The double name for this Sunday leading us into Holy Week, announces both the joy and suffering which characterises this time. Being Year A, both the glad Hosannas and the cruel call for the release of Barabbas over Jesus, are read from the gospel of Matthew. Because of the beautiful Oratorio of J.S. Bach based on this Matthean Passion, we have, this year, another way of experiencing, beyond words, the experience of Jesus. A fitting way to enter and accompany Jesus in Holy Week, could be to immerse ourselves in the Oratorio.
The opening words of the music are, Come, ye daughters (and sons) help me lament. This is an invitation for all of us. Lament is what is fitting at this time, for He is the innocent Lamb, the one of love and graciousness, carrying the wood of the cross.
At the beginning of the reading of the passion, Matthew reminds us that this is the time of the Passover. Jesus and his disciples are celebrating the great feast commemorating the freedom of the Children of Israel from slavery in Egypt. They passed through the Red Sea from slavery to freedom, from death to life. Matthew presents Jesus as the promised Messiah, not just leading us from death to life, but destroying death forever.
Matthew’s account of the passion seems to be littered with sinners, the scheming authorities, the mockers and scorners, the betraying Judas, the denying Peter. Yet between denial and betrayal we see Jesus give himself as food and drink for our lives. Mathew presents him as the Shepherd who was wounded, the one who took the cup of sorrow for us…. that we might live.
Let us lament at the wonder of it all but let us take this life so dearly won and live it with devotion and gratitude. And because we have received this life, let us be peacemakers, healers, and life givers wherever we are.