From Palms to Passion

palm-sunday-1This Sunday sets the stage for the holiest of weeks. We hear of Jesus’ triumphal entry into
Jerusalem and the shouts of “Hosanna!” by the fickle crowd who will, in five short days, utter shouts of “Crucify him!” While the crowd changes its allegiance, Jesus remains the same. He knows who he is and Whose he is. The gospels of these past three Sundays have told us: he is the Gardener who believes in second chances; he is the Teacher who will not condemn; and his Father is waiting to share his mercy. Today’s readings complete the gospel’s sketch of Jesus of Nazareth.

Isaiah tells of the Suffering Servant, beaten and spit upon, who remains steady in his self-knowledge and his certainty of God: “The Lord God is my help, therefore I am not disgraced.” Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, gives us the unimaginable image of the Son of God that we will encounter this week: a God who empties himself of divinity, and chooses the way of humility, the way of humanity.

In Luke’s telling of the Passion, we find a summation of all Jesus is about. We see Jesus attentive to the needs of those around him to the very end. We find Jesus faithful to his mission and his identity even as he faces physical abuse and mockery.  Jesus the Healer, touches and heals the servant whose ear is cut off. Jesus, fully human, needs Simon of Cyrene’s help to complete his mission. Jesus the Friend, offers a poignant, forgiving look at Peter after Peter denies him three times. Jesus the Reconciler, by his mere presence, fosters a friendship between Pilate and Herod.

Jesus the Consoler turns the attention of the women of Jerusalem back to their children. Jesus, the Son of the Prodigal Father, prays that forgiveness be shown to his executioners, and forgives the thief crucified beside him. Jesus of Nazareth is a man of relationship, a God of self-emptying love to the very end.

Rather than dreading this week or looking past it to Easter, let us accompany our God-with-us through these days of humanity’s worst, and finest. Let us learn anew the power and the price of love, and find our faith renewed in the Self-Emptying One who tells us by his life and death that we are worth it.

Ponder: What image of Jesus do I most need to embrace this Holy Week?

Do: Attend the Triduum and experience Jesus’ story of love in real time.

–by Mary Flick csj

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