From: Mark 14:1-15:47
The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Mark
The conspiracy against Jesus
 It was now two days before the Passover and the feast of Unleavened Bread.
And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth,
and kill him;  for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be a tumult of the
The anointing of Bethany and the treachery of Judas
 And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at
table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly,
and she broke the flask and poured it over his head.  But there were some who
said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment thus wasted?  For this
ointment might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and given to
the poor.” And they reproached her.  But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do
you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.  For you always have
the poor with you, and whenever you will, you can do good to them; but you will
not always have me.  She has done what she could; she has anointed my
body beforehand for burying.  And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is
preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”
 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in
order to betray him to them.  And when they heard it they were glad, and
promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him.
Preparations for the Last Supper. Judas’ treachery foretold
 And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover
lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to
eat the passover?”  And he sent two of his disciples, and said to them, “Go
into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him,  and
wherever he enters, say to the householder, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my
guest room, where I am to eat the passover with my disciples?’  And he will
show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” 
And the disciples set out and went to the city, and found it as he had told them;
and they prepared the passover.
 And when it was evening he came with the twelve.  And as they were at
table eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who
is eating with me.”  They began to be sorrowful, and to say to him one after
another, “Is it I?”  He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping
bread into the dish with me.  For the Son of man goes as it is written of him,
but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been
better for that man if he had not been born.”
The institution of the Eucharist
 And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave
it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.”  And he took a cup, and when
he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it.  And he said
to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 
Truly, I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day
when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
The disciples will desert Jesus
 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 
And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away; for it is written, ‘I will strike the
shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’  But after I am raised up, I will go
before you to Galilee.”  Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I
will not.”  And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I say to you, this very night, before
the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.”  But he said vehemently,
“If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.
Jesus’ prayer and agony in the garden
 And they went to a place which was called Gethsemane; and he said to his
disciples, “Sit here, while I pray.”  And he took with him Peter and James and
John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled.  And he said to them,
“My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch.”  And go-
ing a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the
hour might pass from him.  And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible
to thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what thou wilt.”  And
he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep?
Could you not watch one hour?  Watch and pray that you may not enter into
temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  And again he
went away and prayed, saying the same words.  And again he came and
found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what
to answer him.  And he came the third time, and said to them, “Are you still
sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come; the Son of man is
betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is
The arrest of Jesus
 And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve,
and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the
scribes and the elders.  Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying,
“The one I shall kiss is the man; seize him and lead him away under guard.” 
And when he came, he went up to him at once, and said, “Master!” And he kissed
him.  And they laid hands on him and seized him.  But one of those who
stood by drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear.
 And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords
and clubs to capture me?  Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching,
and you did not seize me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.”  And they all for-
sook him, and fled.
 And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body;
and they seized him,  but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.
Jesus before the chief priests
 And they led Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests and the elders
and the scribes were assembled.  And Peter had followed him at a distance,
right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, and
warming himself at the fire.  Now the chief priests and the whole council
sought testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none. 
For many bore false witness against him, and their witness did not agree. 
And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying,  “We heard
him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I
will build another, not made with hands.’”  Yet not even so did their testimony
agree.  And the high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, “Have
you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?”  But
he was silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you
the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”  And Jesus said, “I am; and you will see
the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of
heaven.”  And the high priest tore his garments, and said, “Why do we still
need witnesses?  You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?”
And they all condemned him as deserving death.  And some began to spit on
him, and to cover his face, and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the
guards received him with blows.
 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the maids of the high priest
came;  and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him, and said, “You
also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.”  But he denied it, saying, “I neither
know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway. 
And the maid saw him, and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is
one of them.”  But again he denied it. And after a little while again the by-
standers said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.”
 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this
man of whom you speak.”  And immediately the cock crowed a second time.
And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the cock crows
twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
Jesus before Pilate
15 And as soon as it was morning the chief priests, with the elders and scribes,
and the whole council held a consultation; and they bound Jesus and led him
away and delivered him to Pilate.  And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of
the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.”  And the chief priests
accused him of many things.  And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no
answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.”  But Jesus
made no further answer, so that Pilate wondered.  Now at the feast he used to
release for them one prisoner for whom they asked.  And among the rebels in
prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called
Barabbas.  And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he was
wont to do for them.  And he answered them, “Do you want me to release for
you the King of the Jews?”  For he perceived that it was out of envy that the
chief priests had delivered him up.  But the chief priests stirred up the crowd
to have him release for them Barabbas instead.  And Pilate again said to
them, “Then what shall I do with the man whom you call the King of the Jews?”
 And they cried out again, “Crucify him.”  And Pilate said to them, “Why,
what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.”  So
Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas; and having
scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
The crowning with thorns
 And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the praetorium); and
they called together the whole battalion.  And they clothed him in a purple
cloak, and plaiting a crown of thorns they put it on him.  And they began to
salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!”  And they struck his head with a reed,
and spat upon him, and they knelt down in homage to him.  And when they
had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak, and put his own clothes
on him. And they led him out to crucify him.
The crucifixion and death of Jesus
 And they compelled a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from
the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.  And they
brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). 
And they offered him wine mingled with myrrh; but he did not take it.  And
they crucified him, and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them,
to decide what each should take.  And it was the third hour, when they cruci-
fied him.  And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the
Jews.”  And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on
his left.  And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads, and
saying, “Aha! n You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, 
save yourself, and come down from the cross!”  So also the chief priests
mocked him to one another with the scribes, saying, “He saved others; he cannot
save himself.  Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the
cross, that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also
 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land
until the ninth hour.  And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice,
“Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why hast thou
forsaken me?”  And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is
calling Elijah.”  And one ran and, filling a sponge full of vinegar, put it on a
reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will
come to take him down.”  And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed his
last.  And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 
And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that he thus breathed his
last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”
 There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Mag-
dalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome,
 who, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered to him; and also
many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.
The burial of Jesus
 And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the
day before the sabbath,  Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the
council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and
went to Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus.  And Pilate wondered if he
were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was
already dead.  And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he
granted the body to Joseph.  And he bought a linen shroud, and taking him
down, wrapped him in the linen shroud, and laid him in a tomb which had been
hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. 
Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.
1. The Passover was the main national and religious festival. It lasted one week,
during which the eating of leavened bread was forbidden, which is why the period
was known as the Azymes, the feast of the Unleavened Bread. The celebration
opened with the passover meal on the night of the 14th to 15th of the month of
Nisan. The essential rite of the meal consisted in eating the paschal lamb sacri-
ficed in the temple the afternoon before. During the meal the youngest member
of the family asked what was the meaning of the ceremony; and the head of the
household explained to those present that it commemorated Gods liberation of
the Israelites when they were slaves in Egypt, and specifically the passing of the
angel of Yahweh, doing no harm to the first-born of the Hebrews but destroying
the first-born of the Egyptians (cf. Ex 12).
2. The chief priests and the scribes sought every means to ensure the condemna-
tion and death of the Lord prior to the Passover, for during the festival Jerusalem
would be thronged with pilgrims and they feared that Jesus popularity might
cause the complications referred to in the Gospel text. Cf. the note on Mt 26:3-5.
3-9. It was a custom at the time to honour distinguished guests by offering them
scented water. This woman treated the Lord with exquisite refinement by pour-
ing a flask of nard over his head: and we can see that he was very appreciative.
Three hundred denarii was approximately what a worker would earn in a year: so
her action was very generous. Breaking the flask to allow the last drop to flow,
so that no one else could use it, implies that Jesus merited everything.
It is important to notice the significance our Lord gave to this gesture: it was an
anticipation of the pious custom of embalming bodies prior to burial. This woman
would never have thought that her action would become famous throughout the
world, but Jesus knew the transcendence and universal dimension of even the
smallest episodes in the Gospel story. His prophecy has been fulfilled: “Certainly
we hear her story told in all the churches. . . . Wherever in the world you may go,
everyone respectfully listens to the story of her good service. . . . And yet hers
was not an extraordinary deed, nor was she a distinguished person, nor was
there a large audience, nor was the place one where she could easily be seen.
She made no entrance onto a theatre stage to perform her service but did her
good deed in a private house. Nevertheless . . . , today she is more illustrious
than any king or queen; no passage of years has buried in oblivion this service
she performed” (St John Chrysostom, “Adversus Iudaeos”, 5, 2).
This episode teaches us the refinement with which we should treat the holy hu-
manity of Jesus; it also shows that generosity in things to do with sacred worship
is always praiseworthy, for it is a sign of our love for the Lord. Cf. the note on Mt
10-11. In contrast with the generous anointing by the woman, the Gospel now
reports Judas sad treachery. Her magnanimity highlights the covetousness of
Jesus false friend. “O folly, or rather ambition, of the traitor, for ambition spawns
every kind of evil and enslaves souls by every sort of device; it causes forgetful-
ness and mental derangement. Judas, enslaved by his mad ambition, forgot all
about the years he had spent alongside Jesus, forgot that he had eaten at his
table, that he had been his disciple; forgot all the counsel and persuasion Jesus
had offered him (St John Chrysostom, “Hom. de prodit. Judae).
Judas sin is always something Christians should he mindful of: Today many
people are horrified by Judas crime — that he could he so cruel and so sacriIe-
gious as to sell his Master and his God; and yet they fail to realize that when they
for human reasons dismiss the rights of charity and truth, they are betraying God,
who is charity and truth (St Bede, “Super qui audientes” ... ).
12-16. At first sight our Lords behaviour described here seems quite out of char-
acter. However, if we think about it, it is quite consistent: probably Jesus wanted
to avoid Judas knowing in advance the exact place where the Supper will be held,
to prevent him notifying the Sanhedrin. And so Gods plans for that memorable
night of Holy Thursday were fulfilled: Judas was unable to advise the Sanhedrin
where they could find Jesus until after the celebration of the passover meal (dur-
ing which Judas left the Cenacle): cf. Jn 13:30.
St Mark describes in more detail than the other evangelists the place where the
meal took place: he says it was a large, well-appointed room — a dignified place.
There is an ancient Christian tradition that the house of the Cenacle was owned
by Mary the mother of St Mark, to whom, it seems, the Garden of Olives also
17-21. Jesus shows that he knows in advance what is going to happen and is act-
ing freely and deliberately, identifying himself with the will of his Father. The
words of vv. 18 and 19 are a further call to Judas to repent; our Lord refrained
from denouncing him publicly, so making it easier for him to change his mind. But
he did not want to remain silent about the incipient treachery; they should realize
that the Master knew everything (cf. Jn 13:23ff).
22. The word “this does not refer to the act of breaking the bread but to the
“thing which Jesus gives his disciples, that is, something which looked like bread
and which was no longer bread but the body of Christ. “This is my body. That is
to say, what I am giving you now and what you are taking is my body. For the
bread is not only a symbol of the body of Christ; it becomes his very body, as the
Lord has said: the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.
Therefore, the Lord conserves the appearances of bread and wine but changes
the bread and wine into the reality of his flesh and his blood (Theophylact,
“Enarratio in Evangelium Marci”, in loc.). Therefore, any interpretation in the
direction of symbolism or metaphor does not fit the meaning of the text. The
same applies to the “This is my blood (v. 24). On the realism of these expres-
sions, see the first part of the note on Mt 26:26-29.
24. The words of consecration of the chalice clearly show that the Eucharist is a
sacrifice: the blood of Christ is poured out, sealing the new and definitive Cove-
nant of God with men. This Covenant remains sealed forever by the sacrifice of
Christ on the cross, in which Jesus is both Priest and Victim. The Church has de-
fined this truth in these words: “If anyone says that in the Mass a true and proper
sacrifice is not offered to God, or that to be offered is nothing else but that Christ
is given us to eat, let him be anathema (Council of Trent, “De S. Missae sacri-
ficio”, chap. 1, can. 1).
These words pronounced over the chalice must have been very revealing for the
apostles, because they show that the sacrifices of the Old Covenant were in fact a
preparation for and anticipation of Christs sacrifice. The apostles were able to
grasp that the Covenant of Sinai and the various sacrifices of the temple were
merely an imperfect pre-figurement of the definitive sacrifice and definitive Cove-
nant, which would take place on the cross and which they were anticipating in this
A clear explanation of the sacrificial character of the Eucharist can be found in the
inspired text in chapters 8 and 9 of the Letter to the Hebrews. Similarly, the best
preparation for understanding the real presence and the Eucharist as food for the
soul is a reading of chapter 6 of the Gospel of St John.
