Isaiah 50:4-7; Phil 2:6-11; Luke 23:1-49
Palm Sunday is a pivotal event in our history because it challenges us to reflect on the story of supreme love that culminates in resurrected life. This week we enter into the reality of dying and rising, handing over our lives and loves in return for a wild and precious hope in the assurance of God’s Spirit, freely given when we empty ourselves of all pretense and self-aggrandizement. Actually, it expresses who God really is, what constitutes the essence of God taking on humanity. God did so not although but BECAUSE “He was in the form of God,” that we might share in His divinity. In our decision to be completely self-emptying and self-giving we can become Christ’s love, a love that continually reaches through the cosmos to give us reason to be changed.” After all, Jesus’ embrace of the cross is the reality of what ‘Incarnate’ means, for only the Cross offers the clearest picture of Who God is: the One Who loves us “to the end,” and “lays down His life that we might share eternal life.” “For the sake of the joy that lay before Him Jesus endured the cross, despising its shame.” So too, must we!
We live in a culture that encourages us every day to have more, spend more, climb higher, and seek more comforts, all the while grasping tightly to all that we believe we are meant to have. Holy Week challenges us to walk with Jesus through the highs and lows that will accompany us when we stand for those who cannot speak. It encourages us to keep in concert with the oppressed despite overwhelming opposition. It calls upon us to care about those who live in poverty and for those who suffer at the hands of any injustice... “The very stones are crying out” but are we listening? What are the metaphorical “palm fronds” of our lives that we wish to offer? Let us never forget that it is always time to feed the poor, forgive, wash the feet of strangers, tend to the sick and homeless and to all who bear the weight of brutal violence from an indifferent world. It is always time to offer our lives to the One Who is still crucified among us. “Whatever you do or not do to the least of my brothers and sisters…”
In the Tibetan ‘Tonglen’ practice of “giving and receiving,” we take on, through compassion, the mental and physical sufferings of others; their fear, frustration, pain, anger, guilt, bitterness, doubt, and rage, and we give them, through love, all our happiness and well-being, peace of mind, and healing. This is best called “the practice of compassion” and should be endorsed by all who profess belief in an infinitely compassionate God. We open our heart and enfold the world’s suffering masses, accepting their pain, closing our heart over it, breathing in and praying in deep communion with all children of a loving God. When we breathe out, we send light, hope, strength and the power of God’s love to the ones who are suffering. Breathe in with the wish that those mistreated persons or circumstances will be free of anguish and pain; breathe out with the longing to actively and personally remove the suffering.
The lines of Isaiah are paralleled in the suffering of Jesus: “GOD has given me a well-trained tongue, to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them; I have not rebelled, have not turned away; I gave My back to those who beat Me; My face I did not shield from buffets and spitting; GOD is my help; I am not afraid.” How true these statements will be for Jesus later in the week as He refrains from His preaching to the weary, and humbly faces scourging, persecution, incredible mental belittlement, excruciating physical pain, betrayal, hatred, and finally death on that Cross, the ignominious, wooden instrument of salvation. On Friday, we can pray with Jesus, “Into your hands I commend My Spirit,” and let another piece of our wounded heart fall into the crucible and die. The key line in this Gospel is the words of the Roman soldier after the death of Jesus: “Truly, this man was (is) the Son of GOD!” This should always be at the heart of our profession of faith!
Sister Anne Daniel Young, OP