Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion
In her book entitled, “Dead Man Walking” Congregation of St. Joseph Sr. Helen Prejean narrates the story of her relationship with a young man on death row in the Angola State Penitentiary in Louisiana; he is accused of murdering a teenage couple. At first, he is arrogant, racist, thundering his innocence. Eventually, he admits his guilt to Sr. Helen. As he is preparing for execution, he appeals to the boy’s father for forgiveness, and tells the girl’s parents he hopes his death brings them peace. While he is lead to a chamber where he will die by lethal injection, Sister Helen tells him to look beyond the glass panels where she will be… “to look at someone who loves you.”
Today’s readings speak to us of our vulnerable God, as a suffering servant, and Jesus who empties himself. And in the courtyard, the night before he dies, when Jesus’ gaze of love falls upon Peter, we are told the disciple runs away and weeps bitterly. This is the same Jesus who looks with love upon the rich young man in Mark’s (10:17-31) Gospel, encouraging him to sell everything, and follow him.
This Holy Week might be an appropriate time to again allow the loving gaze of Jesus to fall upon us. Our tears are very different from the ones we weep when we feel judged or humiliated. Admitting we are sinner, we recognize we are loved. And Jesus’ loving gaze transforms us.
Fr. Jack Conley, C.P. is a member of the Passionist formation community at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.