Sunday Sermon for March 28, 2021, Palm Sunday, Year B
Readings: Mk 11:1-10; Is 50:4-7; Phil 2:6-11; Mk 14:1-15:47
Today, in the span of less than an hour, we recall the events that began with our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem and culminated with His Passion and death in merely five to six days. One notices the emotional switch of the people to hailing Jesus to calling for His crucifixion. This reminds us of our own emotional swings which range from feeling great love and zeal at one moment to falling into the most unfortunate of sins in the next moment. It reminds us that emotions are not logical and that we must be careful not to make our decisions based on our emotions.
At the same time, we see the equanimity of Jesus throughout these events. He was not emotional when He rode into Jerusalem, nor did He allow Himself to be caught up in the emotions of the crowd. His demeanor did not change when He sent His disciples to prepare for the Last Supper. He remained calm when He spoke to Peter about the latter’s upcoming denials. His choice to move forward in the garden, at the trial, during Peter’s denials, and before Pilate are all based on the same interior determination that was founded on truth and charity in doing the Father’s will. Finally, in carrying His Cross and at Calvary his resolve did not waver.
So, we are struck today by the dichotomy between the infinite and unchanging love God has for us, and our easily shifting “love” we have for Him. Our love is malleable because it is not true and pure charity. It is changing because it is selfish and it seems zealous when our emotions are high or when we want something from God; it is low when God seems far away or when we think we do not need Him. God’s love, on the other hand, is selfless and completely focused on us. This is the reason for everything He did and continues to do for us. Being made in His image and likeness, Jesus shows us who we were created to be and what that looks like in practice.
The Prophet Isaiah told us of the Messiah and how God gave Him a well-trained tongue to speak to the weary a word that would rouse them. From this reading and from history, we know that what was roused in many was anger and hatred. Isaiah tells us the Messiah gave His back to those who beat Him and His cheeks to those who plucked His beard; He did not shield Himself from buffets and spitting.
Most of us would never consider physically beating our Lord or spitting upon Him. But the deeper question is whether or not we are roused by His words. So often people today allow Jesus’ words to go in one ear and out the other. They sound nice to us, but they do not seem practical. After all, if we actually did what He told us to do, we would be different from most people and we would be shunned. His words are the words of God, spoken to us in love because they are what is truly best for us. If we do what He says and live the way we were created to live, we will find fulfillment. Too often we reject the fulfillment He offers in exchange for acceptance by others who are more interested in living worldly lives.
In the second reading, St. Paul tells us Jesus chose obedience to the will of God. The will of God is love: love for the Persons of the Trinity and love for us, His sons and daughters. It was this love that brought Him to the Cross. He loves us infinitely, but frequently we do not believe He loves us, or we think we are unlovable. To prove His love and to demonstrate that we are loveable, He accepted the Cross and died for us. Because He is God and, therefore, could not die, He took our human nature to Himself so He had the capacity to die. He died for love of me and you! How it must pierce His heart when we do not believe in or accept His love for us!
As we go through the Passion with our Lord, we must always remind ourselves that He is God. How unjust this would be if a human person was treated as He was, but when we stop to think that we condemned God to death and He was obedient even unto death we should be shaken to our core. Our Lord has shown us true and real love, and His love for us remains unchanged. Our response must be to receive His love and to love Him, not in an emotional way, but as He loves us: with selfless charity.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.