A Palm Sunday Meditation
Last Sunday’s homily (audio):
As we encounter the Scriptures for Palm Sunday in the liturgy, we find ourselves in a special place. This is the heart of the biblical narrative. The whole of Scripture is converging here, at the cross, and along with it God’s revelation of his own heart comes into sharp focus.
Although we began today’s celebration with a moment of triumph, we can’t help but notice—if we look carefully—how different this moment of triumph is than any that came before it. There’s no parade of chariots and soldiers as Jesus, the King of Kings, enters Jerusalem. No, he comes on a humble beast of burden, not a mighty war horse. He will be victorious, but it will be his faithfulness—another way of saying “love”—not superior military might, that will earn his victory.
The heart of God is revealed in the humility of his Son.
We find that this moment of unconventional triumph soon turns sour as the crowd moves from shouts of “hosanna!” —which means “save us”—to “crucify him!” This painful transition is intensified as his friends fall asleep when he needs them most. The internal pain is crystallized when Judas approaches Jesus with a kiss, only to have him unjustly arrested. Peter, the one who had said hen would never leave his Rabbi, sticks with him for a while, but ultimately succumbs himself to the spirit of betrayal. Yet Jesus goes willingly and mutely, like a lamb led to slaughter, and so acts in true love toward those whose words lacked the corresponding inner conviction.
The heart of God is revealed in the faithfulness of his Son toward those that can’t keep their best intentions, and even those who act on their worst intentions.
Jesus enters not into joy and glory before taking on pain and suffering. In his perfect humanness, he asks God to relieve him of the horror on the horizon, if possible. Suffering is never an intrinsic good. But sometimes it is an evil that must be endured, and so the Son of God allows himself to be beaten, scourged, pierced, and hung on a cross. And he takes the full weight of sin on himself. He bears it because as painful as it was, he is the only one that could withstand the purifying fire of God’s wrath toward all that is opposed to life. He allows himself to be killed to save those doing the killing.
The heart of God is revealed in the suffering of his Son to save those that would rather see him dead.
Betrayed and deserted, Jesus hangs alone to die. Yet our we are left with an image of women—women who had always been part of the story, but are only now appearing—that continue to stay and watch. Of course, women were mistreated, mistrusted, and severely marginalized in that ancient culture. Jesus clearly welcomes the marginalized and was happy to count women among his disciples. And here they are.
The men choose to pack it up and. Thinking it’s over, they head back to their old fishing job. Perhaps these women stay because they have nothing but Jesus left. They might not know it yet, but they have everything, and theirs is the right choice. They will be the first witnesses of the Resurrection, and the first proclaimers of the Gospel.
The heart of God is revealed in the special bond his Son has with those the world would rather overlook.
This Palm Sunday, may we give all glory to God in Christ for his humility, faithfulness, endurance, and love for each and every person he has made.
As we journey with our Lord Jesus to the cross, may we find ourselves drawn to the very heart of God. Amen.