Finding Ourselves in the Passion Narrative by Fran Salone-Pelletier

I read the Passion narrative not only for the information it contains, but also for the transformation it offers. This pondering begins, continues, and ends with the same question: Who am I? Who am I in the Passion narrative? Who am I in the narrative of life itself, my life, now?

My mind flits from one character to another. I dare not choose Jesus, though I have often felt as if I knew the ending of an experience before anyone else had a clue. I could see it coming. I could feel the pain of dismissal and denial, of departure and denigration. Surrounded by friends, I was yet unknown, a foreigner even to myself. When I tried to explain who I was, I could feel the reaction, the gasping cry: “How dare you?” What a blasphemy to say I am a daughter of the living God! Somehow this is perceived as putting myself above everyone else rather than including myself in the whole human family.

This is difficult for me. I can’t be the savor of humanity. Yet it is also true that I can’t be silent in the face of false accusations. I can’t pray for God’s will to be done in me when I know it means I must die a crucifying death. I can’t face the scourging whips of animosity nor the senseless cruelty of rejection.

So, who am I?

Am I Peter, a person who truly believes and trusts until the really hard stuff comes my way? I brag that I’ll always be there; I’ll never deny God’s place in my life, nor my place in godliness; I’ll not be like others who live in pretense. Then I begin to understand the cost of that discipleship. And I back off. I do it in stages. I start by denying that life should be so hard and then by denying the only true, deep friend I have—God. I fall asleep because staying awake is just too painful. But I am awakened, horribly awakened to the reality that I am not the person I want to be or think I am.

Good God, I am broken, weeping, wracked with reality.

Am I Judas, so blinded by my own understanding of what is good and right, true and just, that I betray the only one I really trusted? I deceive the only one who accepted me as I am, the one who honored me by welcoming my giftedness. I can’t believe the depths to which I have sunk. I am offering a kiss of friendship to the very one I have chosen to betray.

Good God, what kind of person am I? I don’t deserve to be alive!

Am I Barabbas, the other “son of the Father”? Does my rebellious spirit feed the crowd’s thirst for blood? Or am I a soldier who can only see killing as the means to preserve a certain kind of life—a life of pleasure, power, position, and privilege?

These are dark days when sanctuaries are torn in two. These are days when there is no sense of common unity. Only division, divisiveness, destruction remain. In that darkness, an unveiling happens in the core of my spirit. I begin to see that I am not simply one of the many persons who are present at this singularly transformative crossroads. At one moment or another, I am all of them.

Sorrow floods my spirit. I stand, looking from a distance because I cannot yet bear to be near the atrocity I cannot prevent from occurring. I cannot bear to believe or reveal my own weakness, my own frailty, my own divided self.

Like Nicodemus, I come in the darkness to lay my God in the tomb of my own life. I give what I can offer with gratitude, not counting the cost or expecting reward. I come still filled with fear of the unknown, fear of the consequences of my action. I must do what I can, even while I am afraid.

Yet I am also Mary, that tower of graced love. I cannot stay away. I must keep watch to see where my beloved one is laid. I need to know and to see with my own eyes if vitality is yet available. Is there more than what I can see, more than I can be, more life in what appears to be death? I am watching so that I can return in the daylight to anoint him for burial, just as I had anointed him with aromatic oils only a few hours ago. I am watching. I am waiting. My thoughts are wandering with the randomness of a mourning mind and a broken heart. I wonder wistfully if this is all there is. Are endings devoid of new beginnings? Is there gain in loss? Will I yet be alive, although alone? I have no definitive answers.

Clarity finally comes with wrenching slowness. It gives birth to acute awareness and ever-evolving response to the eternal question: Who am I?

I am who I am. Therein lies my ongoing resurrection.

Fran Salone-Pelletier holds a master’s degree in theology. She is the author of a trilogy of scriptural meditations, Awakening to God: The Sunday Readings in Our Lives, as well as a religious educator, retreat leader, lecturer, and grandmother of four. She can be reached at hope5@atmc.net.

Image: The Lamentation, South Netherlandish, ca. 1490–1505. Wool warp, wool, silk, and gilt wefts. Metropolitan Museum of Art/Public Domain

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  1. Dorothy Yeomans
    Dorothy Yeomans says:

    Thank you for this excellent reflection. I am often in tune with your articles and your lectionary. I share your Christology and I offer my blessings on your ministries. With you in Christ, Dorothy Yeomans

    Reply

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