Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion
On Sunday we celebrate Passion Sunday, and our account of the Passion of Jesus comes from Matthew’s Gospel (26:14 – 27:66). I would like to reflect on the Passion of Jesus in the context of some words we find in our first reading from Isaiah (50:4-7): "The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them."
Is the Passion of Jesus a word that can rouse people? The answer is "Yes!" Yes, because in the Passion of Jesus we find God’s love demonstrated in a most significant way: the Son of God sacrificing Himself for our salvation! In the words of our second reading from Philippians (2:6-11), Jesus "emptied himself" so that we could attain the fullness of life!
The Passion of Jesus shows us that God can transform evil into good; that suffering can bring healing, and dying can lead to life! By dying on the Cross and rising from the dead, Jesus has overcome for us the power of sin and death!
There are times when we can get weary. We can get weary of a seemingly endless struggle to survive. We can get weary of fighting one illness after another. We can get weary of constant pain. We can get weary of the injustice and violence in our world. The Passion of Jesus may not offer some miraculous cure, but when we reflect upon Jesus on the Cross, we know we are not alone. We know that Jesus is there in the midst of our pain, and will help us carry the crosses that come in our lives. We know that somehow, some way, Easter will come! We know that Jesus will take us through the Cross to the other side.
When we get in touch with the love Jesus shows us on the Cross, we can be roused out of despair and exhaustion. But Jesus’ Passion can also rouse us out of fear. We need not be like Peter, who became scared and wound up denying that he even knew Jesus. We can’t deny that we are connected to those who are "crucified" today.
If we let Jesus love on the Cross get to us, we will be roused out of apathy and complacency. We can’t be like Pilate, and pretend that we can "wash our hands" of what is going on in the world. Too often, the choices we make have some bearing on the rest of creation, including the lives of people thousands of miles away.
May the Passion of Jesus also rouse us out of a mob mentality where people are oh so ready to attack others. Many of the same people who sang hosannas to Jesus when He entered Jerusalem cried out that He be crucified. We can be susceptible to the same thing. Here in Detroit, we are still reeling from an attack on a man who accidentally hit a young child while driving his truck. Personally, I can’t even be sure you could call it vigilante justice. It seems to me to be more of just plain mob anger at what happened to the little girl. The driver did not hit her and run, but got out of the truck to help her, and that was somehow lost on the people who attacked him. So we can’t be like the crowds, either.
The founder of the Passionists, St. Paul of the Cross, had a motto that has stayed with us Passionists throughout the centuries: "May the Passion of Jesus Christ be always in our hearts!" May the Passion, and the great love which it represents enter more deeply into our hearts, and rouse us out of weariness and fear and despair and complacency and anger, and move us to love and peace and justice.
Have a Blessed Holy Week!
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P. is on staff at St. Paul of the Cross Retreat and Conference Center, Detroit, Michigan.