Palm Sunday (Year B)

Commentary on Mark 11:1-10; Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Mark 14:1-15:47

(Note: The First and Second Readings are the same every year, but the entrance Gospel and the Passion account are taken from a different Gospel: Year A, Matthew; Year B, Mark; Year C, Luke. The Passion from John’s Gospel is read on Good Friday.)

We should see this week as a single unit, summed up under the phrase “Paschal Mystery”. It includes the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, as well as his 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
The two Gospel readings present contrasting pictures of a day encompassing both triumph and tragedy. From the first Gospel reading, we see the joy of Jesus entering Jerusalem and getting an enthusiastic welcome from the crowds:

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!

These are 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 that was in Christ Jesus…[He] emptied himself, taking the form of a slave…

Though Jesus was in the form of God, he went down to the lowest depths of degradation and humiliation, dying naked and as a convicted criminal.

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

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.

The depth of Jesus’ love
Jesus went more deeply still into human destitution: he who was son became not only a slave, but also a corpse. In words that describe Jesus, the prophet Isiah says:

I gave my back to those who struck me,
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
from insult and spitting.

Jesus 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 (Gen 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.

Paul will put this more enigmatically:

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
(2 Cor 5:21)

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 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.

Comments Off on Palm Sunday (Year B)

Printed from LivingSpace - part of Sacred Space
Copyright © 2024 Sacred Space :: :: All rights reserved.