5 Apr 2009
“A certain young man was following [Jesus], wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.” (Mark 14:51) In the name …
Fr. Randy Calvo
Out of the entire reading of the Passion account from Mark’s Gospel, why read this one sentence of a man running away from Jesus, stark naked, in the middle of the night? Because its imagery captures much of the pathos, the sadness, suffering and moral failure, that is Holy Week. Mark is here calling upon an image from the Old Testament prophets where it is written: “Those who are stout of heart among the mighty will flee away naked in that day.” (Amos 2:16) The disciples were not weak, fearful or faithless men, but in the face of the Passion their commitment waivered and collapsed. Just short hours earlier all of the disciples had promised Jesus: “‘Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.’” (Mark 14:31) Now these very same disciples, who had given-up everything to follow Jesus, forsake everything to run away from Jesus when He needs them the most.
In contrast to their failure is the faithfulness of Jesus. All of Jesus’ disciples fled that night into the darkness of the Mount of Olives. They successfully dispersed and disappeared. The implication is that Jesus could have done the same if He had tried. He anticipated the arrival of the Temple guards and He could have fled into the darkness with the others. Instead, Jesus makes no effort to escape. Everyone around Jesus failed Him. He was even betrayed by one of His closest followers, Judas Iscariot. And yet, Jesus remains faithful to them, to His ministry and to us. The contrast between the disciple running away naked and the abandoned Jesus standing there all alone accepting what He must do for our salvation summarizes the contrasts of Holy Week.
At the Last Supper Jesus pronounces over the chalice of wine: “‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.’” (Mk 14:24) When those words “blood of the covenant” were used in the Old Testament (Exodus 24:24:8), they referred to the blood of a sacrificed animal. That symbol of life offered up to God was the visual confirmation of the covenant between God and His people. Now Jesus would pour out His blood as the everlasting sign of a new covenant. Jesus saw in His death our hope for salvation and because of this He would not flee from His captors. He would not try and escape His coming death. He did this for us.
This selfless dedication of Christ and the understandable but lamentable moral failure of His followers capture all that lays ahead of us this Holy Week. We have the choice to gather in the Upper Room for the institution of the Holy Eucharist on Thursday. We have the choice to watch as Jesus is arrested and abused that same night. On Good Friday we have the choice to stand with Jesus in silence and repentance as He hangs from the cross. On Saturday we have the choice to wait because of our trust in His promise that He will resurrect on the third day. We have the choice today how we will plan to spend our Holy Week. As the congregation of the faithful, let us ask ourselves, will we stand beside Jesus this Holy Week, will we make time for church, will we change our schedules to be here, will we sacrifice other priorities so that we have time for Christ? Jesus gave up everything for us. What will give up for Him this week? Not because of obligation, shame or fear, but out of devotion to the one who would never, will never, abandon us. This is a very practical, straight forward question. The choice is ours how we will answer it. Amen. (+)