Abbot Richard’s Gospel Reflection.
Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord – 9 April 2017
Gospel: Matthew 21:1-11 & 26:14 – 27:66
For the sake of the future he endured the cross
There are two Gospel passages presented to us in the Sunday Mass this week – Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and St Matthew’s account of the Passion of the Lord. The contrast between the two could not be greater. In the first Jesus is fully in control, commandeering a donkey and a colt as transport, and being hailed by the crowds as a prophet. But in the account of the Passion Jesus seems powerless in the face of the authorities and almost everyone, even his closest friends, abandon him.
I have always felt much more comfortable with the first story. It’s easy to follow someone in the good times, to be supporting the winning team, but much harder to stick with them when times get tough. Even from Jesus’ point of view the triumphal entry into Jerusalem must have given him a great buzz. Although he knew what lay ahead of him in the city, he still allowed the crowds to make such a commotion.
If we look a little closer at the story of the Passion we discover a recurring theme running through the narrative – when things get tough Jesus always keeps going for the sake of what lies in the future. We see this first when Jesus is praying in Gethsemane ‘if this cup cannot pass by without my drinking it, your will be done’ and then when the men come to seize him and one of his followers cuts off the high priest’s servant’s ear, and again when the high priest asks Jesus if he is the Son of God. Though in most cases Jesus hardly says anything, it is clear that he is enduring all these things to realise something much greater.
If we think back to the story of the Transfiguration on the second Sunday of Lent we see a similar contrast between the two parts of that story. The disciples were excited by the appearance of Moses and Elijah with Jesus and wanted the moment to last but were terrified when the scene changed and they heard the thunder and saw the clouds. In that story Jesus reassures them and tells them not to be afraid just as in the story of the Passion he keeps going despite the difficulties and suffering and does not give up.
The challenge for us is the stick with Jesus in the good times as well as the not so good ones. Though Jesus had been abandoned by most of his followers he did not give up. Though he was stripped and beaten he kept going. Though he was taunted and abused he did not retaliate. For the sake of the future, he endured the cross.
Fr Richard Purcell ocso