At the Last Supper, then, Christ already offered himself voluntarily to his Father
as a victim to be sacrificed. The Supper and the Mass constitute with the cross
one and the same unique and perfect sacrifice, for in all these cases the victim
offered is the same — Christ; and the priest is the same — Christ. The only differ-
ence is that the Supper, which takes place prior to the cross, anticipates the
Lords death in an unbloody way and offers a victim soon to be immolated; where-
as the Mass offers, also in an unbloody manner, the victim already immolated on
the cross, a victim who exists forever in heaven.
25. After instituting the Holy Eucharist, our Lord extends the Last Supper in inti-
mate conversation with his disciples, speaking to them once more about his immi-
nent death (cf. Jn, chaps. 13-17). His farewell saddens the apostles, but he
promises that the day will come when he will meet with them again, when the
Kingdom of God will have come in all its fullness: he is referring to the beatific
life in heaven, so often compared to a banquet. Then there will be no need of
earthly food or drink; instead there will be a new wine (cf. Is 25:6). Definitively,
after the resurrection, the apostles and all the saints will be able to share the de-
light of being with Jesus.
The fact that St Mark brings in these words after the institution of the Eucharist
indicates in some way that the Eucharist is an anticipation here on earth of posses-
sion of God in eternal blessedness, where God will be everything to everyone (cf.
1 Cor 15:28). “At the Last Supper, Vatican II teaches, “on the night he was
betrayed, our Saviour instituted the eucharistic sacrifice of his body and blood.
This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the Cross throughout the ages
until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved Spouse, the Church,
a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a
bond of charity, a paschal banquet in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled
with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us (”Sacrosanctum Concilium”,
26. “When they had sung a hymn: it was a custom at the passover meal to recite
prayers, called “Hallel, which included Psalms 113 to 118; the last part was re-
cited at the end of the meal.
30-31. Only St Mark gives us the exact detail of the two cockcrows (v. 30), and
Peters insistence that he would never betray Jesus (v. 31). This is another sign
of the connexion between St Marks Gospel and St Peters preaching; only Peter,
full of contrition and humility, would so deliberately tell the first Christians about
these episodes in which his presumption and failures contrasted with Jesus mercy
and understanding. The other evangelists, surely out of respect for the figure of
Peter, pass over these incidents more quickly.
This account shows us that our Lord takes into account the weaknesses of those
whom he calls to follow him and be his apostles. Peter is too self-confident; very
soon he will deny him. Jesus knows this well and, in spite of everything, chooses
him as head of the Church. “They [the disciples] remain just like that until they
are filled with the Holy Spirit and thus become pillars of the Church. They are
ordinary men, complete with defects and shortcomings, more eager to say than to
do. Nevertheless, Jesus calls them to be fishers of men, co-redeemers, dispen-
sers of the grace of God. Something similar has happened to us. . . . But I also
realize that human logic cannot possibly explain the world of grace. God usually
seeks out deficient instruments so that the work can more clearly be seen to be
his (Bl. J. Escriva, “Christ Is Passing By”, 2 and 3).
32-42. The very human way Jesus approaches his passion and death is note-
worthy. He feels everything any man would feel in those circumstances. “He
takes with him only the three disciples who had seen his glorification on Mount
Tabor, that these who saw his power should also see his sorrow and learn from
that sorrow that he was truly man. And, because he assumed human nature in its
entirety, he assumed the properties of man — fear, strength, natural sorrow; for it
is natural that men approach death unwillingly (Theophylact, “Enarratio in Evan-
gelium Marci”, in loc.).
Jesus prayer in the garden shows us, as nothing else in the Gospel does, that he
prayed the prayer of petition — not only for others, but also for himself. For, in the
unity of his Person there were two natures, one human and one divine; and, since
his human will was not omnipotent, it was appropriate for Christ to ask the Father
to strengthen that will (cf. St Thomas Aquinas, “Summa theologiae”, III, q. 21, a.
Once more, Jesus prays with a deep sense of his divine sonship (cf. Mt 11:25; Lk
23:46; Jn 17: 1). Only St Mark retains in the original language his filial exclama-
tion to the Father: “Abba, which is how children intimately addressed their
parents. Every Christian should have a similar filial trust, especially when pray-
ing. At this moment of climax, Jesus turns from his private dialogue with his
Father to ask his disciples to pray so as not to fall into temptation. It should be
noted that the evangelists, inspired by the Holy Spirit, give us both Jesus prayer
and his commandment to us to pray. This is not a passing anecdote, but an epi-
sode which is a model of how Christians should act: prayer is indispensable for
staying faithful to God. Anyone who does not pray should be under no illusions
about being able to cope with the temptations of the devil: “If our Lord had said
only “watch”, we might expect that our own power would be sufficient, but when
he adds “pray”, he shows that “if he keeps not” our souls in time of temptation, in
vain shall they watch who keep them (cf. Ps 127:1) (St Francis de Sales,
“Treatise on the Love of God”, book 11, chap. 1).
34. “But when he had gone on a little way, he suddenly felt such a sharp and bit-
ter attack of sadness, grief, fear, and weariness that he immediately uttered, even
in their presence, those anguished words which gave expression to his overbur-
dened feelings: My soul is sad unto death. For a huge mass of troubles took
possession of the tender and gentle body of our most holy Saviour. He knew that
his ordeal was now imminent and just about to overtake him: the treacherous be-
trayer, the bitter enemies, binding ropes, false accusations, slanders, blows,
thorns, nails, the cross, and horrible tortures stretched out over many hours. Over
and above these, he was tormented by the thought of his disciples terror, the loss
of the Jews, even the destruction of the very man who so disloyally betrayed him,
and finally the ineffable grief of his beloved Mother. The gathered storm of all
these evils rushed into his most gentle heart and flooded it like the ocean sweep-
ing through broken dikes (St Thomas More, “De tristitia Christi”, in loc.).
