PASSION SUNDAY  25 March 2012.     LENT 5. 

“He came into his own and his own received him not.”

As we enter Passiontide, these words from the beginning of St John’s gospel might remind us that the Passion of Jesus was there throughout his life.

If the origin of human sin is the turning away from God - and Jesus took upon himself all our sin - then he had to embrace the stinging experience of rejection. The gift of his Father’s love was not acceptable; the gift was refused. As it says in Psalm 69.

“The scorn of those who scorn you has fallen upon me.”

Not only was the message rejected – so was the messenger.

It could be said that Jesus was alight with his Father’s unconditional love for his people. If this was the message Jesus came to share, then the fundamental agony in the Passion was this experience of the turning away from the gift and at the same time away from the messenger of the gift.

From the earliest days he was met with incomprehension, contradiction and outright hostility … all that the prophets faced in the years before him. At one stage his own family were anxious that what he did and said would land him in trouble. They didn’t seem to understand.

“Did you not realise that I must be about my father’s business?”

When Mary saw him leaving home after 30 years of intimate family life – she must have wondered where it would all end.

Next, the friends that he chose to share his good news did not fully understand him. Peter  - and maybe others - actually opposed him when he spoke of what  was to happen to him. Jesus’ response was ‘get behind me Satan.’

The greatest opposition to Jesus was from the contemporary church – the religious establishment of the time. Their reaction to his words and actions was that he was a troublesome blasphemer who had to be silenced. He was a dangerous threat to them.

It must have been a deep wound to Jesus that he failed to share his word of love from the Father. This pain was a profound human aspect of his passion; because it was the human pain which runs through all humanity – the experience of rejection. This is one of the commonest sicknesses in our world today. Sometimes people carry the burden of rejection throughout their lives. There are a lot of lonely people!!

Of course, reflecting on the Passion of Jesus, we realise that in our world today there are followers of Jesus who share the same experience as he did. It leads to intimidation, violence and sometimes death but even without the experience of openly suffering for the sake of their belief in the Gospels, many folk experience rejection as a sharp wound that is born by them throughout their life. Jesus felt the same sting of grief as they do.

Each of us, indeed, may have had the experience of carrying some special reflection or insight of grace to others – in the desire to share the experience. Sometimes we meet indifference - dispute even - an argument that what we bring is not sound theology!!

If what we have tried to show becomes open to debate, we can wish we had never opened our mouth! We know that in any discussion group there are those who remain silent, or say very little. Maybe this is because they have on previous occasions had their contribution questioned – and disputed – so they now prefer to keep silent.  We are sometimes guilty of always wanting to cap what someone says with a clever remark of our own, which kind of turns out to be a ‘put down’ for the other person. Sometimes we “Come unto our own and our own do not receive us.

In all of this, whether it be a small scale experience, or a life threatening one, we have a share in this kind of human experience in Jesus’ Passion. However, we must remember that the hurt and the pain are not the last word in  all of this, as it says in the letter to the Hebrews:

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfected of our faith, who for the JOY set before him endured the Cross.”

The JOY of communion with Jesus, both in his passion and his resurrection outshine the scars we bear of rejection. As Julian of Norwich learned, the wounds of sin become bathed in the glory of God; a kind of Transfiguration.

            Simon Holden CR