He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death (Phil 2, 8)
Jesus does not come down from the cross to save himself. He thus opens for us the way of salvation.
The specter of death hovering around him, Jesus turns to his Father. He humbly pleads: “All things are possible to you. Take this cup from me.”
But notwithstanding his feelings of being troubled, distressed and abandoned, Jesus does not turn back. He does not put ahead what he wants. He has come to be God’s suffering Servant, obedient to death.
Jesus speaks and acts, therefore, according to the directions he, as a novice, receives from his director, who grants him a comforting tongue and attentive ears. Trusting in his Father, the Son scales the wall of suffering. Through suffering, the Servant learns consummate obedience. He thus becomes “the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”
Jesus crucified embodies the Good News that salvation is attained only by those who give themselves to God and to others. Through his death, prefigured sacramentally in the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup, Jesus is proven the poorest of all, and must be recognized so, in order that he may be given due respect and help even at the cost of everything that one possesses.
The model Jesus gives us to follow makes clear that salvation lies in spending and being utterly spent for the sake of God and others. As their reactions show, however, the disciples do not find easy to understand and practice either the Master’s teaching or example: Peter rebukes him and later denies him; they keep discussing who is the greatest; James and John ask him for the best positions; one betrays him and all abandon him. Only after the resurrection will they understand—according to John’s Gospel—even their participation in Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.
But if we Christians understand and imitate our Lord, we shall be freed from the prison of our self-interests, from the clutches of destructive selfishness, from the tyranny of greed. Moreover, just like the woman with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, we will become part of evangelization, not of “disevangelization,” of the solution, not of the problem.
We the Church are not going to elicit such admiration and faith as shown by the centurion who confessed, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” unless we are servants, “living and dying in the service of the poor, within the arms of Providence and in real renunciation of ourselves to follow Jesus Christ” (St. Vincent de Paul—FrIII:392).
Oh God, forgive our death-bearing selfishness and let us find life by loving you and our neighbor.