Celebrating the Passion of the Lord
The busiest afternoon of the year for Catholic churches is that of Good Friday. People throng to participate in a liturgy entitled, ‘Celebration of the Passion of the Lord’. The mood for this celebration is set by three readings from Scripture, which invite us to meet the Lord Jesus under three aspects: as Servant, as Priest, and as King. The first text is taken from the prophet Isaiah; it is the long passage known as the Fourth Song of the Servant (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). The second text, from the Letter to the Hebrews, has as its topic the priesthood of Jesus: he is the Son of God who has entered heaven as the great high priest (Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9). The third text is the Passion story as given in John’s gospel, the one in which Jesus tells Pilate, ‘I am a king; I came into the world for this’ and in which Pilate writes an inscription fixed to the cross of Jesus, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, king of the Jews’. Let us look at these three texts more closely.