Our Lord described himself as having a baptism wherewith he was to be baptized. John gave him the baptism of water, but the Roman soldiers have him his baptism of blood. After opening his sacred ﬂesh with violent stripes, they now put on him a purple robe which adhered to his bleeding body. Then they plaited a crown of thorns which they placed on his head. They mocked him and put a rod in his hand after beating him on the head. Then they knelt down before him in feigned adoration.
Fulton J. Sheen Life of Christ
In today’s ﬁrst reading we hear ‘I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.’ (Isa 50:6 ESV) The suffering servant’s treatment points forward to Our Lord’s mistreatment at the hands of Roman soldiers and the crowd on his way to Calvary. It is brutal and unpleasant, even more so when we consider that He had preached and lived God’s love and healing and forgiveness. We see God incarnate mocked and physically abused by those he came to save. Nowadays the Church, certainly in this land, faces less scorn, hatred, and violence than elsewhere, but far more indiﬀerence, which is worse in many ways. People have grown cold to the message of love, and prefer to ignore it, safely cosseted in a cocoon of materialism, obsessed with self – spiritually empty and miserable.
In the Gospel we see Judas is still concerned with material things, having criticised the reckless generosity of Mary’s anointing Jesus’ feet, he now goes to the chief priests and asks them ‘What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?’ (Mt 26:15 ESV). These are words for the church: we still have modern-day Judases willing to betray our Lord, his Gospel and his Church for the sake of ambition and advancement. Perhaps a pointy hat is today’s thirty pieces of silver, and too many in the church follow Judas in preferring the ways of the world to those of God. But we must follow Our Lord’s example and love them. This is after all what we are preparing to celebrate: the fact that the love of God can be ignored and rejected but never overcome – in Christ the victory of the Cross is complete and absolute, it restores our relationship with God and each other and allows us to live in a community of love, close to God, fed by him, with him, healed and restored by him, prepared for and given the hope of heaven where we may enjoy eternity in the presence of the Trinity.
In Christ we see a life lived not for self, not to acquire wealth, or status, or power, but lived for others – to share with them the love of God, to heal and restore them – offering them an alternative to the ways of the world with its selﬁshness, its greed, the desire for power and domination. Instead, he offers humble service and power shown in weakness – this is the power of God to transform the world. This is what the Church is called to follow and live out in the world – a life of self-giving, sacriﬁcial love – this is what we are called to in our baptism, that we may embody and live out the faith which we profess to help transform the world. We need to be reminded of it, day by day and year by year because the Church has to remain true to her calling to help share the love of God with the world around us, so that it may believe and be transformed after the likeness of our cruciﬁed and risen Saviour. After nearly two thousand years we have not got there yet, but we still press on, changing the world one soul at a time, conﬁdent in the victory and the saving love of him who died and rose again for us.
So let us come to him, to be fed by Him, and with Him, healed and restored by Him, through the sacraments of the Church, his body, so that we may be prepared to celebrate with joy the triumph of His Paschal victory, so that we and all the earth may give praise to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, to whom be ascribed as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory dominion and power, now and forever