HAVE AMONG YOURSELVES THE SAME ATTITUDE…
Sunday, March 29, 2015
Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord
Mark 14:1 – 15:47
The Conspiracy Against Jesus
1 The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were to take place in two days’ time. So the chief priests and the scribes were seeking a way to arrest him by treachery and put him to death.2They said, “Not during the festival, for fear that there may be a riot among the people.”
The Anointing at Bethany
3When he was in Bethany reclining at table in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil, costly genuine spikenard. She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on his head.4There were some who were indignant. “Why has there been this waste of perfumed oil?5It could have been sold for more than three hundred days’ wages and the money given to the poor.” They were infuriated with her.6Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you make trouble for her? She has done a good thing for me.7The poor you will always have with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them, but you will not always have me.8She has done what she could. She has anticipated anointing my body for burial.9Amen, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”
The Betrayal by Judas
10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went off to the chief priests to hand him over to them.11When they heard him they were pleased and promised to pay him money. Then he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.
Preparations for the Passover
12 On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?”13He sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him.14Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”’15Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready. Make the preparations for us there.”16The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover.
17 When it was evening, he came with the Twelve.18 And as they reclined at table and were eating, Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.”19They began to be distressed and to say to him, one by one, “Surely it is not I?”20He said to them, “One of the Twelve, the one who dips with me into the dish.21For the Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”
The Lord’s Supper
22 While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.”23Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it.24He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.25Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”26Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Peter’s Denial Foretold
27Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will have your faith shaken, for it is written:
‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be dispersed.’
28But after I have been raised up, I shall go before you to Galilee.”29Peter said to him, “Even though all should have their faith shaken, mine will not be.”30Then Jesus said to him, “Amen, I say to you, this very night before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times.”31But he vehemently replied, “Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all spoke similarly.
The Agony in the Garden
32 Then they came to a place named Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”33He took with him Peter, James, and John, and began to be troubled and distressed.34Then he said to them, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch.”35He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass by him;36he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.”37When he returned he found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour?38 Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”39Withdrawing again, he prayed, saying the same thing.40Then he returned once more and found them asleep, for they could not keep their eyes open and did not know what to answer him.41He returned a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough. The hour has come. Behold, the Son of Man is to be handed over to sinners.42Get up, let us go. See, my betrayer is at hand.”
The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus
43 Then, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived, accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs who had come from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders.44His betrayer had arranged a signal with them, saying, “The man I shall kiss is the one; arrest him and lead him away securely.”45He came and immediately went over to him and said, “Rabbi.” And he kissed him.46At this they laid hands on him and arrested him.47One of the bystanders drew his sword, struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his ear.48Jesus said to them in reply, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs, to seize me?49Day after day I was with you teaching in the temple area, yet you did not arrest me; but that the scriptures may be fulfilled.”50And they all left him and fled.51Now a young man followed him wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body. They seized him,52but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked.
Jesus Before the Sanhedrin
53 They led Jesus away to the high priest, and all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together.54Peter followed him at a distance into the high priest’s courtyard and was seated with the guards, warming himself at the fire.55The chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus in order to put him to death, but they found none.56Many gave false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree.57 Some took the stand and testified falsely against him, alleging,58“We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands and within three days I will build another not made with hands.’”59Even so their testimony did not agree.60The high priest rose before the assembly and questioned Jesus, saying, “Have you no answer? What are these men testifying against you?”61 But he was silent and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him and said to him, “Are you the Messiah, the son of the Blessed One?”62Then Jesus answered, “I am;
and ‘you will see the Son of Man
seated at the right hand of the Power
and coming with the clouds of heaven.’”
63At that the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further need have we of witnesses?64You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” They all condemned him as deserving to die.65Some began to spit on him. They blindfolded him and struck him and said to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards greeted him with blows.
Peter’s Denial of Jesus
66 While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the high priest’s maids came along.67Seeing Peter warming himself, she looked intently at him and said, “You too were with the Nazarene, Jesus.”68 But he denied it saying, “I neither know nor understand what you are talking about.” So he went out into the outer court. [Then the cock crowed.]69The maid saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.”70Once again he denied it. A little later the bystanders said to Peter once more, “Surely you are one of them; for you too are a Galilean.”71He began to curse and to swear, “I do not know this man about whom you are talking.”72And immediately a cock crowed a second time. Then Peter remembered the word that Jesus had said to him, “Before the cock crows twice you will deny me three times.” He broke down and wept.
Jesus Before Pilate
1 As soon as morning came, the chief priests with the elders and the scribes, that is, the whole Sanhedrin, held a council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.2Pilate questioned him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He said to him in reply, “You say so.”3The chief priests accused him of many things.4Again Pilate questioned him, “Have you no answer? See how many things they accuse you of.”5Jesus gave him no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.
The Sentence of Death
6Now on the occasion of the feast he used to release to them one prisoner whom they requested.7A man called Barabbas was then in prison along with the rebels who had committed murder in a rebellion.8The crowd came forward and began to ask him to do for them as he was accustomed.9Pilate answered, “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?”10For he knew that it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed him over.11But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead.12Pilate again said to them in reply, “Then what [do you want] me to do with [the man you call] the king of the Jews?”13 They shouted again, “Crucify him.”14Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” They only shouted the louder, “Crucify him.”15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas to them and, after he had Jesus scourged, handed him over to be crucified.
Mockery by the Soldiers
16 The soldiers led him away inside the palace, that is, the praetorium, and assembled the whole cohort.17They clothed him in purple and, weaving a crown of thorns, placed it on him.18They began to salute him with, “Hail, King of the Jews!”19and kept striking his head with a reed and spitting upon him. They knelt before him in homage.20And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak, dressed him in his own clothes, and led him out to crucify him.
The Way of the Cross
21They pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.
22 They brought him to the place of Golgotha (which is translated Place of the Skull).23They gave him wine drugged with myrrh, but he did not take it.24 Then they crucified him and divided his garments by casting lots for them to see what each should take.25It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him.26 The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.”27With him they crucified two revolutionaries, one on his right and one on his left. 29 Those passing by reviled him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days,30save yourself by coming down from the cross.”31Likewise the chief priests, with the scribes, mocked him among themselves and said, “He saved others; he cannot save himself.32Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also kept abusing him.
The Death of Jesus
33At noon darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.34And at three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”35 Some of the bystanders who heard it said, “Look, he is calling Elijah.”36One of them ran, soaked a sponge with wine, put it on a reed, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see if Elijah comes to take him down.”37Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.38 The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.39 When the centurion who stood facing him saw how he breathed his last he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”40 There were also women looking on from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and of Joses, and Salome.41These women had followed him when he was in Galilee and ministered to him. There were also many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.
The Burial of Jesus
42 When it was already evening, since it was the day of preparation, the day before the sabbath,43Joseph of Arimathea, a distinguished member of the council, who was himself awaiting the kingdom of God, came and courageously went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.44Pilate was amazed that he was already dead. He summoned the centurion and asked him if Jesus had already died.45And when he learned of it from the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.46Having bought a linen cloth, he took him down, wrapped him in the linen cloth and laid him in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb.47Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses watched where he was laid.
Other readings: Mark 11:1-10 ; John 12:12-16; Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalm 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24; Philippians 2:6-11
Today’s heading, the first verse from our reading from Philippians, could be the guideline to this first celebration of Holy Week (and, given the extension of today’s Lectio, to the Week as a whole). Jesus’ attitude, announced in the text from Isaiah, is that of self–denial and renouncement: “he emptied himself,” became the suffering servant and willingly fulfilled his Father’s will. Fidelity to God’s designs, expressed by his mature obedience as a free man, is perhaps the trait that best describes Jesus’ attitude during his entire life. Paul, in his introduction to the Christological hymn, invites the Christians from Philippi to have that same attitude in their lives.
The four Gospel accounts of the Passion offer not only the description of the events that happened in the last days of Jesus’ life, but at the same time provide us with a portrait of the people around the rabbi and prophet they had followed, admired, recognized as a man of God, betrayed and abandoned. Those characters may be a mirror where we can see traits of our own personality and attitude in our following of Jesus. If we look in depth, none of them is absolutely evil (not even Judas), and all of them together show a full image of our contradictory human nature. For Paul, no doubt, the community at Philippi, (or any Christian community for that matter), is an image of Christ, his visible body in this world; hence the importance of their behaviour amidst their generation, where they should shine as living lights (2:15).
The first character we find does not seem to play a role in Jesus’ passion, but she and her actions are the best anticipation, and a basic key, to all the events that are about to happen. After his entry into Jerusalem, the cleansing of the Temple and his long disputes with his adversaries, Jesus returns to Bethany. There, in the houses of Simon the Leper, an unidentified woman (not a sinner, not Lazarus’ sister, not the Magdalene) anoints Jesus, and the extravagance of the perfume provokes a scandal among those present, ostensibly worried about the poor. No one seems to grasp the prophetic sign that only Jesus understands and explains: “She has anticipated anointing my body for burial” (14:8). She has also anticipated Jesus’ role as a king and priest that he will enact in his passion. Curiously, her gesture will be remembered, even if we do not know her name. This attitude of silent generosity and devotion will be completed by the words of the Roman centurion: “Truly, this man was the Son of God!” (15:39). A pagan proclaims aloud what Mark had announced in the first line of the Gospel. As usual, a paradox: a woman and a Gentile enclose, as if they were brackets, the mysteries of Jesus’ passion and death.
The disciples deserve special attention. The three who were closest to Jesus, “could not keep watch for an hour” (14:37) when he was “troubled and distressed,” and prayed that the “hour might pass by him” (14:33-35). Even Simon, who had boasted about the firmness of his faith and his willingness “to die with you [him]” (14:29-31), will swear he did not know him (14:66-72). Judas, “one of the Twelve,” as Mark underlines, will betray him (14:10-11) and “will kiss” him as a sign for those who would arrest and “lead him away” (14:43-46). One of the “bystanders” (another disciple, we assume) tried to defend Jesus with a sword (14:47); another, a young man, fled, even if that meant the shame of his nakedness (14:51). But, in the end, they were all so frightened at the event, that “they all left him [Jesus] and fled” (14:50).
As for the authorities, we know too well the role they played. Those belonging to the religious élite, chief priests, Pharisees, scribes, were convinced that Jesus was a real danger to their social and political stability. After recurring to false witnesses to provide evidence and deliver Jesus to Pilate, the Roman governor, Jesus himself gave them the excuse to execute their plans. His words, “I am” (14:62) identifying himself with God, were utter blasphemy and deserved death (14:53-64).
The crowd that had greeted Jesus with hymns, and “spread their cloaks on the road” and “leafy branches” as he advanced riding on a colt, (11:8-10), will shout loudly and ask Pilate to “crucify him” a few days later (15:6-15). Some of them, when they saw him nailed to the cross, “reviled him,” while the chief priests, with the scribes, “mocked him” (15:29-32). Even the bandits crucified with Jesus insulted him (15:32).
The Roman characters play the roles we would expect in such circumstances. Pilate did not want to have problems with a rebellious crowd. Jerusalem was packed with people who had come for the Passover celebration, and they were, as we have seen, easily aroused and manipulated, so after a lukewarm attempt to exchange Jesus for Barabbas, (although he knew the crooked reasons invoked by the authorities), Pilate decided “to satisfy the crowd” and “handed him [Jesus] to be crucified” (15:1-15). As for the Roman soldiers, the cruelty of their actions reflect, unfortunately, their common practice with prisoners.
There are, still, two groups of people near Jesus. He must have been very weak, for they recurred to a passer-by, Simon, to carry the cross (15:21). Although he was forced to perform that task (the authorities could demand that type of service), and we have no hint about his religious feelings, Simon plays a deep symbolic role. His action recalls the two main conditions Jesus had posed to anyone who “wished to come after him,” that is, to denying himself and take up his cross (8:34). When reading or listening to this passage, persecuted Christians of the time must have had a clear understanding of what Jesus meant.
The women, not only those identified by name (Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and Joses, and Salome), but the group of those who had followed him to Jerusalem, are there and, although they remained at a distance, they did not abandon him (15:40-41). That is why they will be the first witnesses to the resurrection.
Only after Jesus’ death, another character will enter the scene, Joseph of Arimathea, who will take care of his body and bury him (15:42-47). Just a linen cloth was used, no anointment or perfume, for Jesus had already been anointed by the unknown woman who would be remembered “wherever the Gospel is proclaimed” (14:9).
To be honest, the reading of the Passion is so rich, that I dare not give any guidelines for our Meditatio. Any approach you adopt can be valid. I humbly suggest comparing the actions of the characters we have seen with parallel feelings Jesus must (or may) have experience in relation to them, and trying to understand in what way he was following his Father’s designs. Or trying to identify yourself with some of those characters to find what you share with them. Or trying to find in your own personal environment circumstances similar to those described in the text: self-sufficiency and pride, treason, selfish interests, hidden fears, ingratitude… and courage and pity, compassion and sympathy, humble generosity and effective action. The list of positive and negative elements is endless. In any case, see in what ways you can get closer to the suffering Jesus who died for us.
As I was writing these lines, I heard the news that 21 Egyptian Christians from the Coptic Church have been beheaded on a beach near Tripoli for the simple fact of following Jesus. Let us pray –I know I have urged you to do so several times - for our brothers and sisters who are literally being persecuted because of their faith: that they may be comforted in their own “passion” by Jesus, whose steps they are following.
Besides this particular intention, I suggest we should all pray for hope. In a sense, Jesus’ passion and death is a parable of the tormented, suffering existence many human beings undergo in our world. They carry in their bodies and souls the wounds Jesus himself suffered. Let us pray: that we may be conscious of such distress and find the effective means to alleviate them.
Our first reading today is one of the four songs of the “Suffering Servant” in Isaiah’s book. These hymns are read in the Catholic masses on the following days. Even if you are a regular churchgoer, read those songs, as they can help you prepare for the solemn celebrations: Isaiah 42:1-7; 49:1-7; 50:4-9, and 52:13 – 53:12.
Reflections written by Rev. Fr. Mariano Perrón,Roman Catholic priest,Archdiocese of Madrid, Spain