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A Reflection on Those Who Were There

"A reading from the holy Gospel according to John (18:1-19:42),

Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kidron Valley to where there was a garden, into which he and his disciples entered. Judas his betrayer also knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas got a band of soldiers and guards from the chief priests and the Pharisees and went there with lanterns, torches, and weapons."

Betrayal on any level is painful, but betrayal by someone who is an intimate friend cuts much deeper. This is what makes Judas’ role in the passion especially painful. Judas not only turned his master over to be condemned but had premeditated it down to the discreet time and location. Judas took advantage of his relationship with our Lord for his own gain. Have you ever felt the emptiness or sting of a one-sided relationship? Were you taken advantage of or betrayed? As you call that person to mind offer up a prayer of forgiveness as you place the wound of their betrayal upon the cross.

"Jesus, knowing everything that was going to happen to him, went out and said to them, “Whom are you looking for?” They answered him, “Jesus the Nazorean.”

He said to them, “I AM.” Judas his betrayer was also with them. When he said to them, “I AM, “ they turned away and fell to the ground. So he again asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” They said, “Jesus the Nazorean.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I AM. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill what he had said, “I have not lost any of those you gave me.”

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its scabbard. Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?”'

Peter is the complete opposite of Judas. There was no premeditation in his swiftness of sword. He was compelled to protect and defend his beloved master and acted upon impulse. How many times have we made rash decisions based solely on fear or anger? We often compromise our own character out of love. Call to mind a time that someone was hurt because of your overreaction to a situation. How could have you handled yourself differently? Prayerfully consider if this is a place where spiritual maturity is needed and ask the Lord to bless you with the virtue of temperance.

"So the band of soldiers, the tribune, and the Jewish guards seized Jesus, bound him, and brought him to Annas first. He was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. It was Caiaphas who had counseled the Jews that it was better that one man should die rather than the people.

Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Now the other disciple was known to the high priest, and he entered the courtyard of the high priest with Jesus. But Peter stood at the gate outside. So the other disciple, the acquaintance of the high priest, went out and spoke to the gatekeeper and brought Peter in.

Then the maid who was the gatekeeper said to Peter, “You are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the slaves and the guards were standing around a charcoal fire that they had made, because it was cold, and were warming themselves. Peter was also standing there keeping warm."

The maid was not shy about attempting to identify Peter. She made it her personal duty to accuse him of the vile crime of being “one of this man’s disciples” to publicly shame him and possibly get Peter killed as well. Instead of minding our own business, why do we feel it is our responsibility to embarrass or shame others? Take a moment to reflect on a time when you were caught up in this scenario. Were you trying to embarrass the other person to heighten the way people view you? Were you using that person as a decoy to take attention off of yourself? Ask the Lord to replace those desires with the gift of humility.

"The high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his doctrine. Jesus answered him, “I have spoken publicly to the world. I have always taught in a synagogue or in the temple area where all the Jews gather, and in secret, I have said nothing. Why ask me? Ask those who heard me what I said to them. They know what I said.”

When he had said this, one of the temple guards standing there struck Jesus and said, “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest."

The guard was not an evil man. He was simply doing what he thought was his job when he struck Jesus. He did not approve of Jesus’ answer to the high priest, but who gave the guard permission to judge if Jesus was answering correctly? What permits us to judge others? Judgment often stems from a place of misunderstanding. Take a moment to think about a time when you have been quick to judge someone. What was it that made you disapprove? Did you simply misunderstand their intention or words? Ask the Lord to illuminate how He views that person and say a prayer of gratitude for their characteristics that bless your life.

"Now Simon Peter was standing there keeping warm. And they said to him, “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the one whose ear Peter had cut off, said, “Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?” Again Peter denied it. And immediately the cock crowed.

Then they brought Jesus from Caiaphas to the praetorium. It was morning. And they themselves did not enter the praetorium, in order not to be defiled so that they could eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and said, “What charge do you bring against this man?” They answered and said to him, “If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” At this, Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law.” The Jews answered him, “We do not have the right to execute anyone,“ in order that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled that he said indicating the kind of death he would die.

