Reflections on the Readings
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion - March 28, 2010, Year C
By Dennis Hankins
The Divine Way of Loving
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:6-7)
What is the rest of the story? Being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:8) It is a complete and unrestrained sacrifice; the way of perfect love.
We see Jesus through the prophet Isaiah:
I gave my back to the smiters, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard. I hid not my face from shame and spitting.
At his last Passover with his disciples, Jesus makes himself forever the substance of this memorial:
“This is my body which is given for you.”
“This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”
Jesus empties himself.
Jesus gives himself.
Jesus pours himself out.
Jesus lays down his life. No one takes it from him.
Jesus says, “I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.”
He is the only God in all of time who agonizes over so many with so much of himself. With all of himself. Withholding nothing, inviting whoever will, saying, “Come unto me.”
Just a second. I hear something strange. It’s the disciples arguing. I understand Jesus has just shared with them a new meaning associated with the Passover meal. Listen.
“John. Ask him who will be the greatest in his kingdom. Andrew thinks he is. Ask him. Go ahead. Just ask him!”
I understand John is the closest one sitting to Jesus’ right side. When I can get the information, I will report back to you.
Whew! I just got the scoop. It seems Jesus predicts there is a betrayer among his small band of disciples. It is no secret there is an inner core of Jesus’ associates, namely, Peter, James and John. Additionally, according to my source near the upper room, one or two of the others, possibly Andrew and maybe Judas, are pressing Jesus to make a public statement regarding who is greatest in his kingdom. I understand this argument broke out between the disciples just after the Passover meal.
It is Jesus’ statement concerning who is greatest in his kingdom that I was frantically writing down. Here it is:
Jesus says, “The Gentile rulers have great power over those they rule. They see themselves as personally benefiting from those they lead. You will lead differently. Sacrificially. Lead as one who serves. For which is the greater, one who sits at the table, or the one who serves? Is it not the one who sits at the table?”
I am told by a reliable source that it became very quiet as Jesus concluded:
“But I am among you as one who serves.”
Taking Jesus’ example of self sacrifice, how may we embrace the meaning of this Holy Week before us?
Perhaps we may weep in prayer for someone who feels stranded in life. For someone terminally ill. For someone recently betrayed. For someone who struggles for identity, completeness and wholeness that our Lord gives.
Maybe there is a hand to hold, a call to make, a letter to write, a daddy to hug.
Could this week include laying down grudges, burying the proverbial hatchet, and being the first to say, “I’m sorry?”
Perhaps this week of weeks will include embracing a spirit of evangelical friendliness, affirming someone who is different from you in talent or treasure. I recall a liturgically trained choir director telling a very well trained pianist, who is from a different church background, that her piano playing sounded too Protestant. Somewhere I read that love is not arrogant or rude. Nothing in the world outweighs our need for Jesus and for one another.
So today, offer your heart, lend a hand, help carry someone’s burden. For your King comes, riding on a donkey, making his way to the cross, the emblem of suffering and shame and the place where forgiveness begins.
It is the divine way of loving.
Let us pray: Dear Father, you so loved the world that you gave your only begotten Son. You are not willing that any should perish, but that all would come to repentance. Help us to embrace this season of grace and penance, rejoicing in the power of the name of Jesus, through the Holy Spirit. Amen.