Christ's entry into Jerusalem prior to his crucifixion is depicted in a stained-glass window at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Centereach, N.Y. Palm Sunday, also known Passion Sunday, commemorates the event and marks the beginning of Holy Week. It is observed March 24 in 2024. OSV News photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

God's Word on Sunday: Nothing is lost giving everything to God

  • March 22, 2024

Passion (Palm) Sunday (Year B) March 24 (Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalm 22; Philippians 2: 6-11; Mark 14:1-15:47)

The prophet Isaiah has given us a perfect job description of one who walks with God and can legitimately claim to speak for the Lord. The description is easily distinguished from typical human behaviour and attitudes by what is noticeably missing: ego and self-seeking. This individual becomes an instrument in God’s hands and a conduit for God’s words and intentions.

How does one reach this sort of relationship with the divine? The first important element is inner quiet and stillness. Our own culture is noisy, chaotic and demanding, but the prophet listens quietly in the still moments before the world awakes. The still, small voice of God is often drowned out by the din around and within us. The second is the willingness and ability to listen — really listen — without questioning, arguing or bargaining. This is difficult for most, for people are very reluctant to relinquish control. Listening with a receptive mind and heart ensures that our guidance comes from God rather than from the needs of the human ego.

Of equal importance is the unceasing exercise of patience. This means doing things in God’s time and God’s way and avoiding anxiety and the temptation to impose one’s own will. This requires a fair amount of faith and trust. Finally, willingness to endure with patience the resistance and rejection that will surely come. Walking with God always comes with a price for God’s ways are very different from those of the world.

The one who embodied these traits with perfection was Jesus. But we do not have to be Isaiah or Jesus to put these principles into practice in our own spirituality. Every step we take in that direction brings us closer to God and more able to sustain the weary with a word. At this critical point our world needs many more in the image of the Servant and far less shouting and bullying.

Paul proposed the model of Jesus for living in communion with others. There had been far too much quarrelling, posturing and competing in many of the communities. Jesus did not rely on equality with God but gave it all away in an act of self-emptying — renouncing the demands of self and ego. He became a servant of all by assuming the lowliest form and being totally obedient to God — even to the Cross. Rather than losing anything, Jesus gained everything. Because of this great love and obedience, God exalted Him to the heavens, giving Him all power and authority. It is a paradox that in God’s kingdom, lowliness, humility, non-violence and vulnerability are the source of spiritual empowerment and transformation. Unfortunately, many will still seek power and glory in the human way — brute force, manipulation and materialism.

The Passion narrative of the Gospel paints a tragic but beautiful and moving portrait of the self-emptying and obedience of Jesus. He could have escaped His fate but chose not to. He journeyed to the Cross throughout the entire Gospel of Mark — His life was a preparation for this moment. At the same time another portrait was being painted — that of those around Jesus, and it was not pretty or inspiring. His Apostles displayed every sort of human weakness. They judged and condemned a woman who anointed the head of Jesus as an act of kindness and devotion. Judas gave in to greed and treachery, striking a deal with the temple hierarchy to betray Jesus. When Jesus announced that one of them would betray Him, each one asks if he were the one. They had a complete lack of self-knowledge. Judas added hypocrisy to his sins by asking if he were the betrayer. Peter indulged in a chest-thumping declaration that he would not leave Jesus in the lurch like the others. In the garden, they could not even provide solidarity and comfort to Jesus for an hour but fell asleep.

The disappointment and sadness in the voice of Jesus as He confronted them with their lack of constancy was stark and striking. Finally, when Jesus was arrested, they practically trampled each other in their haste to run as far away as possible.

Jesus died virtually alone, without the close comfort and support of friends, family and Apostles. He gave everything to God, and we are united with God to the extent that we are able to do likewise. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by doing so.