Readings for April 1, Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord
Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11
Palm Sunday and as every year we listen to the Passion of Jesus read at Mass. Do we really hear it? Sometimes I think if we really heard and understood these words we would be tempted to rate it “R” based on the violence and brutality. It certainly wouldn’t be deemed appropriate for children.
And yet we read and listen, sometimes with an air of boredom because it’s so familiar. So let’s take some time this week to reflect deeply on this Gospel message.
In the crucifixion, Jesus was humiliated, shamed, abandoned, betrayed, tortured, and brutalized. We might have experienced some of these situations like humiliation or shame, but the torture and brutalization? This was a time of extreme cruelty, not comparable to what most of us can imagine. Even the Apostles could not imagine what Jesus was saying when he told them he would suffer and die. Jesus tried to warn them, “All of you will have your faith shaken,” but they did not understand.
These words of Jesus spoken to the Apostles were also meant for us. Remember the words of the Gospel are the living words of God throughout all time. Do the events of our lives shake our faith in God? When the unthinkable happens, do we turn away from God and run and hide like the Apostles? Who stayed and who didn’t stay with Jesus? During the time of his most severe mental anguish, he asks the three friends who were closest to him to stay and pray for him. They slept. Which group would you have found yourself with?
I think one reason we don’t fully appreciate the passion of Jesus is because we somehow conveniently forget that he is fully human. We like to suppose that his divinity shielded him from the complete horror of the story. Perhaps more than the other Gospels, Mark has a greater sense of the two natures of Christ. He is a human being (not a divine man), illustrated both by Jesus’ repeated phrase “Son of Man,” which is a Semitic way of saying, a (mortal) human being and the great suffering he endures.
It seems the enemies of Jesus are know who he is; Pilate condemns him because he is the “king of the Jews” and the chief priests, with the scribes, mocked him among themselves and said, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross.”
His followers are in hiding, confused about who he is and what is happening. Jesus is also the Son of God, a title that appears in the first verse of the book of Mark, as well as the centurion’s confession, “Truly this man was the Son of God.” This is a title which can only be properly understood in Mark after the crucifixion.
As you stand today at the foot of the cross, what do you come to understand about who Jesus is? Jesus knew who he was, even under the worst duress and strife. He was the one who loves, no matter what.
Many times during his ministry Jesus said, “My hour has not come.” Today we hear him say, “The hour has come,” it is God’s time to fulfill his Word. This hour will be the means by which all men are drawn to him. This hour will change the entire world and its history. How will you allow this hour to change you?
Kathleen Ebner is a member of St. Jude the Apostle Parish in Lewes, where she serves as spiritual director and catechist.