Everything is being taken from Jesus. His ability to teach and heal is being curtailed. His reputation, destroyed. His support among the people, diminishing. His safety, in jeopardy. His friends, on the verge of betraying and abandoning him. In a sense, Jesus' Cross has already begun. Already, the sacrifice has begun. The last drop of blood will complete the sacrifice, but already he is being poured out like a libation.
Jesus teaches us something in his pre-Holy Week liturgical tour. He returns to the place where his sonship was publicly confirmed by the Father and to the place where he fought the Devil who tried to undermine that filial relationship. In doing this, Jesus teaches us how we are to embrace the Cross in our own life.
The opening antiphons for the Liturgies this week reveal the depth of Christ's agony. Today's, for instance, reads: "O Lord, do not stay afar off; my strength, make haste to help me! For I am a worm and no man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people." In the depth of his agony, only just begun, Jesus returns to the only thing he has that is dependable and certain: his sonship. Proclaimed at the baptism and affirmed in the desert, the sonship of Christ is sufficient to endure all things.
The Christian disciple follows Christ to the Cross. As we approach, we perhaps search in vain for something upon which to depend; something to steady us. We cannot rely upon the passing things of this world no matter how good they might be. Jesus healed. Jesus forgave. Jesus treated each human person with dignity and respect. And now, what does he receive? He is beaten, betrayed, scourged, mocked, spat upon, humiliated, and condemned. This is the path for his disciples. How are we to endure such treatment? How are we to walk upon this path?
Jesus shows us. We are to walk this path as sons and daughters of the Father. Physical strength will depart from us. Exterior supports will disappear. Reputation will fade. And, sometimes our moral strength will fail. What remains is God's fidelity to us. We are chosen to be his sons and daughters not because of our success, not because of our own moral rectitude, not because of our good standing in the community, and not because of our human talents. We are chosen because God has ordained it such. When everything else is gone, we remain chosen by Him.
In the days before the completion of his final agony, Jesus takes us to the place of baptism and to the place of temptation in order to strengthen us in our confidence in our Divine adoption. No matter what happens, no matter what lies ahead, no matter what we endure, we are chosen by Him.
And, it is with the confidence of being chosen--adopted by God--that the Church can pray as it did in this morning's blessing over the people: "Do not allow, we pray, those you have redeemed by the Death of your Only Begotten Son, to be harmed by their sins or weighed down by their trials."