People who look at a famous painting, read a best-selling novel, watch a critically acclaimed play, or listen to a piece of well-known music, do not come away with the same appreciation or understanding of what they have read, or seen, or heard.
People bring their knowledge, tastes, preferences, and life experiences with them as they interact with any kind of artistic creation.
For example, a person who is a musician will judge a Beethoven symphony differently than someone who has no idea of the complexity of music. A Christian who has studied art will appreciate the beauty of the Sistine Chapel in a different way than a non-believer who is obsessed with videogames.
That is true this Sunday as we listen to Saint Matthew’s account of the Passion of Jesus Christ (Matthew 26:14-27:66).
In that reading, we listen to a true “work of art” inspired by the Holy Spirit that recounts the suffering and death of Jesus.
Like any work of art, it elicits different reactions from those who hear it. Everyone will not hear the story of Christ’s Passion in the same way
Those who have never heard the passage before, will be shocked by the unjust suffering Jesus endures, by the cowardice exhibited by his apostles, and by the seeming victory of evil over good.
Those who have heard the Passion Reading many times before and who will remember parts of the story even before they are read, will hear it differently.
What they hear in Matthew’s account of the Passion will be affected by their religious knowledge, by their past experiences, and by what is happening in their lives at the present moment.
People who have been victims of any type of abuse or bullying, will see in the Passion reading, a person who was abused and bullied by the crowd and by Roman soldiers – someone with whom they can relate.
People who have been betrayed by a spouse or close friend will listen intently as Jesus is betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter, and deserted by the other apostles with whom he had just broken bread.
Persons in positions of leadership may feel uncomfortable as they hear how Jesus is treated so unjustly by religious and government leaders who fail to act as they should.
People dealing with physical or psychological pain will pay more attention to those passages in which Jesus endures physical suffering than they did when they were physically fit.
Persons sensing the end of life is approaching, despite all their prayers for healing, will hear the words of Jesus from the cross as a cry from their own hearts. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
While people growing in their love for the Lord will hear the Passion reading as another affirmation of God’s love for them. As Saint Paul tells us, “But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
This Sunday we will all hear Saint Matthew’s account of the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ. However, what we take away from that reading will depend upon what has happened and what is happening in our own lives.
© 2020 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski
May God bless you this Holy Week,
especially during this difficult and challenging time.