A word that has gained increasing currency in our conversations is the word ‘passion’. A day doesn’t go by but one hears in the media that, to be successful in any particular field of endeavour, one must have a passion for one’s particular chosen career, be it in business or sport, or religion.
If we understand today’s liturgy as a commemoration of what was done to Jesus over 2000 years ago, then perhaps we are missing a more central point. Jesus didn’t suffer the events of Holy Week just because, as St. Anselm claimed, ‘a price had to be paid to restore God’s honour and it needed to be paid to God the Father’. The Passion of Jesus was a logical consequence of all the other passions he had during his public ministry: his passion for presenting an image of God as an unconditional lover, a passion for the poor and the marginalized, a passion for restorative justice rather than retributive justice, a passion in summary to build an alternative kingdom where everyone has a place at the banqueting table.
Jesus spoke truth to power, both religious and political in his time. He approached the gates of Jerusalem riding a donkey and being proclaimed a King. At the same time, at a gate on the other side of the city, Roman reinforcements were arriving to make sure there would be no uprising during the major Jewish celebration of Passover so that the Empire’s self-interest would be protected. Inside the city, the Jewish religious authorities were yet again plotting to kill another of their prophets. Game on… game still on.