35. “Therefore, since he foresaw that there would be many people of such a deli-
cate constitution that they would be convulsed with tenor at any danger of being
tortured, he chose to enhearten them by the example of his own sorrow, his own
sadness, his own weariness and unequalled fear, lest they should be so dishear-
tened as they compare their own fearful state of mind with the boldness of the
bravest martyrs that they would yield freely what they fear will be won from them
by force. To such a person as this, Christ wanted his own deed to speak out (as
it were) with his own living voice: O faint of heart, take courage and do not des-
pair. You are afraid, you are sad, you are stricken with weariness and dread of
the torment with which you have been cruelly threatened. Trust me; I conquered
the world, and yet I suffered immeasurably more from fear; I was sadder, more
afflicted with weariness, more horrified at the prospect of such cruel suffering
drawing eagerly nearer and nearer. Let the brave man have his high-spirited
martyrs, let him rejoice in imitating a thousand of them. But you, my timorous
and feeble little sheep, be content to have me alone as your shepherd; follow my
leadership. If you do not trust yourself, place your trust in me. See, I am walking
ahead of you along this fearful road. Take hold of the border of my garment and
you will feel going out from it a power which will stay your hearts blood from issu-
ing in vain fears, and will make your mind more cheerful, especially when you
remember that you are following closely in my footsteps (and I am to be trusted
and will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear, but I will give
together with the temptation a way out that you may be able to endure it) and like-
wise when you remember that this light and momentary burden of tribulation will
prepare for you a weight of glory which is beyond all measure. For the sufferings
of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come which will be
revealed in you. As you reflect on such things, take heart, and use the sign of
my cross to drive away this dread, this sadness, and weariness like vain specters
of the darkness. Advance successfully and press through all obstacles, firmly
confident that I will champion your cause until you are victorious and then in turn
will reward you with the laurel crown of victory” (ibid.).
36. “Jesus prays in the garden. “Pater mi” (Mt 26:39), “Abba Pater!” (Mk 14:36).
God is my Father, even though he may send me suffering. He loves me tenderly,
even while wounding me. Jesus suffers, to fulfil the Will of the Father. . . . And I,
who also wish to fulfil the most holy Will of God, following the footsteps of the
Master, can I complain if I too meet suffering as my traveling companion?
“It will be a sure sign of my sonship, because God is treating me as he treated his
own divine Son. Then I, just as he did, will be able to groan and weep alone in
my Gethsemane; but, as I lie prostrate on the ground, acknowledging my nothing-
ness, there will rise up to the Lord a cry from the depths of my soul: ‘Pater mi,
Abba, Pater, . . . fiat!’ (BI. J. Escriva, “The Way of the Cross”, I, 1).
41-42. “See now, when Christ comes back to his apostles for the third time, there
they are, buried in sleep, though he commanded them to bear up with him and to
stay awake and pray because of the impending danger; but Judas the traitor at
the same time was so wide awake and intent on betraying the Lord that the very
idea of sleep never entered his mind.
“Does not this contrast between the traitor and the apostles present to us a clear
and sharp minor image (as it were), a sad and terrible view of what has happened
through the ages from those times even to our own? [. . .] For very many are
sleepy and apathetic in sowing virtues among the people and maintaining the
truth, while the enemies of Christ in order to sow vices and uproot the faith (that
is, insofar as they can, to seize Christ and cruelly crucify him once again) are
wide awake — so much wiser (as Christ says) are the sons of darkness in their
generation than the sons of light (cf Lk 16:8) (St Thomas More, “De tristitia
Christi”, in loc.).
43-50. The Gospel reports the arrest of our Lord in a matter-of-fact sort of way.
Jesus, who was expecting it, offered no resistance, thereby fulfilling the prophe-
cies about him in the Old Testament, particularly this passage of the poem of the
Servant of Yahweh in the Book of Isaiah: “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth . . .
because he poured out his soul to death . . .” (Is 53:7 and 12). Dejected only
moments earlier at the beginning of his prayer in Gethsemane Jesus now rises
up strengthened to face his passion. These mysteries of our Lord, true God and
true man, are really impressive.
51-52. This detail about the young man in the linen cloth is found only in St Mark.
Most interpreters see in it a discreet allusion to Mark himself. It is probable that
the Garden of Olives belonged to Marks family, which would explain the pres-
ence there at night-time of the boy, who would have been awakened suddenly by
the noise of the crowd.
“One sees rich men — less often, it is true, than I would like — but still, thank God,
one sometimes sees exceedingly rich men who would rather lose everything they
have than keep anything at all by offending God through sin. These men have
many clothes, but they are not tightly confined by them, so that when they need to
run away from danger, they escape easily by throwing off their clothes. On the
other hand we see people — and far more of them than I would wish — who hap-
pen to have only light garments and quite skimpy outfits and yet have so welded
their affections to those poor riches of theirs that you could sooner strip skin from
flesh than separate them from their goods. Such a person had better get going
while there is still time. For once someone gets hold of his clothes, he will sooner
die than leave his linen cloth behind. In summary, then, we learn from the exam-
ple of this young man that we should always be prepared for troubles that arise
suddenly, dangers that strike without warning and might make it necessary for us
to run away; to be prepared, we ought not be so loaded with various garments, or
so buttoned up in even one, that in an emergency we are unable to throw away
our linen cloth and escape naked (St Thomas More, “De tristitia Christi”, in loc.).
53-65. This meeting of the Sanhedrin in the house of the high priest was quite
irregular. The normal thing was for it to meet during the daytime and in the tem-
ple. Everything suggests that the rulers arranged this session secretly, probably
to avoid opposition from the people, which would have thwarted their plans. The
direct intervention of the high priest and the ill-treatment of the prisoner before
sentence were also illegal. The Jewish authorities had for some time past been
of a mind to do away with Jesus (cf., e.g., Mk 12:12; Jn 7:30; 11:45-50). Now all
they are trying to do is give their actions an appearance of legality — that is, look-
ing for concurring witnesses to accuse him of capital crimes. Because they do
not manage to do this, the chief priest goes right to the key issue: was Jesus the
Messiah, yes or no? Jesus affirmative answer is regarded as blasphemy.
