Theological Reflection for Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (year A)
April 17, 2011
1st Reading: Is 50:4-7; 2nd Reading: Phil 2:6-11; Gospel: Mt 26:14-27, 66
Jesus the Suffering Servant of God
Today’s first reading, from the prophecy of Isaiah, points to the “suffering servant of God”. That prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus. Historically speaking, all the prophets of the Old Testament were persecuted and killed by the people of God. The second reading and the Gospel both show the suffering of Jesus. At times you wonder why the prophets of God have to suffer in the hands of the people of God. What lessons do we learn from today’s liturgy? How does it affect our lives today?
The first thing to observe is that Jesus knew about his betrayal quite ahead of time. Almost everyone betrayed him including his disciples. He felt abandoned by everyone except his mother. Thus he prayed the Psalm, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”(Ps 22:2; Mt 27:46) There are times in our lives when we face very difficult situations. There are times when we feel abandoned by family, friends and everyone. There are times when we feel rejected, persecuted and unnecessarily attacked either at work, or at home. We need to know that Jesus went through that situation before. So what did he do? Instead of him trying to defend himself or argue with his executioners, he rather prayed and trusted in God who only could deliver him.
Remarkably, there is nothing you can say to convince someone who does not like you. The more you try to explain, the more that person misunderstands, misinterprets and misrepresents you. The accusations given to Jesus in theses passages sound ridiculous to us today. He was grossly misunderstood. For instance, two people came forward and accused him, “This man (Jesus) said ‘I can destroy the temple of God and within three days rebuild it.’” (Mt 26:61) The high Priest in response said to Jesus, “Have you no answer? What are these men testifying against you?” (Mt 26:62) But Jesus was silent. The lesson here is very simple: the best answer you can give to someone who is not ready to understand you, is silence. There are some people who do not understand you, cannot understand you and may never understand you. All they want to do is to see your “end”. The only thing you can do is to pray for them (cf Mt 5:44).
Jesus was betrayed, abandoned, insulted and ridiculed. The only ones in his Company from his arrest to his burial were his mother and a group of women. For us too, we have to know that everyone and anyone can betray us except Jesus, the Blessed Mother and God. Notably, the betrayal and persecution of Jesus still continues today in the Church. There are people who have appointed themselves judges over others. They are the “High Priest” and “Pilate” of our time. You also have the “crowds” who have no mind of their own. They can always shout “Hosanna!”, or “Crucify him!” depending on how much control you let them have over your life. They want to be pleased at all times. The pathetic thing is that they actually think they are working for God.
The Passion, or suffering, of Jesus gives meaning to the suffering of innocent people all over the world. There is no philosophical explanation that adequately justifies the suffering of Jesus, or any innocent person today in the world. Suffering remains a mystery that nobody can unravel. Jesus was innocent beyond doubt, and yet he was condemned to death by his own people (cf Lk 23:47). But all through his suffering he maintained his loyalty to God, his Heavenly Father. In whatever situation we may find ourselves today, let us put our trust in the same God who only can vindicate us. At times the best we can do for “fault finders” is to silently pray for them.
May the Lord give us the courage and the strength to cope with those who are always finding fault with us. May God vindicate us from misinterpretations, misunderstandings and misrepresentations of others. May the Lord give us the awareness that in moments of deep sorrow, loneliness and depression he does not abandon us.
Here is the challenging question for this HOLY WEEK: if the Passion narrative of Christ were a live drama among us today, which character would define you?
Fr. Clem Oyafemi