Our Lord foretold several times what we have just heard. Here is the last of three instances in Saint Luke: “And taking the twelve, he said to them, ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that was written of the Son of man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and shamefully treated, and spit upon; they will scourge him and kill him; and on the third day he will rise.’ But they understood none of these things; this saying was hid from them, and they did not grasp what was said.” (Lk 19:31-34)
What we see is a man with unique powers and good reasons to attract his fellow human beings. Yet he is ridiculed, beaten, abandoned by friends and followers, and publicly tortured to death on a cross. I recall the first time I saw the Passion as a young boy. My father took me to see a movie of it in a church. I cried to Dad, “How could they do that to him? All he wanted to do was good!” Dad later told Mom he regretted taking me to see it. I don’t. I had received a childhood glimpse of the ultimate power of Jesus to attract, a glimpse into God’s heart.
The first disciples didn’t want to hear Jesus’s prediction of his Passion, and they were horrified when they saw it. There is almost nothing in everyday life that enables us to see the Passion of Christ as the action, the revelation, of God Almighty. But that is what it is.
What we encounter in Holy Week, whether we are good or bad or somewhere in between, is the immensity of God’s power to reclaim us. The cross shows that God’s apparent weakness is God’s power; that God’s apparent foolishness is his wisdom. For God’s almighty love consists of his humility and mercy. We cannot be redeemed in ways of our own preference. God alone can redeem us, and Holy Week shows us God’s way.
Christ foretold his Passion as described by the prophets before him. In so speaking, he described what God eternally purposed. For our Lord is not only the Son of Man. He is also his Father’s co-eternal Son, God’s Word by whom all things were made, the Word who is God. And God has always known what it would cost to create free spirits and free children of flesh and blood, children who could choose not to love in return, sinners. Therefore God himself is the Sacrifice destined before the foundation of the world. So it is that in the fullness of time, the time we call Holy Week, we see self-sacrificing Love Almighty on full display in Christ crucified.
One last word. The Church remembers the Passion because Jesus rose from the dead. Today is an Easter service.