LITURGY MATTERS: Jesus wept
By Michael McKenna, Archdiocesan Master of Ceremonies
In its English translation John 11:35 is said to be the shortest verse in the Bible – “Jesus wept”. Powerfully brief, the evangelist presents in just two words a dichotomy the gospel writer wants us to pause and consider.
In its Greek form the language translated as “wept” conveys a kind of gut-wrenching anguish, even anger. Lazarus was his friend, whom he loved, and his death moves Jesus profoundly.
Jesus truly grieves over Lazarus’ passing and the pain it causes Martha and Mary, a pain and suffering that death brings to all of us who lose a loved one. The evangelist records witnesses saying, “See how he loved him.”
On its release in 2004, I with a group of other acolytes and adult servers thought to attend a Good Friday viewing of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of The Christ.
A rare honest but graphic retelling of Christ’s final hours, it is a powerful piece of cinema that marches unflinchingly through the suffering and death Jesus endured on our behalf.
We attended the session immediately prior to serving the Cathedral’s 3pm Passion liturgy.
That Easter brought a most unexpected profundity. Standing among the more than a thousand others for the all too familiar annual reading of Christ’s final hours – a group of acolytes and servers silently wept.
A good many of those who had attended the film that day had tears in their eyes and on their cheeks.
It was as if at once we were both filled with the gut-wrenching anguish that had accompanied Jesus’ loss of his friend Lazarus, and at the same time confronted by our own complicity and unworthiness in the face of so great a sacrifice, so great a price.
For my part, I had witnessed to Christ’s Passion in a new way. Curiously my grief in that moment was in no way diminished by the knowledge of the impending Easter joy of the Resurrection.
Drawn into heartfelt contemplation, I was moved out of compassion for Our Lord’s suffering, grieving the wages of sin, which demanded so high a price, and struck by the lack of faith in society underpinned by Christian values and tradition.
Our worship reveals what we truly believe. As we approach the Triduum this Easter let us not rush to Easter joy but pause in that moment which is Good Friday such as to cause witnesses to say of us as they did of Lazarus’ friend Jesus… See how they love him!
Wishing you and yours a joyous Easter Season!