Homily – Cardinal John Dew (Passion Sunday 9 April 2017)

Passion Sunday 2017

A few weeks  ago I saw the wonderful film “Hidden Figures” the story of three black women  – brilliant mathematicians – who worked at NASA – they were treated terribly and unjustly,  A – because they were women,  B – because they were black. They truly were hidden figures in the great adventure of conquering space and sending the first humans to the moon.

In recent years, two books were published:

Forgotten Voices of the Great War, and Forgotten Voices of the Second World War.

Sometimes in the Gospels there are hidden figures and forgotten voices. In these days of Holy Week we will hear proclaimed again the story of the trial and execution of Jesus. How can we hear something new in the Passion stories as we listen this week? It may be that there are voices in these accounts of Jesus’s trial and crucifixion which we have not heard before, or words we have never listened to attentively.

There are many voices to listen to …..

The voice of Jesus is not really hidden or forgotten. He speaks to his disciples after one of them has struck a servant of the high priest with his sword.  ‘Put your sword back; for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father who would promptly send more than twelve legions of angels to my defence?’

Remember this is the voice of the one who preached the Sermon on the Mount. There he said, ‘Do not resist an evildoer’. This is the voice of a teacher who is serious about what he teaches.

He also speaks of the very close relationship he has with the Father. ‘No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son.”  Remember too he has taught us to address our prayer to the same Father.

The voice of Jesus spoke of twelve legions of angels, now one of his own twelve disciples has used a sword; …go back to the Temptations of Jesus on the First Sunday of Lent…he refused the help of angels …… he does the same now and remains faithful to what he had earlier prayed; ‘Father, Let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.’

There is the Voice of Pilate’s Wife “Now as he was seated in the chair of judgement, his wife sent him a message, “Have nothing to do with that man; I have been upset by a dream, I had about”  

Pilate’s wife sent her husband a message as he sat on the judgment seat. This is an ironical situation. The one who was to judge the world stands and waits for the verdict of a minor Roman official.

Her voice reminds us not to neglect the minor figures of the gospels, those who appear fleetingly and then withdraw back into obscurity. Some are Jews, some are Gentiles; some male – some female; some are slaves – some free: each of them has something to tell us about how we live as followers of Jesus.. Pilate’s wife is one of them.

She calls Jesus ‘that innocent man’;  ‘that just man’, it’s the voice of an obscure woman reminding us of goodness and truth.

The Voice of the Centurion and Those with Him   “Meanwhile the centurion together with those who were guarding Jesus, had seen the earthquake and all that was taking place, and they were terrified and said, ‘In truth this was a son of God.”.

The centurion’s voice was also unexpected, It’s not just one voice – but several…….others joined the centurion him in professing who Jesus was. Remember Peter, the Rock, confessed Jesus as Son of the Living God and then denied him. The voice of these soldiers teaches us about true conversion. Not only had they killed Jesus, they had dressed him in a purple robe, put a crown of thorns on his head, and knelt before him in mockery. Now they repent totally, and kneel before him in awe. We learn from their voices too.

In this Holy Week, there are many voices to listen to …..we pray that we can listen for the voices we will hear in these Passion stories..that we will listen and learn.