So Pilate went back into the praetorium and summoned Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?” Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.” So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

When he had said this, he again went out to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in him. But you have a custom that I release one prisoner to you at Passover. Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” They cried out again, “Not this one but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a revolutionary.

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged. And the soldiers wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head, and clothed him in a purple cloak, and they came to him and said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they struck him repeatedly. Once more Pilate went out and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you, so that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak. And he said to them, “Behold, the man!” When the chief priests and the guards saw him they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!”

Pilate is an incredibly weak man. He knows that Jesus is innocent but is a coward in standing up to the angry mob of Jews. Instead of standing up to what he believes is right, he tries to weasel his way out by first trying to release him as was custom, but the blood-thirsty mob demands a thief and murderer, Barabbas instead. So Pilate then orders Jesus to be scourged, thus offering punishment to appease the Jews, yet not death because that would be too extreme for someone innocent. He finally thinks he is in the clear when he announces, “Ecce Homo!” "Behold the Man", and brings forth the unrecognizable Jesus in front of the crowd. Blinded by hate, the crowd gets what they want, and Pilate washes his hands of the situation. A coward to the end. Can you think of a time in your life when you were too embarrassed to stand up for what you knew was right because it was an unpopular opinion? It may have seemed like the easy way out, but how did the consequences continue to haunt you long after the incident was over?

"Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him. I find no guilt in him.” The Jews answered, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.” Now when Pilate heard this statement, he became even more afraid, and went back into the praetorium and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” Jesus did not answer him. So Pilate said to him, “Do you not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above. For this reason the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.” Consequently, Pilate tried to release him; but the Jews cried out, “If you release him, you are not a Friend of Caesar. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.”

When Pilate heard these words he brought Jesus out and seated him on the judge’s bench in the place called Stone Pavement, in Hebrew, Gabbatha. It was preparation day for Passover, and it was about noon. And he said to the Jews, “Behold, your king!” They cried out, “Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your king?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” Then he handed him over to them to be crucified."

Satan had utterly confused the crowd. They had wanted to expedite the execution process as they had Passover preparations and activities to attend to. What a tragic irony that their religious rituals were more important than the actual Lamb of God that stood before them. Imagine yourself standing in the crowd. Are you participating in angry threats toward Jesus, demanding your way? Are you standing up for Him and your faith? Are you willing to hold on to your faith when you are going against what everyone else believes? Or are you a silent witness to everything happening around you without saying a word?

"So they took Jesus, and, carrying the cross himself, he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha."

In Luke’s gospel, we read of Simon of Cyrene being pulled in to assist Jesus on the road to Calvary (Luke 23:26). According to the private revelations of Blessed Catherine Emmerich, Simon was a pagan gardener who was walking by on his way home, accompanied by his three children. Simon was greatly annoyed by being pressed into service involuntarily, but his heart was soon touched by the heavenly look on Jesus’ mangled face. By meditating on Simon’s service we see the beauty in assisting others with their crosses. How can you meet others in their suffering? How are you being called to live out the virtue of charity?

Although not mentioned in Sacred Scriptures, Sacred Tradition holds Veronica in high regard as being courageous enough to fight through the crowd and especially the guards to approach Our Lord. Her act of compassion likely enraged the guards and Pharisees as it contradicted the criminal they had made Jesus out to be. She gently and tenderly wiped the blood, sweat, and tears from His sacred face in a public act of worship. Veronica displayed a deep reverence for Our Lord when she stepped through the crowd. She was solely focused on Jesus and not distracted by the people around her. Do you allow the distractions of day-to-day life to interfere with daily prayer or your time at mass? When you are at mass, do you focus solely on Jesus or are you worried about what the people around you think? Ask the Lord to highlight the biggest distractions in your life and place them at the foot of the cross.

