Jesus counted on the possibility of a violent end. He wasn’t naïve. He knew what he was risking as he kept insisting on the project of God’s Reign. It was impossible to so radically seek a dignified life for the «poor» and the «sinners», without provoking the reaction of those who weren’t at all interested in any such change.
Certainly Jesus isn’t suicidal. He’s not looking for crucifixion. He never wanted suffering either for others or for himself. His whole life has been dedicated to combating suffering wherever he found it: in sickness, injustices, sin or despair. That’s why he doesn’t run toward death, nor run away from it.
He will keep welcoming sinners and the excluded, though such action is irritating at the temple. If they end up condemning him, he will die as another delinquent and excluded person, but his death will confirm what his whole life has been about: complete trust in a God who doesn’t exclude anyone from forgiveness.
He will keep announcing God’s love for the least, identifying himself with the poorest and most despised in the empire, no matter how much this bothers the Roman governor nearby. If they kill him one day in the torture of the cross, a punishment reserved for slaves, he will die as one more despicable slave, but his death will forever seal his faithfulness to the God who defends victims.
Full of God’s love, he will keep offering «salvation» to those who suffer evil and sickness: he will give «welcome» to those who are excluded by society and religion; he will give away God’s free «forgiveness» to sinners and lost people, those who are unable to return his friendship. This saving attitude which inspired his whole life will also inspire his death.
That’s why the cross is so attractive to us Christians. We kiss the face of the one crucified, we raise our eyes to him, we listen to his last words…because in his crucifixion we see Jesus’ final service of the Father’s project, and the supreme act of God handing over the Son out of love for all humanity.
It’s contemptible to convert Holy Week into folklore or tourist attraction. For Jesus’ followers, to celebrate our Lord’s passion and death is passionate thanksgiving, joyful adoration for God’s «incredible» love, and a call to live like Jesus, becoming one with all who are crucified.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf