There is a classic and much quoted line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. “This above all: to thine own self be true.” It was good advice for Hamlet, and it is good advice for all who wish to lead others along life’s spiritual journey. Henri Nouwen, theologian and author, a few years before he died wrote: “I have lived my whole life with the desire to help others on their journey, but I have always realized that I had little else to offer than my own journey. How can I announce joy, peace, and reconciliation unless they are a part of my own flesh and blood? I have always wanted to be a good shepherd for others but I have always known, too, that good shepherds lay down their own lives for their friends.”
Nouwen realized that the path toward redemption is open to anyone able to embrace the heart and mind of Jesus. He became a light to others, and accepted the role of a spiritual leader. Our passion account lays out the requirements for leadership amid elements of intrigue, betrayal and murder. As you listen again to the events unfold, Judas’ intrigue, Peter’s denial, the disciples’ desertion, and his suffering and assassination by political and spiritual leaders, you encounter Jesus, who became the victim of his own conscience. Fulfilling that destiny shocked and disturbed many, but it was his only option if he wanted to remain true to himself, regardless of the price he would pay.
Today we join Jesus as he accepts his destiny with the dignity that comes from the depth of his love as reflected in Matthew’s passion account. Theologian Anthony Padovano suggests, “Jesus did not befriend the suffering that led to his death because suffering is in itself of value, but because love without restraint requires suffering. We are saved not by the physical death of Jesus, but by the absoluteness of a love which did not count death too high a price.” For most of us, faithful service is hardly dramatic, but rather routine and mundane. However, even everyday faithfulness affords a pattern for others who need both word and example to spur them on.
We remember all the moments of Jesus’ living, dying and rising so as to enter once again into the mystery of our salvation. We experience the Jesus present in each of us, and know that through his grace we can transform the world. Because of our memory of the Lord’s passion, we become true to our calling as followers of Jesus. If that is true, we will be required to take up our cross and follow him. That is indeed the pattern of all discipleship.
As we prepare to celebrate these most holy days, let us remember that Jesus is the revelation of God’s love—a love that goes to the very nature of who God is. With that understanding, we will be capable of offering the world what it most needs: a living image of God. May Jesus’ life and death transform our image of God who is the merciful and unrelenting lover of us all. May his love be revealed to us, and may we live so that God’s loving nature is revealed through us. ----Deacon Wilson Shierk