WHAT will rightly take center stage in Holy Week rituals is the death by crucifixion and subsequent resurrection of Christ, the Jesus of faith. Christian faith after all is essentially defined by the belief that Jesus is Christ, God’s incarnate Son who by His death reconciled sinful man with God and, by His resurrection, gave man hope of eternal life.

What will get pas-sing mention as usual are the politico-religious circumstances surrounding the death of Jesus. These are not objects of faith or belief but facts in the life of the Jesus of history whom the Church has all but conveniently glossed over in its preoccupation with Christ, the Jesus of faith.

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It is this lack of appreciation of the historical Jesus that is taking away much from the meaning and relevance of our faith in Jesus, the Christ. A contrite understanding of the circumstances leading to Jesus’s death can teach today’s Christian how to live his or her faith in Christ. We accept on faith why Jesus died for us, so we do him ritual worship. We, however, pay little attention to the politico-religious reasons why Jesus was killed on the cross, so we stop at ritual worship.

Historically, Jesus was persecuted by the chief priests of his own Jewish religion. He incurred their ire for his harsh criticism of hypocritical ritual worship and for his advocacy instead of worship by acts of charity to the widow, the sick, to all who “labor and are burdened.” He called his Jewish religious leaders hypocrites, whitened sepulchers that are clean on the outside but full of dead bones inside.

Jesus violated the Sabbath in order to help people in need for which he was judged unclean and blasphemous by the scribes and Pharisees. He was teaching us that helping the neighbor trumps observance of all man-made laws such as Church regulations.

Jesus was visibly angry when he overturned the tables of the money changers in the temple courtyard. The picture we get is of blatant commercialization of temple worship and of rampant cheating in the process. Why else would he accuse the vendors of turning “the house of my Father into a den of thieves?”

Pilate of the mighty Roman Empire judged Jesus to be innocent of any crime deserving of death by crucifixion. But the chief priests incited the people to ask for Jesus’s death and Pilate, seeing in Jesus a person of no importance to him whatsoever, washed his hands and allowed Jesus to be crucified.

Jesus of history died an ordinary man, crucified by the chief priests for rejecting their empty ritual and opting instead to go about his Father’s business of taking care of the least of his brethren.“… If you did it to one of these…”

Have a truly meaningful Holy Week and a blessed Easter everyone.