April 13, 2014
The Passion Reading for Palm Sunday is a three year rotation of Matthew’s, Mark’s and Luke’s Gospel account of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Each of these Gospel accounts describes the Last Supper, the arrest and trial of Jesus, his passion and death, and ends with his burial. The Divine Inspiration that produces these Gospels works through the unique perspective and teaching gifts of each of the Evangelists. Three different accounts speak of the same mystery of Faith that we profess each time we take part in Holy Mass; “We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again.”
This year we hear the account from St. Matthew. His account of the Passion emphasizes how Jesus was obedient to the will of the Father, even to point of accepting death on the cross. Jesus speaks of this several times from the Last Supper, to Gethsemane where He prays, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass for me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” Throughout his arrest, trial, passion and death, Jesus stands firm in following the will of the Father. It is clear that Jesus is not just a zealous man willing to die for a personal cause; rather he is part of the Divine plan for our redemption in which the Son of God, the Word made flesh and Splendor of the Father is sacrificed for our sake. The annual sacrifice of the paschal lambs as expiation for sins is replaced by the one sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for the sins of the world.
As we enter Holy Week it might benefit us to connect what we hear on Palm Sunday with what we heard in Matthew’s Gospel on Ash Wednesday, When you give alms…, when you pray…., when you fast… Jesus didn’t suggest or give an invitation to give alms, pray and fast, he speaks under the assumption that we are doing these and gives an instruction on how to do so with sincerity and devotion. How have we been at our Lenten almsgiving, prayer and fasting? In the Passion account Jesus does not merely remind us, he shows us how to sincerely offer ourselves in obedience to the Father.
Jesus gave the ultimate alms when he gave himself completely to death on the cross. He gave all that he had without holding back anything. A very basic question for us is when we give alms do we merely give from our surplus or is it sacrificial in that it results in giving up doing or buying something that we really had our hearts set on. Jesus prays the ultimate prayer in Gethsemane when he says; “not as I will, but as you will.” The “Thy will be done,” in the Lord’s prayer is not just a nice phrase, it is the way Jesus prayed and lived. We are gifted with a free will and when we freely surrender our will to the will of the Father we find that we will be both challenged to let go and enriched by a new sense of freedom that comes in trusting God. The last point is fasting. Fasting is very often directly connected to repentance Jesus, himself, has no need to repent for he is without sin. Rather he takes on our sins and accepts the punishment for our sins so that we might truly experience the forgiveness of sins in our lives, and ultimately be happy with him forever in heaven.
Fr. Killian Loch, O.S.B.,