The Liturgy of Palm Sunday leads us into the drama of Holy Week. The Scriptures challenge us to become one with Christ’s death and Resurrection.
The blessing of palms, together with the procession, puts us with the crowds who had so willingly welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem at the beginning of this week. They had welcomed him as the one who came in the name of the Lord, the one who would bring to its fulfilment the kingdom promised to their father David. The unfolding of events would betray the superficiality of their welcome. By Good Friday they would be screaming for his death. We cannot recall these events without praying for a constancy that so easily escapes us.
The readings at Mass reach beyond the physical dimensions of the Lord’s Passion to its deeper meaning. Our suffering Christ is, above all else, one who listens. “The Lord has opened my ear. For my part, I made no resistance, neither did I turn away. I offered my back to those who struck me, my cheeks to those who tore my beard.”
Our sharing in Christ’s death begins when, in communion with him, we surrender our selfishness to the will of Father. We become, with Christ, those who inwardly listen to the Father’s will. With Christ we do not cling to any imagined self-importance, allowing ourselves to be emptied of every vanity. We are called to that trusting humility which is the death of our sinful selves, but which is answered by the Father who raises us up with his Son.
St Mark’s Passion presents the Way of the Cross as a series of incidents, each challenging the nature of our discipleship. The woman who anointed the feet of Jesus accepted his approaching death, wanting, in her own way, to share in his death. Are we equally realistic in accepting what our sharing in the death of Jesus might mean for us?
At the institution of the Eucharist, treachery and fidelity were gathered together at the Lord’s Supper. As we listen to this account, let us pray that we might approach the coming week with hearts made clean. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus faced his greatest fears. But in his surrender to the Father’s will he found an inner strength that would endure throughout his Passion. Let us pray for the courage to face what we most fear within ourselves, and to find peace in a Father who is greater than our greatest fear.
Following the death of Jesus, the centurion proclaimed that “in truth this man was a son of God”. It is when we die to self that Christ is most clearly revealed in our lives.
This article first appeared in the latest edition of the Catholic Herald magazine (27/3/15).
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