Palm Sunday Year C
Theme of the week: Accept our crosses with humility. The Road to Calvary is our road to salvation.
The First Reading is taken from the third Servant Song. We do not know who this Servant was but is reminded of his obedience to God. The Servant accepted God’s will without compliant, even though it brought him great sufferings: “I was not rebellious, I did not turn backwards. I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.” (verse 5-6) The Servant is a pre-figure to Christ. As we heard in the Gospel passage on the Passion, Christ suffered the same agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. As he prayed for deliverance, Christ nevertheless accepted the will of God: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” (Mt 26:39) Let us ask ourselves: faced with sufferings, do I respond as Christ did, willingly picking up my cross that God has prepared for me?
The Second Reading shows us the great humility of Christ: “though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave.” Imagine, the Almighty God allowing himself to be taken as a slave! Such is the love God has for us; such is Christ’s obedience to his Father; and such is the humility we should all strive to emulate! In his plea to the Father for deliverance and in his lowering down to the conditions of a slave, Christ shares all our human weaknesses – all except sin.
The Passion of our Lord as presented by Matthew, Mark and Luke are largely similar. Here are a few key points for us to reflect upon:
- At Gethsemane, showing his human weakness, Jesus asked God to relief him of the impending suffering, but being ever obedient to His Father, Christ’s prayer has an important caveat, that God’s will should ultimately prevail. Is this how I pray?
- Peter, even as the leader of the disciples, showed common human weaknesses. Under the intense pressure of the situation, he denied the Lord three times. We are reminded of our own frequent failings, and of God’s boundless capacity to forgive. On the cross, even after being inflicted with great cruelty, Jesus asked for his tormentors to be forgiven: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Told only in the Gospel of Luke, in Lk 23:34). God stands ready to forgive our sins always. Let us seek God’s mercy for our human failings.
- Even in his greatest moment of distress, Jesus is a healer, as He healed the servant’s severed ear and the rift between Herod and Pilate. (Both episodes told only in the Gospel of Luke, in Lk 22:50-51 and Lk 23:12 respectively.) Let us bring our wounds to the Lord and pray for his healing touch.
- Simon the Cyrene helped Jesus with his cross. Like Simon, we too are urged to help our brothers and sisters in distress: “just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Mt 25:40) Am I living my Christian calling in helping others?
- As Jesus uttered his last words “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”, he once again demonstrated his total obedience to God, right up to his final moment. (These words are quoted only in the Gospel of Luke, in Lk 23:46.) “Blessed … are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” (Lk 11:28) I hear the word of God all the time, do I obey?
- Of the two criminals that were crucified with Jesus, one mocked him while the other asked for forgiveness. To the latter (whom we called the Good Thief), Jesus granted him eternal salvation: “today you will be with me in Paradise”. It is never too late to repent. Note that the Good Thief did not receive a Baptism of Water. Through the mercy of God, he received what Catholic teachings called the Baptism of Desire. (This episode is told only in the Gospel of Luke, in Lk 23:39-43.) Do I extend mercy to others in the same way?
- On the cross, in the depth of his despair, Jesus utter the words “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”, meaning “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Told only in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, in Mt 27:46 and Mk 15:34 respectively). In times of despair, have I too fallen into this state of despair, thinking that God does not care for us anymore? We are consoled by the fact that Jesus on the cross has been through the same situation and can fully identify with our plight. Fear not, we are assured of God’s deliverance, as promised in Romans 8:28, “all things work together for good for those who love God.” In my deepest despair, do I still trust God?
With humility, Christ bears his cross. Let us bear our crosses and follow him to Calvary, for the road to Calvary is our road to salvation! Alleluia!