Appearances are saved; they can now condemn him to death and ask the
Roman procurator to ratify the sentence (cf. the note on Mt 27:2). Despite the
irregularities and even though not all the members of the Sanhedrin were present,
the significance of this session lies in the fact that the Jewish authorities, the
official representatives of the chosen people, reject Jesus as Messiah and con-
demn him to death.
57-59. From the Gospel of St John (2:19) we know the words of Jesus which
gave rise to this accusation: “Destroy the temple, and in three days I will raise it
up. Now they accuse him of having said three things: that he is going to destroy
the temple; that the temple of Jerusalem is the work of human hands, not some-
thing divine; and that in three days he will raise up another one, not made by
hands of men. As can be seen, this is not what our Lord said. First they change
his words: Jesus did not say he was going to destroy the temple; and, secondly,
they apply what he said to the temple of Jerusalem, not understanding that Jesus
was speaking about his own body, as is made plain in St John (2:21-22). After the
Resurrection, the apostles understood the depth of Jesus words (Jn 2:22): the
temple of Jerusalem, where Gods presence was manifested in a special way and
where he was offered due worship, was but a sign, a prefiguring of the humanity
of Christ, in which the fullness of divinity, God, dwelt (cf. Col 2:9).
The same accusation is made at the martyrdom of St Stephen: “We have heard
him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place, and will change the
customs which Moses delivered to us (Acts 6:14). In fact, St Stephen knew that
the true temple was no longer that of Jerusalem but Jesus Christ; but once again
they misinterpreted his meaning and accused him as they had our Lord.
61. As at other points during his passion, Jesus kept completely silent. He ap-
peared defenseless before the false accusations of his enemies. “God our
Saviour, St Jerome says, “who has redeemed the world out of mercy, lets him-
self be led to death like a lamb, not saying a word; he does not complain, he
makes no effort to defend himself. Jesus silence obtains forgiveness for Adams
protest and excuse (”Comm. on Mark”, in loc.). This silence is another motive
and encouragement to us to be silent at times in the face of calumny or criticism.
“In quietness and in trust shall be your strength, says the prophet Isaiah (30:15).
“Jesus remained silent, “Jesus autem tacebat.” Why do you speak, to console
yourself, or to excuse yourself?
“Say nothing. Seek joy in contempt: you will always receive less than you de-
“Can you, by any chance, ask: Quid enim malifeci’, what evil have I done?
(Bl. J. Escriva, “The Way”, 671).
61-64. The high priest was undoubtedly trying to corner Jesus: if he replied that
he was not the Christ, it would be equivalent to his contradicting everything he
had said and done; if he answered yes, it would be interpreted as blasphemy, as
we shall see later. Strictly speaking it was not blasphemy to call oneself the
Messiah, or to say one was the Son of God, taking that phrase in a broad sense.
Jesus reply not only bore witness to his being the Messiah; it also showed the
divine transcendence of his messianism, by applying to him the prophecy of the
Son of man in Daniel (7:13-14). By making this confession, Jesus reply opened
the way for the high priest to make his theatrical gesture: he took it as a mockery
of God and as blasphemy that this handcuffed man could be the transcendent
figure of the Son of man. At this solemn moment Jesus defines himself by using
the strongest of all the biblical expressions his hearers could understand that
which most clearly manifested his divinity. We might point out that had Jesus
said simply “I am God they would have thought it simply absurd and would have
regarded him as mad: in which case he would not have borne solemn witness to
his divinity before the authorities of the Jewish people.
63. The rending of garments was a custom in Israel to express indignation and
protest against sacrilege and blasphemy. The rabbis had specified exactly how it
should be done. Only a kind of seam was torn, to prevent the fabric being dam-
aged. With this tragi-comic gesture Caiaphas brings the trial to an end, cleverly
sabotaging any later procedure that might favour the prisoner and show up the
64. Through Luke 23:51 and John 7:25-33 we know that not all the members of
the Sanhedrin condemned Jesus, for Joseph of Arimathea did not consent in this
act of deicide. It maybe supposed, therefore, that they were not present at this
meeting of the council, either because they had not been summoned or because
they absented themselves.
66-72. Although the accounts given by the three Synoptic Gospels are very alike,
St Marks narrative does have its own characteristics: the sacred text gives little
details which add a touch of colour. He says that Peter was “below (v. 66), which
shows that the council session was held in an upstairs room; he also mentions the
two cockcrows (v. 72), in a way consistent with our Lords prophecy described in
v. 30. On the theological and ascetical implications of this passage, see the note
on Mt 26:70-75.
1. At daybreak the Sanhedrin holds another meeting to work out how to get Pilate
to ratify the death sentence. And then Christ is immediately brought before Pilate.
It is not known for certain where the governor was residing during these days. It
was either in Herods palace, built on the western hill of the city, south of the Jaffa
Gate, or the Antonia fortress, which was on the north-east of the temple espla-
nade. It is more than likely that, for the Passover, Pilate lived in the fortress.
>From there he could have a full view of the whole outside area of the temple,
where unrest and riots were most likely to occur. In the centre of this impressive
building there was a perfectly paved courtyard of about 2,500 square meters
(approximately half an acre). This may well have been the yard where Pilate
judged our Lord and which St John (19:13) called The Pavement (”Lithostrotos”,
in Greek). Philo, Josephus and other historians depict Pilate as having the de-
fects of the worst type of Roman governor. The evangelists emphasize his
cowardice and his sycophancy bordering on wickedness.
2. Jesus reply, as given in St Mark, can be interpreted in two ways. It may mean:
You say that l am king; I say nothing; or else: I am a king. The second interpreta-
tion is the more common and logical, since in other Gospel passages he affirms
his kingship quite categorically (cf. Mt 27:37 and par.; in 18:36-38). In St Johns
Gospel (18:33-38) Jesus tells Pilate that he is a King and explains the special na-
ture of his kingship: his Kingdom is not of this world; it transcends this world (cf.
the note on Jn 18:35-37).
3-5. On three occasions the evangelists specify that Jesus remained silent in the
face of these unjust accusations: before the Sanhedrin (14:61); here, before
Pilate; and later on, before Herod (Lk 23:9). From the Gospel of St John we know
that our Lord did say other things during this trial. St Mark says that he made no
further reply, since he is referring only to the accusations made against our Lord:
being false, they deserved no reply. Besides, any attempt at defense was futile,
since they had decided in advance that he should die. Nor did Pilate need any
further answer, since he was more concerned to please the Jewish authorities
than, correctly, to find Jesus innocent.
