Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday)


Commentary on Isaiah 50:4-7; Phil 2:6-11; Mark 14:1-15:47

[The First and Second Readings are the same every year but the Passion account is taken from a different gospel – A, Matthew; B, Mark; C, Luke. The Passion from John is read on Good Friday.]

WE SHOULD SEE this week as one unit, summed up under the phrase “Paschal Mystery”. It includes the suffering, death and resurrection as well as the ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit. In fact, all these elements can actually be seen present on the cross on Good Friday.

Triumph and tragedy

This is a day both of triumph and tragedy.

There is the joy of Jesus entering Jerusalem and getting an enthusiastic welcome from the crowds. “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Words we continue to sing during the Eucharistic Prayer at every Mass. But the picture very soon changes to darkness, to suffering and death.

Having the mind of Christ

Our key to understanding this week is in today’s Second Reading from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. “Let the same 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 degradation and humiliation, dying naked and as a convicted criminal.

This is the measure of his love us, laying down his life for his friends, an expression of God’s love for us. And, because of the intensity of the love he showed he is swept up into the glory of God. So that we, too, may follow.

But, on the way, we also have to be ready to empty ourselves in love for him and to be totally at the service of our brothers and sisters.

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COMMENT ON PHILIPPIANS 2:6-11:

As Adam was created in the divine image and likeness, so Jesus was ‘in the form of God’.

Yet unlike Adam he did not grasp at Godhead; he resisted the urgings of the catechesis of evil. He did not sin.

Yet he freely chose to enter into the condition of the sinful human being, to go to the very bedrock of human destitution which comes as a result of ‘grasping’ the great emblems of which are slavery and death.

Where this happens to the sinful, grasping human being as a result of sin, Jesus freely chose to take upon himself a disfigurement which he had in no way merited.

He did this in obedience to a divine plan, a plan which would have him go to the depths of human destitution so that God might transform the destitution and lead the human being back to the Garden [of Eden].

Jesus appeared in the form of the sinful human being.

He appeared as a slave, choosing the powerlessness of the one who has no will of his own.

Passion Sunday (B)/page 2

But he went more deeply still into human destitution: he who was son became not only a slave, but also a corpse.

At that point, he chose to enter into an utter powerlessness; and in accepting the most ignominious death known to the ancient world he went to the bedrock of the destitution and disfigurement caused by sin.

And it was there that he was met by a God whom he could see as he entered the darkness.

He was met by a God who moved as power in the utter powerlessness of the Crucified.

He was met by a God who was power enough to lead Jesus (and with him humanity) back to the Garden; a God who gave him his true name; a God who restored to him the lordship proper to the human being (Genesis 1:28); a God who restored him to the glory which was always the Creator’s intention, the glory which in no way contends with the glory of God (as the catechesis of evil had claimed, either God’s glory or your glory) but a glory which redounds to the glory of God the Father.

The hymn is a magnificent proclamation of what Paul will put more enigmatically in 2 Corinthians 5:21: ‘For our sake, God made the sinless one into sin so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’.

The question here is what Paul means by ‘righteousness’.

To be made righteous is to be restored to that right relationship which is the essence of the life of Eden.

Life outside the Garden is a life of wrong relationship – between God and the human being, between human beings, between human beings and the creation.

Life in the Garden is the life of right relationship, with the human being finding his or her right place within the scheme of things in a way that Adam and Eve did not.

– Mark Coleridge, “The Truth Will Set You Free”, The Way, July 1995, pages 190-91

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