Today we gather together to herald with the whole Church the beginning of the celebration of our Lord’s Paschal Mystery. This “purpose statement” for Holy Week is from the opening prayer of today’s Mass. The “paschal mystery” we celebrate is the suffering, the death and the resurrection of Jesus, but it may seem that the emphasis of the week is more on his suffering and death. Our Gospel is the very sad passion account from Matthew’s Gospel. It is a story of treachery and betrayal and ridicule. It is paired with Hebrew Scripture’s third “suffering” servant song from Isaiah — we’ll hear another of his servant songs on Good Friday. Isaiah’s “servant” stayed faithful to God when he was persecuted for speaking the truth to those who did not want to hear it. Isaiah may have been referring to himself and other prophets, but many Jewish scholars think he was referring to Israel itself, a little “nation” proclaiming belief in its One God of Power and Might even when persecuted or exiled. Taken together, these readings ask us: Can we remain steadfast believers when hostility or ridicule is directed to us because of our religion, or because of the ethics that flow from it?
There is another thing to notice. Matthew’s Gospel uses dramatic language to talk about the curtain of the temple being torn at Jesus’ death. By the time he wrote, around the year 80, the Romans had destroyed the great temple in Jerusalem. That must have looked like an unmitigated disaster to Jewish converts to Christianity, but Matthew interprets it as something new breaking into their reality. Jewish Christians for whom he was writing were already taking the Centurion’s profession of faith, “Truly this was the Son of God,” out from Jerusalem into the Mediterranean region. A new people of God was being born; the initial darkness and despair brought about by Jesus’ death and the destruction of the temple was receding before the new. Where are the areas of disaster and darkness in our own reality? The point of the passion of Jesus is that it bursts into new light at Easter. Where is that happening in your life?
— Blog entry by Sister Mary Garascia