6-15. Instead of simply coming to the rescue of this innocent prisoner, as was his
duty and as his conscience advised him, Pilate wants to avoid a confrontation
with the Sanhedrin; so he tries to deal with the people and have them set Jesus
free. Since it was customary to release a prisoner of the peoples choice to cele-
brate the Passover, Pilate offers them the chance of selecting Jesus. The priests,
seeing through this maneuver, incite the crowd to ask for Barabbas. This was not
difficult to do, since many felt disillusioned about Jesus because he had not set
them free of the foreign yoke. Pilate could not oppose their choice; and so it be-
came even more difficult for him to give a just decision. All he can do now is
appeal to the people on behalf of the King of the Jews. The humble and help-
less appearance of Jesus exasperates the crowd: this is not the sort of king they
want, and they ask for his crucifixion.
In the course of the trial Pilate was threatened with being reported to the emperor
if he interfered in this affair (cf. Jn 19:12); he now accedes to their shouting and
signs the warrant for death by crucifixion, to protect his political career.
15. Scourging, like crucifixion, was a degrading form of punishment applied only
to slaves. The whip or flagellum used to punish serious crimes was strengthened
with small sharp pieces of metal at the end of the thongs, which had the effect of
tearing the flesh and even fracturing bones. Scourging often caused death. The
condemned person was tied to a post to prevent him collapsing. People con-
demned to crucifixion were scourged beforehand.
These sufferings of Jesus have a redemptive value. In other passages of the
Gospel our Lord made carrying the cross a condition of following him. Through
self-denial a Christian associates himself with Christs passion and plays a part
in the work of redemption (cf. Col 1:24).
“Bound to the pillar. Covered with wounds. The blows of the lash sound upon
his torn flesh, upon his undefiled flesh, which suffers for your sinful flesh. More
blows. More fury. Still more . . . It is the last extreme of human cruelty.
“Finally, exhausted, they untie Jesus. And the body of Christ yields to pain and
falls limp, broken and half dead.
“You and I cannot speak. Words are not needed. Look at him, look at him . . .
“After this . . . can you ever fear penance? (BI. J. Escriva, “Holy Rosary”, sec-
ond sorrowful mystery).
16-19. The soldiers make Jesus object of mockery; they accuse him pretending
to be a king, and crown him and dress him up as one.
The image of the suffering Jesus scourged and crowned with thorns, with a reed
in his hands and an old purple cloak around his shoulders, has become a vivid
symbol of human pain, under the title of the “Ecce homo.
But, as St Jerome teaches, “his ignominy has blotted out ours, his bonds have
set us free, his crown of thorns has won for us the crown of the Kingdom,
wounds have cured us (”Comm. in Marcum”, in loc.).
“You and I . . . , havent we crowned him anew with thorns and struck him and
spat on him? (BI. J. Escriva, “Holy Rosary”, third sorrowful mystery).
21. “Jesus is exhausted. His footsteps become more and more unsteady, and
the soldiers are in a hurry to he finished. So, when they are going out of the city
through the Judgment Gate, they take hold of a man who was coming in from a
farm, a man called Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus, and
they force him to carry the Cross of Jesus (cf. Mk 15:21).
“In the whole context of the Passion, this help does not add up to very much. But
for Jesus, a smile, a word, a gesture, a little bit of love is enough for him to pour
out his grace bountifully on the soul of his friend. Years later, Simons sons,
Christians by then, will be known and held in high esteem among their brothers
in the faith. And it all started with this unexpected meeting with the Cross.
“’I went to those who were not looking for me; I was found by those who sought
me not (Is 65:1)’”.
“At times the Cross appears without our looking for it: it is Christ who is seeking
us out. And if by chance, before this unexpected Cross which, perhaps, is there-
fore more difficult to understand, your heart were to show repugnance . . . dont
give it consolations. And, filled with a noble compassion, when it asks for them,
say to it slowly, as one speaking in confidence: Heart: Heart on the Cross!
Heart on the Cross!’” (BI. J. Escriva, “The Way of the Cross”, V).
St Mark stops for a moment to say who this Simon was: he was the father of Alex-
ander and Rufus. It appears that Rufus, years later, moved with his mother to
Rome; St Paul sent them affectionate greetings in his Letter to the Romans
(16:13). It seems reasonable to imagine that Simon first felt victimized at being
forced to do such unpleasant work, but contact with the Holy Cross — the altar on
which the divine Victim was going to be sacrificed — and the sight of the suffering
and death of Jesus, must have touched his heart; and the Cyrenean, who was at
first indifferent, left Calvary a faithful disciple of Christ: Jesus had amply rewarded
him. How often it happens that divine providence, through some mishap, places
us face to face with suffering and brings about in us a deeper conversion.
When reading this passage, we might reflect that, although our Lord has rescued
us voluntarily, and although his merits are infinite, he does seek our cooperation.
Christ bears the burden of the cross, but we have to help him carry it by accepting
all the difficulties and contradictions which divine providence presents us with. In
this way we grow in holiness, at the same time atoning for our faults and sins.
>From the Gospel of St John (19:17) we know that Jesus bore the cross on his
shoulders. In Christ burdened by the cross St Jerome sees, among other mean-
ings, the fulfillment of the figure of Abel, the innocent victim, and particularly of
Isaac (cf. Gen 22:6), who carried the wood for his own sacrifice (cf. St Jerome,
“Comm. in Marcum”, in loc.). Later, weakened from the scourging, Jesus can go
no further on his own, which is why they compel this man from Cyrene to carry
“If anyone would follow me . . . Little friend, we are sad, living the Passion of our
Lord Jesus. See how lovingly he embraces the Cross. Learn from him. Jesus
carries the Cross for you: you . . . carry it for Jesus.
“But dont drag the Cross . . . . Carry it squarely on your shoulder, because the
Cross, if you carry it like that, will not be just any Cross. . . . It will be the Holy
Cross. Dont carry your Cross with resignation: resignation is not a generous
word. Love the Cross. When you really love it, your Cross will be . . . a Cross
without a Cross. And surely you will find Mary on the way, just as Jesus did
(BI. J. Escriva, “Holy Rosary”, fourth sorrowful mystery).
