“All this has come to pass that the writings of the prophets may be fulfilled,” Jesus says in today’s Gospel (Matthew 26:56).
Indeed, we have reached the climax of the liturgical year, the highest peak of salvation history, when all that has been anticipated and promised is to be fulfilled.
By the close of the long Gospel, the work of our redemption will have been accomplished, the new covenant will be written in the blood of his broken body hanging on the cross at the place called the Skull.
In his Passion, Jesus is “counted among the wicked,” as Isaiah had foretold (Isaiah 53:12). He is revealed definitively as the Suffering Servant the prophet announced, the long-awaited Messiah whose words of obedience and faith ring out in the first reading and psalm.
The taunts and torments we hear in these two readings punctuate the Gospel as Jesus is beaten and mocked (Matthew 27:31), as his hands and feet are pierced, as enemies gamble for his clothes (Matthew 27:35) and as his enemies dare him to prove his divinity by saving himself from suffering (Matthew 27:39-44).
He remains faithful to God’s will to the end, does not turn back in his trial. He gives himself freely to his torturers, confident that, as he speaks in the first reading: “The Lord God is my help … I shall not be put to shame.”
Destined to sin and death as children of Adam’s disobedience, we have been set free for holiness and life by Christ’s perfect obedience to the Father’s will (Romans 5:12-14,17-19; Ephesians 2:2; 5:6).
This is why God greatly exalted him. This is why we have salvation in his name. Following his example of humble obedience in the trials and crosses of our lives, we know we will never be forsaken. We know, as the centurion, that truly this is the Son of God (Matthew 27:54).
Scott Hahn is founder of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, stpaulcenter.com.