EVERY year around this time, without fail, the Christian community the world over goes into overdrive in its fervour to recreate the Passion, the short final period in the life of Jesus, beginning with his triumphal entry into Jerusalem astride a donkey, and ending with his crucifixion and death on Good Friday.
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It’s a period that includes, among other events, the famed Last Supper, as the last meal that Jesus shared with his disciples is called, his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, where, on the night before he was crucified, he was arrested by Sanhedrin priests and taken before Pontius Pilate, then governor of Judea, to be tried.
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It’s also part of a wider 40-day period of introspection and self-denial that is officially called Lent, and begins just after Carnival in Trinidad with Shrove Tuesday, otherwise known as ‘Pancake Day’, followed by Ash Wednesday, and goes right up until Good Friday. Chances are that caught up as the community no doubt is in the whole pageantry of the affair, and in some instances the routineness of it all, no one has ever really stopped to think about the enormity of the situation; that here was a young man, barely in his 30s or thereabout, who was about to make the biggest decision of his life.
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What is even more significant, as well as touching, is that he would have known all along that this day would come, but had never once let on that he did, in all those years. It is something his mother, too, had known all along, even before he was conceived, for an angel had told her during a visitation one night that she would have a son; that his name would be Jesus; that he would perform untold miracles; that he would be a great man and rule over all the Earth.
But alas! He would be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice to save Mankind from sin. The first inkling we have that Jesus was well aware of his destiny and was mentally prepared for it, was when he was just 12 or so when he cheekily asked his parents when they frantically went in search of him after he’d gone missing for days and found him holding forth in a temple,
“Why did you seek me? Did you not know that I must be about my father’s business?” One rather suspects that as the years wore on and the older he got, he was better able to reconcile himself to his fate, and never once complained or tried to pull the ‘privilege’ card, even though when the appointed time came, he was nailed, spreadeagled, to a rough-hewn cross, and made to endure unspeakable things, like having to fetch his own cross, sip on wine mixed with gall when he became thirsty, and made to wear a crown of thorns as his tormentors hurled all sorts of invectives at him.
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They even spat on him on occasion and beat him to a pulp. And to make certain he was indeed dead, rather than break his feet as was the custom back then, they prodded him in his sides with their spears, drawing even more blood on top of what he had already lost. It is this stoicism of Jesus, and no doubt his humility, that Pope Francis would remark upon and bring into sharp focus in his traditional message on Palm Sunday.
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“There is no negotiating with the cross: One either embraces it or rejects it. By his self-abasement, Jesus wanted to open up to us the path of faith, and to precede us on that path,” he told the faithful gathered on St Peter’s Square last Sunday in Rome for the annual celebration of Palm Sunday which marks the beginning of Holy Week.
“Jesus shows us how to face moments of difficulty and the most insidious of temptations by preserving in our hearts a peace that is neither detachment nor superhuman impassivity, but confident abandonment to the Father and to his saving will, which bestows life and mercy,” Pope Francis said, adding: “He shows us this kind of abandonment, by spurning, at every point in his earthly ministry, the temptation to do things his way and not in complete obedience to the Fatherâ¦by holding fast to his own way; the way of humility.”
Here in Guyana, as we too, on this Good Friday, join in the celebration of yet another Eastertide, it is our fervent hope here at the Guyana Chronicle that when the dust settles on Easter Sunday, that the faithful would spare a thought for the ultimate sacrifice a young man in the prime of his life paid more than 2000 years ago on a lonely hill in faraway Golgotha so that Mankind could enjoy eternal life, and not see it as a mere pageantry to be over with and done as quickly as possible, so they can get back to the business of living life to the fullest, only to begin the cycle all over again come next year