I was reflecting recently on a situation where someone had fallen behind in making payments involving something that they were in serious need of. The response from the supplier was to threaten to take away what was needed, and they excused themselves with the comment, ‘this isn’t anything personal. It’s just business.’
As we mark the beginning of Holy Week, the most solemn time of year in our Church calendar, we are confronted with what appear to be completely polar opposites in reaction to the presence of Jesus. At the beginning of Mass we read from St. Matthew about Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, in the midst of the adoring crowds. We follow that up with the same writer’s account of Jesus’ Passion and Death; it shows how fickle people are – a complete and total reversal in public opinion (with a vengeance) in only a matter of days. The people are quite happy when they think the Messiah has come to bring about His Kingdom; but when they learn that much is expected of them in opening their hearts and participating in the building of that same Kingdom, that public adoration quickly degenerates into rejection and animosity.
While we often consider the tremendous sacrifice and meekness of Jesus, accepting both the good and the bad extremes in less than a week, ultimate surrendering all to the Father in atonement for the fallen human race, I think we frequently neglect to see how the actions of people in the gospels are reflected in our own day and in our own lives as followers of Jesus. Perhaps we deliberately avoid reflecting in that way because we don’t like what we might see in our own lives and actions, if we are brutally honest with ourselves.
For example, we may look at the treatment of Jesus by the Roman soldiers during his Passion, and say, ‘how could they be so unkind and cruel?’ or ‘how could they have been so detached while they inflicted such pain on his most holy body?’
But if we put ourselves into their place and time, for the Roman soldiers, this wasn’t ‘something personal’ – it was ‘just business’; it was a matter of routine – this is how foreign enemies of the Empire were dealt with; ‘no big deal’ if you will. They were desensitized to the suffering of those who were obstacles to what their orders were. They didn’t have to be concerned with how their prisoners ‘felt’ or ‘ thought’ because it really didn’t concern them.
This is one example, where we are invited to reflect on the parallel between the treatment of Christ in first century Palestine, and the treatment of His Body in our own time; there are numerous examples throughout the world, where Christ’s Body, the Church, is subjected to cruelty and oppression by secular authorities as a matter of ‘routine business’.
But just as important, we need to reflect on our own lives to see where we too have inflicted harm on the body of Christ – the Church – our brothers and sisters – as a matter of thoughtless or deliberate words, whether through neglect or direct action. It does us no good to simply read the Passion and reflect on it as a historical event, saying ‘poor Lord , how you suffered,’ if we are not willing to honestly contemplate where this event continues to be played out in our own world and in our own lives; if we aren’t willing to see how and where Jesus suffers each and every day, in great ways and small, in those we directly and indirectly encounter.
This most sacred time of year, Holy Week, is an opportunity for each of us to more deeply enter into reflection on the mystery of salvation history and recognize that God did not enter into our humanity solely to reconcile ‘me’ only to Himself. God entered into our humanity in the person of Jesus to reconcile all people to Himself, and in that action, we as members of Christ’s Body are invited and expected to be directly involved in drawing others to God, rather than ignoring them or driving them away.
The gentleness, meekness and surrender to God’s will that Jesus illustrates for each of us, should be the hallmark of our own lives and relationships each and every day; to reach out in love and to help build God’s Kingdom should be our ‘routine’.
Our willingness to follow Jesus’ example of complete self-giving should be , for us, our ‘business’; indeed it should be ‘something personal.’
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!