"There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle."

The two thieves hanging on either side of Jesus offer a great paradoxical lesson in suffering. Both lived less than honorable lives, but were resigned to much different fates in the afterlife. Gestas is more commonly known as the Unrepentant Thief. Tradition holds that he was cursing and swearing as he suffered in his final moments, even mocking Jesus at one point! Dismas, the Good Thief, humbled himself before Our Lord and quietly whispered the beautiful prayer, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And thus, is rewarded with eternal life. The Lord calls us to die to our worldly desires so we also may gain eternal life. As you do so, do you mimic the first thief and let go of your worldly idols kicking and screaming? Or do you follow the second thief who quietly surrenders?

"Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.”Now many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that he said, ‘I am the King of the Jews’.” Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four shares, a share for each soldier. They also took his tunic, but the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top down. So they said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it will be, “ in order that the passage of Scripture might be fulfilled that says: They divided my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots. This is what the soldiers did.

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala."

There was a supernatural suffering that Our Lady experienced throughout the passion. She was united to Her Son and experienced the tortures and torments in her own heart. According to mystic Bl. Catherine Emmerich, Jesus revealed the events that would enfold to her in advance and she begged Our Lord to let her die with Him on Calvary, but this was not to be so. Instead, she patiently suffered the invisible swords that pierced deep into her heart. Though her suffering was silent and invisible, yours is not! Our Lady desires for you to bring to her the areas of your heart that you are too ashamed to share with anyone else. Do you trust that she will be able to take on your suffering just as she did with her son? How can you allow her maternal embrace to unite your pain with the pain of Her Son?

"When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple,“Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home."

John, who hours before, reclined next to Jesus at the Last Supper, stood by the side of Our Lady as they followed Our Lord throughout His passion. He supported both Mary and Mary Magdalene as they slowly walked the stations of the cross for the first time. The disciple whom He loved, remained steadfast until the very end. Are you steadfast in your Love towards Jesus? Do you show up to prayer every day? Just as John walked alongside Jesus on his way to Calvary, spend some time reflecting on each cruel torment that Jesus endured for your salvation.

"After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst.” There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.

Now since it was preparation day, in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath, for the sabbath day of that week was a solemn one, the Jews asked Pilate that their legs be broken and that they be taken down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out.

An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may come to believe. For this happened so that the Scripture passage might be fulfilled: Not a bone of it will be broken. And again another passage says: They will look upon him whom they have pierced."

We know not the name of the eyewitness but we know his testimony is true. His part in the Passion narrative is important because his words bring fulfillment to the prophetic verses from scripture, ‘ Not a bone of it will be broken’ and they will look upon him whom they have pierced.’ We too are called to share our testimonies with those around us. It is through the sharing of our experiences that other people encounter Jesus. Have you ever told someone your testimony? Schedule a time this week to prayerfully write out your faith journey. Ask our loving Savior to illuminate how He has moved in your heart and share those details with someone!

"After this, Joseph of Arimathea, secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus. And Pilate permitted it. So he came and took his body. Nicodemus, the one who had first come to him at night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about one hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices, according to the Jewish burial custom. Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried. So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day; for the tomb was close by."

Both Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus were men of power and influence. Seeing them come to ask for the body of Jesus, a man whom Pilate had sentenced to a criminal’s death, surely left Pilate feeling ill at ease. The night before, Nicodemus spoke out at the trial of Jesus on His behalf, before the High Priest, and Joseph risked the shame of burying a supposed criminal in his family’s sepulcher. Both men were boldly courageous and unashamed to defend Our Lord. They set aside their fear of persecution and with great trust, they faced the danger of judgment by generously serving Jesus. How has generosity played a role in your life? Do you find yourself being generous with our Lord through your gifts and talents? Have you experienced the fruitfulness of someone being generous with you? Ask the Lord which gifts He is calling you to use to generously serve the people around you!

The Gospel of the Lord.

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