Today the Passion narrative was read at Mass for this Palm or Passion Sunday. My thoughts always turn to those brilliant scenes in the film of the century, The Passion of the Christ. This still frame takes place in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus, Peter, James and John spend an anxious hour of prayer, anticipating a new Passover. Temple guards approach with weapons and lights. Masterly woven together, three figures move past each other like dark threads in the cloak of the night: Peter, Judas, and a temple guard. Peter stands still, Judas is retreating, and the temple guard is pressing forward to lay hands on the Christ, the Son of God. All three have a passion that intertwines their destiny, but it's misdirected so that the result will be a frayed and inconsistent stitch.
Judas' passion is for money (we know he stole from the communal stash), for success, and for the earthly power and authority he thinks Jesus can win for this rugged band of fisherman.
The temple guard's passion is for peace and for order, but he will stop at nothing, not even innocence, to keep the Pharisees in control and the Jewish subculture alive under the shadow of the Romans.
Peter's passion is purest but falters in the end. Why? Why deny him? Why run? Was he relying on his own strength?
Only Jesus has a Passion that can carry him all the way to the conflagration of the cross, there to be lifted up to draw all men to himself. This is the proper goal of passion; the perfection of passion. This is what will be unravelled again this Holy Week for the world to see. For Christians hearts to meditate on. Passion must lead out and beyond, beyond ourselves, beyond petty pleasures. Passion must take us to the fires of Heaven, even as it passes first through the fires of suffering and death here below.