delve into the problem of the Lord’s Supper as a Passover meal. Perhaps at a later date we shall set forth our exegetical arguments, but for now we shall simply assert that a) we follow the Fourth Gospel chronology which makes the Last Supper definitely not a Passover meal and b) that the Synoptic/Pauline trajectory which does make the Last Supper a Passover meal can be explained as stemming from the Jerusalem community around the apostles. This does not mean that the Synoptic/Pauline tradition viewed the meal ‘sacrificially,’ note especially the absence of the lamb (contra to Jeremias The Eucharistic Words of Jesus).
The Lukan addition of the second (= the first cup) indicates that by the end of the second century the question of the relation of the Last Supper to the Passover meal had become a problem for the early church. This simple historical conundrum would erupt in the next century as the Quatrodecimian controversy. The East still celebrates their Eucharist with leavened bread.
Mimetic theory has quite a lot to say about the church’s rituals. By framing the question in terms of the roles played in the violence done to Jesus rather than focusing on the metaphysical (= dualistic) question the Eucharist may once again transform us as we believe the body and the bread are transformed. Of what use is it to dispute the question of the transformation of the bread and wine when we are ourselves remain substantially unchanged? When we engage the Eucharist metaphysically we fool ourselves into thinking magically. We become nothing other than manipulators of God’s grace (or so we think).
The implied sociology of the Eucharist demands from us a corresponding obedience, that is, to become the people who forgive one another, who love one another and who lay down their lives for one another. Which after all is the point of both the Lukan and Johannine stories, Jesus serves this meal as the Son of Man who will be rejected and as the Son of God who will be vindicated.