Thursday, 13 March 2008

Palm Sunday - Year A

Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Matthew 26:14-27:66

The Passion began at the Last Supper when Judas left the room. Jesus goes on peacefully speaking encouraging words to his disciples but we know he is stunned by the callous ingratitude and infidelity of his disciple. All you who have been betrayed by a friend will readily know how Jesus felt – and the closer the friend, the deeper the pain.

They rise from table and he takes them to the Garden of Gethsemane. A growing sadness overcomes his features and he begins now to agonise with a heart sorrowful to the point of death – they fall asleep. Have you ever seen indifference on the face of a friend to whom you were confiding some hurt or anxiety of your life? You will know how Jesus felt.

He goes back into the garden and begs his Father to spare him the torture of the Cross – not just the physical pains but the unbearable thought that for some souls this would all be in vain. Covered with the sins of humanity Jesus seeks the face of his Father but his Father can no longer bear to look at his Son, disfigured by sin, and he turns away. Jesus accepts the Father’s will even in this. Have you ever felt God was not listening to you, that he had actually turned away from you? You will know just a tiny bit how Jesus felt.

Judas now arrives and with a kiss hands him over to the cohort to be arrested. They have come with spears and clubs as though to arrest a violent criminal. Jesus is bound and dragged away – humiliated. Have you ever been falsely accused and treated like a criminal? You have begun to know how Jesus felt.

The disciples, his special friends, run away and leave him in the hands of the mob. Jesus is now alone, totally unsupported, undefended. Have you had the experience of watching your friends melt away in the face of some accusation brought against you – leaving you all alone? You will know how Jesus felt.

Jesus is brought before the High Priest, the religious leaders of his time. They sneer at him and reject him and accuse him falsely, even seeking his life. Jesus suffers this horror in silence. Have you ever been misunderstood or even falsely accused or wrongly punished by a religious leader – the one who should be your shepherd rather than the destroyer of your rights? You will know how Jesus felt.

Peter, the leader of the Apostles, denies Jesus three times. How painful this must have been for Jesus who pierces him with such a loving look that Peter goes away and weeps bitterly. Have you ever experienced the pain of becoming invisible to your friends because they did not want others to know they were close to you? Then you will know how Jesus felt.

Jesus is brought before Pilate, the civil authority, and again falsely accused. Pilate is weak and sentences him to death, knowing him to be innocent. Have you ever been punished because your boss couldn’t stand up to his staff? You will know how Jesus felt.

Rejected by the religious authority as well as the civil authority Jesus is now rebuffed by the people he spent himself serving. They demand that Barabbas, a convicted criminal be set free – as though to add to their scorn. How humbly Jesus accepted this, despite the hurt! If you have ever been wrongly punished while the guilty party goes free you will know how Jesus felt.

Now Jesus is handed over to the soldiers, men who promised on oath to give their lives to protect the freedom and rights of citizens. As a common criminal he is mocked, spat upon, struck and humiliated by them. He is savagely flogged for crimes he didn’t commit. Crowned with a mock crown of thorns and made to carry his Cross to his own crucifixion.

How did he endure it all? How did he put up with it? What power enabled him to drink this bitter cup to the end? Of course, it was the power of his love for us, the power of his love for you and for me. How little we understand this and how urgently do we need this to change! The saints tell us the remedy lies in regular meditation on the Passion of Jesus. They say that bit by bit our lives will be transformed.

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