22. There is no doubt about where this place was: it was a small, bare hill, at
that time outside the city, right beside a busy main road.
23. Following the advice of Proverbs (31:6), the Jews used to offer dying crimi-
nals wine mixed with myrrh or incense to drug them and thus alleviate their
Jesus tastes it (according to Mt 27:34), but he does not drink it. He wishes to
remain conscious to the last moment and to keep offering the chalice of the
Passion, which he accepted at the Incarnation (Heb 10:9) and did not refuse in
Gethsemane. St Augustine (”On the Psalms”, 21:2 and 8) explains that our Lord
wanted to suffer to the very end in order to purchase our redemption at a high
price (cf. 1 Cor 6:20).
Faithful souls have also experienced this generosity of Christ in embracing pain:
“Let us drink to the last drop the chalice of pain in this poor present life. What
does it matter to suffer for ten years, twenty, fifty . . . if afterwards there is heaven
for ever, for ever. . . for ever?
“And, above all rather than because of the reward, propter retributionem what
does suffering matter if we suffer to console, to please God our Lord, in a spirit of
reparation, united to him on his cross; in a word: if we suffer for Love? (BI. J.
Escriva, “The Way”, 182).
24-28. Crucifixion, as well as being the most degrading of punishments, was also
the most painful. By condemning him to death, Jesus enemies try to achieve the
maximum contrast with his triumphant entry into Jerusalem some days previously.
Usually, the bodies of people crucified were left on the gibbet for some days as a
warning to people. In the case of Christ they also sought death by crucifixion as
the most convincing proof that he was not the Messiah.
Crucifixion took various forms. The usual one, and perhaps the one applied to
Jesus, consisted of first erecting the upright beam and then positioning the cross-
beam with the prisoner nailed to it by his hands; and finally nailing his feet to the
lower part of the upright.
According to St Johns Gospel (19:23-25) the seamless tunic — that is, woven in a
piece — was wagered for separately from the rest of his clothes, which were divi-
ded into four lots, one for each soldier. The words of this verse reproduce those
of Psalm 22:18. Any Jew versed in the Scriptures reading this passage would
immediately see in it the fulfillment of a prophecy. St John expressly notes it (cf.
19:24). St Mark, without losing the thread of his account of the Passion, implicitly
argues that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah, for in him this prophecy is ful-
Looking at Jesus on the cross, it is appropriate to recall that God “decreed that
man should be saved through the wood of the Cross. The tree of mans defeat
became his tree of victory; where life was lost, there life has been restored
(”Roman Missal”, Preface of the Holy Cross).
25. “The third hour: between nine oclock and noon. St Mark is the only evange-
list who specifies the time at which our Lord was nailed to the cross. For the rela-
tionship between our clock and the Jewish system in that period, see the note on
26. This inscription was usually put in a prominent place so that everyone could
see what the prisoner was guilty of. Pilate ordered them to write “Jesus the Naz-
arene, King of the Jews, in Latin, Greek and Hebrew; St Mark summarizes the
Motivated by malice, these Jews accuse Jesus of a political crime, when all his
life and preaching left it quite clear that his mission was not political but super-
natural. On the meaning of the inscription over the cross and the circumstances
surrounding it, see John 19:19-22 and note.
27. Jesus is thus put to further shame; his disciples will also experience the humi-
liation of being treated like common criminals.
But in the case of Jesus this was providential, for it fulfilled the Scripture which
prophesies that he would be counted among the evildoers. The Vulgate, following
some Greek codexes, adds: “And the scripture was fulfilled which says, He was
reckoned with the transgressors” (v. 28; cf. Lk 22:37). “Positioned between the
evildoers, St Jerome teaches, “the Truth places one on his left and one on his
right, as will be the case on the day of judgment. So we see how distinct the end
of similar sinners can be. One precedes Peter into Paradise, the other enters hell
before Judas: a brief confession brings eternal life, a momentary blasphemy is
punished with eternal death (”Comm. in Marcum”, in loc.).
The Christian people have from early on given various names to these thieves.
The most common in the West is Dismas for the good thief and Gestas for the bad
29-32. Christs suffering did not finish with the crucifixion: there now follows a
form of mockery worse (if possible) than the crowning with thorns. He is mocked
by passers-by, by the priests chanting insults with the scribes, and even by the
two crucified thieves (cf., however, the clarification in Lk 23:39-43). They com-
bine to reproach him for his weakness, as if his miracles had been deceptions,
and incite him to manifest his power.
The fact that they ask him to work a miracle does not indicate that they have any
desire to believe in him. For faith is a gift from God which only those receive who
have a simple heart. “You ask for very little, St Jerome upbraids the Jews, “when
the greatest event in history is taking place before your very eyes. Your blindness
cannot be cured even by much greater miracles than those you call for (”Comm.
on Mark”, in loc.).
Precisely because he was the Messiah and the Son of God he did not get down
from the cross; in great pain, he completed the work his Father had entrusted to
him. Christ teaches us that suffering is our best and richest treasure. Our Lord
did not win victory from a throne or with a sceptre in his hand, but by opening his
arms on the cross. A Christian, who, like any other person, will experience pain
and sorrow during his life, should not flee it or rebel against it, but offer it to God,
as his Master did.
33. The evangelist reports this as a miraculous phenomenon signaling the magni-
tude of the crime of deicide which was taking place. The phrase “over the whole
land means over all the immediate horizon, without specifying its limits. The nor-
mal interpretation of the meaning of this event is dual and complementary; Origen
(In “Matth. comm.”, 143) sees it as an expression of the spiritual darkness which
overtook the Jewish people as a punishment for having rejected crucified him
who is the true light (cf. Jn 1:4-9). St Jerome (”Comm. on Matthew”, in loc.)
explains the darkness as expressing, rather, the mourning of the universe at the
death of its Creator, natures protest against the unjust killing of its Lord (cf. Rom
These words, spoken in Aramaic, are the start of Psalm 22, the prayer of the just
man who, hunted and cornered, feels utterly alone, like “a worm, and no man;
scorned by men and despised by the people (v. 7). From this abyss of misery
and total abandonment, the just man has recourse to Yahweh: “My God, my God,
why art thou so far from helping me. . . . Since my mother bore me thou has been
my God. . . . But thou, O Lord, be not far off! O thou my help, hasten to my aid!
