This week our student on placement, Bryony Taylor, presented 3 meditations based on small characters that appear in Mark’s Gospel during the mass on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. These meditations are reproduced below so that you can read them slowly in your own time and reflect on the Passion of Christ.
As you read these stories, imagine yourselves there, ask God to speak to you, how are these stories also your own story?
Monday – the man in the Garden of Gethsemane
A short piece of scripture from Mark’s Gospel:
Then Jesus said to them, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.’ All of them deserted him and fled.
A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.
Here is that man’s story:
I was there that night in the garden. It was a warm, sultry evening. I’d finished my own Passover meal with my family and I had heard the singing coming from the garden, singing of the psalms of my people, so I went to listen, watching from the sidelines. I knew of Jesus, I had seen him cause a near riot on his entrance to Jerusalem only a few days before. I’d also heard him teach in the Temple and I wanted to follow him. So there I was, in the garden, humming along with the singing, such a hot night I only had a light linen shirt on. After the singing, the atmosphere changed, Jesus went off and I think he was praying. The other disciples were lounging around, lots of them slumped up against the trees sleeping. Then Jesus stood up. It was like he knew something was happening and suddenly the garden was full of men from the temple guard with torches and clubs, barging through the quietness of the garden. A man approached Jesus and hugged him – but it was a strange hug and straight away these rough guards grabbed Jesus. Then it was chaos: shouting, swords were drawn, but then all Jesus’ friends had gone, they just ran. I don’t think the guards had seen me. I was still there. I was still there. I wanted to follow this Jesus. So I held back and followed at a distance. Then I felt a hand on me, grasping at my shirt. Filled with sudden terror, I twisted out of my shirt and ran away, naked.
I wanted to be a friend to Jesus. I wanted to be there for him when his other friends were not, but there, in that moment, my resolve failed and I let him down like all the others.
I chose to run away naked rather than be seen with this man. I chose the shame of walking home naked. Later, I watched ashamed in the crowd as Jesus was stripped naked for his crucifixion. I knew that he was stripped and beaten because he had chosen it, it was what he came to do to set us all free. He took my nakedness and shame and turned it into something else.
Tuesday – Simon of Cyrene
A short piece of scripture from Mark’s Gospel:
After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull).
I just happened to be visiting Jerusalem. I’ve always been tall, and of course, being from Africa, I stood out in the crowd. Be careful, my family said, the Romans will pick on you as a foreigner. I decided to take my chances. It was the most terrifying day of my life. The crowd was pushing and shoving all around me, I was going in the opposite direction to everyone else and the Roman soldiers were carrying out yet another batch of crucifixions.
A soldier shouted at me in Greek ‘hey you’. I looked down, pretending I hadn’t heard, there were so many people there, he couldn’t possibly mean me. Then rough hands grabbed me by the arms and dragged me forwards. A man called Jesus was being led out to be crucified. He looked almost dead already, having been lashed. He was covered in blood.
The soldiers made me lean forwards and then they put a heavy log of wood over my shoulders and strapped it to my arms. Then I was made to follow Jesus and the others to the execution site outside the city. I thought I was going to die. Why did they choose me? Why was I carrying this cross? I hadn’t done anything wrong. All the horror stories about the Romans from back home were running through my mind again.
The cross bar was so heavy, it made me bow constantly and the ropes burnt my skin where it was strapped on my back. I really thought I was going to die. The soldiers had overdone it with lashing Jesus, if he didn’t make it, they’d put me on the cross in his place. As we stumbled through the crowd, women keened and cried out to Jesus. There were more women there than men. It was clear he was a special person to these people. The journey took an age and the cross got heavier alongside my sense of dread. A short trip to Jerusalem and it was going to end in my death.
Eventually, we reached the hill they call Golgotha. The smell was almost unbearable. I fell to the ground as I heard the sounds of the two other prisoners being nailed and hoisted onto their crosses. The soldiers wordlessly cut the ropes around my arms and yanked the cross bar off my back. I stayed where I was, I had no energy to move but the relief of the weight being taken left me feeling like I was floating. It was then I realised that the cross was being given back to Jesus. I managed to sit up and saw as they hammered long nails into Jesus’ hands and feet. Jesus spoke. He said ‘forgive them father’. I had thought I was going to die. But Jesus took my place. He took my place.
Wednesday – Joseph of Arimathea
A short piece of scripture from Mark’s gospel:
When evening had come, and 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 waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb.
Jesus never really had anything good to say about rich men like me but on the day he died I knew I could finally help. The women came to me and asked me and Nicodemus to help bury him. It was the least we could do.
The first thing I had to do was to see the governor Pilate. He’s a hard man but he respected me, more for my money I think than anything else. After my nervous audience with him I got permission to take Jesus’ body down.
The devastation on that hill outside Jerusalem will stay with me all my days. We had to borrow some pliers from the centurion to remove the nails from Jesus’ hands and feet. I lifted his body down, it was so light in my arms, hardly anything of him left. Mary was beside herself. I left her alone with him for about an hour, she held her son in her arms and wept. A sword pierced my soul at that sight.
It just so happened that I had commissioned a newly cut tomb for my family. Jesus was to have it: only the best for him. He always said he didn’t have anywhere to lay his head. I could give him that.
It felt a small comfort, too late really, but Mary and her friend got some comfort from seeing how we carefully wrapped Jesus in some brand new linen I had bought for the purpose and placed him in the tomb. It was the one small thing I could do for him.