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March in the Year of our Lord Jesus Christ 2013

PASTORAL LETTER                             MARCH 2013

During March we are in the final weeks of Lent. The journey takes us past Mothering Sunday towards Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter. The whole event is sometimes called 'The Passion of our Lord.'

So what about this word 'Passion'? It can seem very confusing - because we naturally think about passion as something emotional, in fact strongly emotional. Human passions are often blamed for all kinds of behaviour, not to mention crimes of passion. If we love, or hate, something a great deal, we refer to it as a passionate love or passionate hatred.

However, with 'The Passion of Jesus' we have to forget all that. It has the original Latin meaning of 'suffering' - passio Christi - the suffering of Christ. And it refers not just to the Crucifixion, but everything that led up to it, from the time he set out on the final journey from Galilee to Jerusalem.

There is one other aspect to it which is important, where Passion has the meaning of 'passive'. Right up to his arrest, Jesus always took the initiative, teaching, healing, travelling, praying, bringing the Gospel to anyone and everyone. The Passion of our Lord literally describes the last 24 hours of his life when he allowed others to do things to him. He did not stop Judas betraying him, or resist arrest. He did not attempt to defend himself at the so-called trials, in fact he remained largely silent; he suffered the scourging, he endured the terrible agony of the cross. And in allowing these things to happen, Jesus used the worst that others could do to him in order to show that God's power is at its greatest in our weakness.

One of the most moving Passiontide hymns is 'When I survey the wondrous Cross'. Each verse has a twofold theme - the fact of what Jesus has done for me, and then the question, 'what can I give in return?'

The final verse gets right to the heart of the matter: 'Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.' And it raises the question each Christian is faced with every day of our lives, particularly in our prayers. It is a difficult one: 'How much do you want me to give up, Lord? - Everything? or just some things? Are you really demanding my soul, my life, my all?

Here is the conclusion St.Paul came to:

'All the assets of my former life I have written off because of Christ. More than that, I count everything sheer loss, far outweighed by the gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for him I have accepted the loss of everything. In fact I count the former things as so much rubbish, for the sake of gaining Christ. My one desire is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and to share his sufferings in growing closer to his death, in the hope that I may, with him, attain resurrection."

Frank Fox-Wilson