Palm Sunday – 2018

PalmB18.   This Sunday I do not want to go from reading to reading but to connected ideas from all the readings.  For me the basic theme is that God was obedient or a servant to his own love for us.  He could not and cannot help do but what his own infinite love calls him to do.  God the Father had his own Son, come into our midst as a helpless baby, totally dependent on his mother’s care for him so to eventually submit to unspeakable horrors as a sacrifice to open the gates of heaven to us, his loved ones.  God’s almighty power is humble so to invite us to be love as he is love, never coercing or overwhelming us; otherwise we would never be able to be love as he is love.  How can infinite power be humble?  Infinite love settles for nothing else!  “He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave;” “He humbled himself, becoming obedient,” even to the point of death on the cross. John 3:16 reads: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”  In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus was so “troubled and distressed,” praying “that if it were possible the hour” or time of horror “might pass by him that he said,” “Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.”

Although Jesus comes into a world that he himself has created, yet he now comes dependent on the love and generosity of others to accomplish his work.  As a baby he lived in someone else’s stable.  Though King of the universe, he must borrow someone’s donkey to ride into Jerusalem.  He was to be buried in a linen cloth and in a tomb that were all donations out of love for him and not belonging to him.  For his Passover supper he depends on someone else for the loan of an adequate room.  He chooses to depend on us to accept the gift of himself in Eucharist, to open up our hearts in love for him.

However, love can never be presumed.  Some choose to love; some do not.  Despite the fact that he came into this world to bring his love to the people he created so that they could live one day in the joy of heaven as the children of God the Father, they crucified him.  They rejected his love and in turn hated him.  He put his love, his very self, into the hands of those he loved and they murdered him for it.  In the end they destroyed themselves and not him.  Judas Iscariot, despite the fact that he saw all the miracles that Jesus generously worked for the good of people who so dearly needed them, blinded by his desire for material wealth, has no idea whom it is that he is betraying.  The Jewish authorities who so craftily engineer the crucifixion of Jesus to maintain their own position of authority over the Jews reject the authority of the God who established Judaism.  Pilate, despite the fact that he recognizes the innocence of Jesus, lets the threat of the mob overwhelm his sense of justice because it seems to him that Jesus is a ‘nobody’ who is not worth the threat of a riot to be worth saving.  Because love requires the call to lead others to love freely, without coercion, God’s love leads him to be vulnerable, to step back so that those who are loved might be filled with the love they have just received so they respond in love.  Those who love will quite often suffer because true love invites the one who receives the love to respond lovingly but cannot require that response forcibly.  It must be freely given.  That opens the one who initiates the love to suffer rejection, to receive or suffer a response that is not loving.  The response Jesus received after his many miracles to cure those who were in need and after coming into this world to bring all humanity to heaven was: The soldiers “clothed him in purple and, weaving a crown of thorns, placed it on him.  They began to salute him with, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and kept striking his head with a reed and spitting upon him.  They knelt before him in homage.  And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him out to crucify him.”  He showed his love for them but they, in turn, showed their hate for him.

Jesus reflects outwardly the last temptation that he hears within himself from the devil, when he shouts out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In his deepest sufferings he rejects the devil’s temptation to despair, humbly dying obedient to the Father on the cross.  The victory was his!  The witness to that victory was the pagan Roman centurion, who stood facing Jesus and seeing “how he breathed his last,” said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”  When Jesus began his public ministry, he announced in Mark 1: 15, “This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the gospel.”  The choice is ours to live out.  Live in Christ’s love daily so to live in God’s love forever.