Palm Sunday 2012

PALM (PASSION) SUNDAY – 1 April 2012

Isaiah 50:4-7
Philippians 2:6-11
Mark 14:1-15, 47

Many years ago a famous artist wanted to paint a picture of Jesus as a young man. He searched around for a model and eventually found a very handsome young man. Years later the same artist wanted to paint a picture of the Last Supper, but had difficulty in finding a model for Judas. Eventually he did, someone with an evil-looking face which put fear into people who looked at it. You can imagine the artist’s surprise when he discovered that it was the same man he had chosen as his models for Jesus and Judas. Between the first painting of Jesus and the second on of Judas at the Last Supper the young man had got into bad company and had committed many crimes. This was reflected in his face. From a young man with much potential he had become an evil person and failed to reach his capacity for greatness.

We should see this Holy Week as one unit. It includes the suffering, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus as well as the sending of the Holy Spirit. There is the joy of today’s opening gospel of Jesus entering Jerusalem and getting an enthusiastic welcome from the crowds. But soon the picture changes to darkness, suffering and death. Very probably some of the people who welcomed Jesus enthusiastically on Palm Sunday with shouts of ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’ were among those who cried out for his death a few days later, ‘Crucify him, crucify him’. Just like the story in the beginning, the same young man who acted as a model for Jesus also modeled as Judas. Do we not do the same from time to time?

Each one of us has this capacity, that for greatness and that for evil. We all know from our own personal experience that we can do many good acts, but we are conscious that we also do what we know is wrong, evil and sinful. We have the ability both to help and to hurt others, sometimes within a matter of minutes. For me the amazing fact is that Jesus who is God never punishes us, certainly doesn’t send anyone to hell. He is sad, very sad for sure when he sees that our bad or evil behavior hurts others but he never, never, never punishes us. If you/I read the gospel account of Mark’s Passion narrative today amazingly there isn’t one word spoken by Jesus about condemning, even those who put him to death. He is upset when they are unkind to the woman who anoints him, but not statement about punishment or that he will get even with us later. This continues to astonish me as and it confirms John 3.17 where it says that ‘God sent his Son into the world not to condemn it but to save it’. This is probably the most difficult aspect to accept fully about God. God never punishes, God never judges unto condemnation, occasionally he judges unto conversion in the hope that people who cannot accept his gentle approach might be pushed to respond by his challenging words. My mind is constantly overwhelmed with the idea of a God who does not punish – ever. It is we chose not to accept God’s love, God’s friendship. The rejection of God comes from our side. The rejection of us by God is just not possible since GOD IS LOVE. But God will never force his love, his friendship on us. It is always an invitation to us.

In today’s gospel story in Mark, Jesus says or does very little. It is the various actors in the drama who decide for themselves what their relation to Jesus will be. They either accept or reject Jesus. It is the same for us. We decide by our way of life whether we want to be for Jesus and accept his way or we turn away and go our own way. We choose. It is up to us and God will not force us. Today’s gospel is another offer from God to us. Will we choose Jesus today or not?

The key to today’s Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday liturgical celebration is the second reading from St.Paul’s letter to the Philippians. “Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus”. Though Jesus was in the form of God he emptied himself and went down to the lowest depths of human degradation and humiliation, taking on all that we deserved from our sinful, non-loving behaviour. Dying naked on the cross and as a convicted criminal his totally self-sacrificing attitude was accepted by God the father. Jesus descended to the very depths of degradation and darkness, to the depths of feeling rejected by God that many experience. He answered with a totally loving surrender and so won for us the possibility to do the same no matter how low we sink as humans. This shows us in the most profound way what Jesus in his love for us was prepared to do to draw us back to his embrace.

“Lord Jesus, your love for us is beyond understanding. No wonder St. Paul described it as the foolish love of God. Help us to turn to you fully in humble gratitude. You alone are the Way, the Truth and the Life. You alone are Love. Give us the Holy Spirit to love you and others as fully as we can for this is what you ask of us. Help us to show to all how valuable they are to you no matter how far they have sunk into evil patterns. Amen.

Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA