Sunday 25 March 2018

About Today Readings

Ecce Homo, c1605. Galleria Civica di Palazzo Rosso, Genoa, Italy.

Week I Psalter. Passion (Palm ) Sunday.

Isaiah 50:4-7. Psalm 21(22):8-9,17-20,23-4. Philippians 2:6-11. Mark 14:1-15:47.

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?–Psalm 21(22):8-9,17-20,23-4. 

In truth this man was a son of God.

No matter how long you’ve been a Christian, Holy week doesn’t get any easier. It confronts every dark corner of our humanity, bringing to the light of God’s love all the things that we find impossible to love in ourselves. Caravaggio understood this. His Ecce Homo (which means ‘here is the man’) was painted when he was in flight from the police after violently attacking a lawyer. The artist was hardly the kind of person you’d trust with guiding you into the most sensitive week in the Christian year, one which asks us, once again, to find the freedom to accept God’s upside-down view of the world. Yet maybe that’s wrong. Caravaggio paints Pilate as a figure of darkness, wrapped up tight in a black cape and a black hat, protected from reality but looking right at the onlooker as if pleading for mercy for himself. Jesus, naked, is the figure of light. As the slave behind him acts in a superior manner, Jesus seems at peace. He has nothing to hide.

The words ‘here is the man’ ask us to be present to Jesus on this painful journey. Mark’s Gospel, whose account of the passion we read today, knows that this is a challenge. Mark grieves for the male disciples who abandoned Jesus in his passion. He notes how hopelessly lost Pilate became in his need to keep people happy. ‘What harm has he done,’ he asks. ‘What am I to do?’ He brings us close to Simon of Cyrene, the passers-by who jeered and the women who remained faithful. Finally, there is a centurion who is able to break free from his role and say, when it is all over, ‘this man was God’s son.’ The passion asks us all to find a fresh set of eyes so that we can see and love the world in its brokenness just as Jesus loves it and shares its pain.

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