The Lord's Passion and Our Lives
The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday
St. Philip's Chapel, Voorhees College
March 29, 2015
Mark 15:1-39,40-47 \
Easter is so close we can almost touch it. And yet – and yet – we read today of other things – suffering and death, among them. Before Easter Resurrection comes our Lord’s Passion and crucifixion. Before fulfillment comes anticipation and delay. Before victory comes suffering. To do justice to this day, then – The Sunday of the Passion – we must consider delay and suffering and passion and death.
I am mindful that today’s Gospel reading is especially long, and so, this homily – as part of the Ministry of the Word – will be brief. Actually, in a former parish of mine, it was the annual custom of the bishop to visit on Palm Sunday. And each year, I worried about how long the sermon might be, in addition to everything else happening on that day. So, I am aware of that concern … and I will not take long with my words this morning.
Let me reset the thought and theme for today. I made reference earlier to this day as The Sunday of the Passion, and it is known also as Palm Sunday. I also pointed out that to do justice to this day, we must consider topics like delay and suffering and passion and death.
In order to focus on such topics, I want to remind us of several encounters that the Gospel reading highlights. Also, I suggest that as we consider these encounters, we do so from a personal perspective. That is, these moments in our Lord’s Passion connect with times in our own lives as well.
First, we read of the encounter between Jesus and Pilate – an encounter in which Jesus seemed strangely disinterested. This part of today’s reading represents those times in life in which an important decision has been reached even prior to hearing from all points of view. This way of dealing with people is unfair … but it often happens, as we know. Indeed, like Jesus, we have suffered from such unfairness. Thus, we know it is unfair when a decision is reached before hearing information important to making that decision.
Next, we read of the encounter between Pilate and the crowd – the mob that wanted Jesus put to death. Pilate recognized that Jesus had been charged by the chief priests, who had ulterior motives. Nevertheless, when faced with the crowd’s strong feelings, Pilate did not follow his convictions. Rather, he caved in to the political reality of the day. How often have we become disillusioned by leaders doing the same thing. Thus, we know it is disillusioning to observe a leader responding to political pressure rather than personal convictions.
Finally, in another kind of encounter, Jesus on the cross utters those words of desolation – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mk 15:34). Everyone and everything seems to have abandoned him at that moment. If we are honest, we have felt that hopelessness in our own lives as well. Thus, we know that we can feel hopeless in the face of apparent abandonment.
Therefore, while this time of Jesus’ Passion is unique to our Lord’s experience, even then we can relate to his earthly life in personal ways. We, too, have known the unfairness of times that important decisions have been made without hearing all points of view. We, too, have known the disillusionment of a time that a leader ignorers his convictions and caves into political pressure. We, too, have known the helplessness of a time that everyone and everything seems to have abandoned us. Unfairness, disillusionment, and helplessness all were parts of our Lord’s Passion. And we have known such experiences ourselves as well.
Thus, as we walk the way of Jesus’ Passion prior to Easter, may we embrace our Lord’s story as our story also. In doing so, may we prepare ourselves for the Resurrection joy which awaits – for Jesus and for us! Amen.
The Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg
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