(vv. 2, 10 and 19). Thus, far from expressing a moment of despair, these words
of Christ reveal his complete trust in his heavenly Father, the only one on whom
he can rely in the midst of suffering, to whom he can complain like a Son and in
whom he abandons himself without reserve: “Father, into thy hands I commit my
spirit (Lk 23:46; Ps 31:5).
One of the most painful situations a person can experience is to feel alone in the
face of misunderstanding and persecution on all sides, to feel completely insecure
and afraid. God permits these tests to happen so that, experiencing our own
smallness and world-weariness, we place all our trust in him who draws good
from evil for those who love him (cf. Rom 8:28).
“So much do I love Christ on the Cross that every crucifix is like a loving reproach
from my God: . . . I suffering, and you . . . a coward. I loving you, and you
forgetting me. I begging you, and you . . . denying me. I, here, with arms wide
open as an Eternal Priest, suffering all that can be suffered for love of you . . .
and you complain at the slightest misunderstanding, over the tiniest humiliation
. . .” (BI. J. Escriva, “The Way of the Cross”, XI, 2).
35-36. The soldiers near the cross, on hearing our Lord speak, may have
thought, wrongly, that he was calling on Elijah for help. However, it seems it is
the Jews themselves who, twisting our Lords words, find another excuse for jeer-
ing at him. There was a belief that Elijah would come to herald the Messiah, which
is why they used these words to continue to ridicule Christ on the cross.
37. The evangelist recalls it very succinctly: “Jesus uttered a loud cry, and
breathed his last. It is as if he did not dare make any comment, leaving it to the
reader to pause and meditate. Although the death of Christ is a tremendous
mystery, we must insist: Jesus Christ died; it was a real, not an apparent, death;
nor should we forget that our sin was what caused our Lords death. “The abyss
of malice, which sin opens wide, has been bridged by his infinite charity. God
does not abandon men. His plans foresee that the sacrifices of the Old Law
were insufficient to repair our faults and re-establish the unity which has been
lost: a man who was God must offer himself up. To help us grasp in some
measure this unfathomable mystery, we might imagine the Blessed Trinity taking
counsel together in its uninterrupted intimate relationship of infinite love. As a
result of its eternal decision, the only-begotten Son of God the Father takes on
our human condition and bears the burden of our wretchedness and sorrows, to
end up sewn with nails to a piece of wood. Let us meditate on our Lord, wound-
ed from head to foot out of love for us (St. J. Escriva, “Christ is Passing By”, 95).
“. . . Now it is all over. The work of our Redemption has been accomplished. We
are now children of God, because Jesus has died for us and his death has ran-
“Empti enim estis pretio magno! (1 Cor 6:20), you and I have been bought at a
“We must bring into our lives, to make them our own, the life and death of Christ.
We must die through mortification and penance, so that Christ may live in us
through Love. And then follow in the footsteps of Christ, with a zeal to co-
redeem all mankind.
“We must give our lives for others. That is the only way to live the life of Jesus
Christ and to become one and the same thing with him (Bl. J. Escriva, “The Way
of the Cross, XIV).
38. The strictly sacred precinct of the temple of Jerusalem had two parts: the first,
called “the Holy Place, where only priests could enter for specific liturgical func-
tions; the second, called “the Holy of Holies (”Sancta Sanctorum”). This was the
most sacred room where once the Ark of the Covenant stood, containing the tab-
lets of the Law. Above the Ark was the “propitiatory with figures of two cherubim.
Only once a year did the high priest have access to the Holy of Holies, on the
great Day of Atonement, to perform the rite of purification of the people. The cur-
tain of the temple was the great curtain which separated the Holy of Holies from
the Holy Place (cf. 1 Kings 6:15f).
The prodigy of the tearing of the curtain of the temple — apparently of no great
importance — is full of theological meaning. It signifies dramatically that with
Christs death the worship of the Old Covenant has been brought to an end; the
temple of Jerusalem has no longer any raison dêtre. The worship pleasing to
God — in spirit and truth (cf. in 4:23) — is rendered him through the humanity of
Christ, who is both Priest and Victim.
39. Regarding this passage St Bede says that this miracle of the conversion of the
Roman officer is due to the fact that, on seeing the Lord die in this way, he could
not but recognize his divinity; for no one has the power to surrender his spirit but
he who is the Creator of souls (cf. St Bede, “In Marci Evangelium expositio”, in
loc.). Christ, indeed, being God, had the power to surrender his spirit; whereas in
the case of other people their spirit is taken from them at the moment of death.
But the Christian has to imitate Christ, also at this supreme moment: that is, we
should accept death peacefully and joyfully. Death is the point planned by God
for us to leave our spirit in his hands; the difference is that Christ yielded up his
spirit when he chose (cf. Jn 10-18), whereas we do so when God so disposes.
“Dont be afraid of death. Accept it from now on, generously . . . when God wills
it, where God wills it, as God wills it. Dont doubt what I say: it will come in the
moment, in the place and in the way that are best: sent by your Father-God.
Welcome be our sister death! (St. J. Escriva, “The Way”, 739).
43-46. Unlike the apostles, who fled, Joseph of Arimathea, who had not consen-
ted to the decision of the Sanhedrin (cf. Lk 23:51), had the bold and refined piety
of personally taking charge of everything to do with the burial of Jesus. Christs
death had not shaken his faith. It is worth noting that he does this immediately
after the debacle of Calvary and before the triumph of the glorious resurrection of
the Lord. His action will be rewarded by his name being written in the Book of
Life and recorded in the Holy Gospel and in the memory of all generations of
Christians. Joseph of Arimathea put himself at the service of Jesus, without ex-
pecting any human recompense and even at personal risk: he ventured his social
position, his own as yet unused tomb, and everything else that was needed. He
will always be a vivid example for every Christian of how one ought to risk money,
position and honour in the service of God.
Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.
Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and
by Scepter Publishers in the United States.