Bulletin, March 25, 2018
Updated: Apr 5, 2018
Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord
Today we prepare to commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus. Isaiah reminds us of the suffering that Jesus will endure. He says Jesus will not be disgraced or put to shame, but we know that there will be humiliation at the hands of others. The psalm recalls the fear and sorrow as we repeat over and over Jesus’ words of anguish and abandonment. Philippians describes Jesus’ humility and the exaltation that will follow. But it is Mark who takes us through the last days of Jesus’ life, the ordinary and the extraordinary. He describes the meal shared with the one who will betray him; his anguished prayers with friends who cannot stay awake and will later deny him; his treatment at the hands of priests, elders, soldiers; and finally his death and the recognition that truly Jesus is the Son of God.
Jesus’ last days are an experience of contrasts. The man Isaiah describes is courageous in the face of buffets and beatings. Jesus will not be disgraced or put to shame. Everything the priests, elders, soldiers, and friends do is intended to disgrace and shame Jesus. But they fail. Jesus is not without anguish and sorrow. He knows what it feels like to be abandoned and he expresses that in the garden and on the Cross. Yet still Philippians insists that Jesus will be exalted even though humbled and obedient to the point of death. Mark takes Jesus and us back and forth between strength and fear, between courage and humiliation, between obedience and anguish. What are we to make of these contrasts?
Only a centurion, who with the women looking on from a distance sees Jesus breathe his last, knows what we are to make of this. We are to understand, even before the Resurrection, that “this man was the Son of God.” How did the centurion know? The centurion knew because he stood facing Jesus, watching him, looking into his face as he died. Though everything was done to strip Jesus of his sense of self, never, ever did he give up his complete and total commitment to God his Father. Even in his anguish and abandonment, he cries out to God. We are left to imagine how his Father answered him, but whatever Jesus heard in his last moments, it left on his face and in his last breath so clear a sign of God’s love that one of his crucifiers recognized who he was. The only thing left to Jesus when he died was the abiding certainty of his Father’s love. That is a certainty that Jesus took with him to his grave and to his resurrection.
Today’s Readings: Is 50:4–7; Ps 22:8–9, 17–18, 19–20, 23–24; Phil 2:6 –11; Mk 14:1 — 15:47 [15:1–39]