Be defenseless like Jesus was in His Passion Print E-mail
Bishop's Column
Thursday, Mar. 29, 2018 -- 12:00 AM
This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.

Dear Friends,

This past Sunday was Palm Sunday, and by the time you read this it will likely be in the midst of the Sacred Triduum or even in the glorious season of Easter.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I feel as if this Lenten journey sped by unbelievably fast. And so (it seems to me) that all of a sudden here we are, in the midst of Holy Week.

If you read this in time, I do want to make a pitch for you -- insofar as it is possible -- to make an effort to attend the most important liturgy in the Church calendar, which occurs on Holy Saturday night.

The Easter Vigil is the pinnacle of our liturgical year, as we walk through salvation history and proclaim once again the glorious news that we have a Savior!

The Easter Vigil is jam-packed with the mysteries of our faith, and it is designed certainly to be longer than our Sunday Mass -- especially when we have the joy of welcoming those who come into the Church that night -- but it should be an unbelievably beautiful moment of prayer for those who enter into it.

Reflecting upon Christ’s Passion

I wish to reflect upon Jesus, leading up to, and through, His Passion. And in a particular way, I want to consider Christ’s defenselessness and His obedience. In the First Reading on Palm Sunday, we heard the Prophet Isaiah (Is 50:4-7) speak in the voice of the “suffering servant.”

“I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.”

And in the Second Reading, we heard St. Paul’s reminder (Phil 2:6-11) that Jesus, despite being God Himself, “became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.”

And then we saw those two images lived out in the life of Jesus in the beautiful Passion reading (Mk 14:1--15:47).

What is clear from the three readings of Palm Sunday is that Jesus was defenseless. He made Himself defenseless before God.

And when one makes himself or herself defenseless before God, that flows from, and results in, obedience, even unto death. Even unto martyrdom.

Recalling the Passion, we can consider how St. Peter defended himself against God. “I’m not one of them,” he said three times.

We can recall how Pontius Pilate defended himself against God, saying basically, “I find no fault with Him. He really shouldn’t be crucified, but I’ll play to the crowds.”

And even before Christ’s Passion really began, we can recall the scene at the Last Supper, when Christ declared that one of His Apostles would betray Him.

To a person, “they began to be distressed and to say to Him, one by one, “Surely, it is not I?”

And so, we must consider, how often do we defend ourselves against God? How often do we say, “Surely, I would never betray you Lord!” How often do we defend ourselves against God because we’re playing to the crowds?

Make ourselves completely defenseless

When we really are willing to have the highest form of faith, with Jesus, like Jesus, with Mary, like Mary, we make ourselves completely defenseless before God.

We place ourselves utterly in His hands. And as we place ourselves completely in God’s hands, what happens?

Our weakness becomes our strength, for by making ourselves defenseless, we come under the defenses of God Himself.

But how do we do this? How do we make ourselves utterly defenseless against God?

We do so through obedience. We say to the Father, like Jesus and with Jesus, “Father, if you will not take this chalice away from me, then I will accept it. Father, your will be done!”

We say to the Father like Mary and with Mary, “I am your humble servant. Let it be done unto me according to thy word.”

And let’s remember that our obedience to God, our defenselessness, does not occur in a vacuum -- between “me and God.”

Knowing His will

For to us God has given a sure means by which we may know His will and by which we might live a life of grace.

That means His living Body here on earth, His Church. Obedience to God, to Christ, is also obedience to the Church.

How many Catholics defend themselves against God by defending themselves against the Church? Lots do.

And there are all kinds of excuses and reasons, yet they often come down the very same reasons and excuses as we saw in the readings.

For some, they are afraid (like Peter) and defend themselves against the teaching of the Church for fear.

For others they, like Pilate, wish to “play to the crowds,” saying “Oh, I won’t be popular with my friends if I agree with this or that teaching of the Church.”

After all, it’s not very acceptable in our contemporary culture, it’s not very acceptable in Madison, to be defenseless before God, to be a disciple for Christ. It’s not very acceptable at all. So, many people hide their faith. They are afraid to be known as Catholics for fear of what “the crowds” will say.

But for us, the path must be defenselessness.

For us, the path must be obedience to God, to Christ, and to the Church.

Let’s get serious this Holy Week. As Jesus said so beautifully in a phrase that was so beloved of St. John Paul the Great, let us hear Him call, “Arise! Let us be on our way!”

To defenselessness, to obedience, even unto death on a cross.

Praised be Jesus Christ!