Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palm Sunday ABC: Reflections 2 - Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Palm Sunday Mass Year ABC: Reflections by Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Isa 50:4-7; Ps 22:8-9, 17-18,19-20,23-24; Phil 2: 6-11 and Matt 26:14–27:66 (A); Mk 14:-15:47 (B) and Luke 22: 14–23:56

Death on the Cross annulled by the Resurrection

Every year the Church celebrates Palm Sunday which ends the Lenten Season and marks the beginning of the most Holy week in our Christian Liturgy.  It is a week our savior will be exalted on the Cross. It is a week of that hour of glory come to fulfillment. This week Christ, our Lord and Savior will be betrayed, falsely accused, plotted against (John 11:45-53), arrested (Matt 26:47-56), interrogated by Annas, Caiaphas, and the Sanhedrin ( Matt 26:57-58), tried by Pilate ( Matt 27:1-14), denied by Peter( Matt 26:59-66), mocked and executed in a Roman way ( Matt 27:15-56).  It is a week Christ will draw all people to himself, Jews and the Gentiles, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. It is a Holy and Salvific Week for us; a week of grace; a week of victory over death, victory over injustice, lies and hatred; a week we see new life in the death of Christ.

It is a week we also learn to resist evil not with violence but with prayer, endurance and through peaceful process of dialogue and reconciliation. A week we learn not to act like Pilate, remaining indifferent to truth nor being in a hurry to condemn our neighbors, brothers and sisters, friends and children. It is a week each of us is invited to the foot of the Cross, a week Mary will be handed over to us the faithful Disciples of Christ ( John 19:25ff). A week we are invited to play the role of those ordinary Palestine children, men and women who lined the street with songs of Hosanna welcoming Christ into Jerusalem, into their homes and lives.

Whatever strikes you in today’s liturgy and scriptures please do not lose sight of the person and the figure of Christ and his Love for us, the way went to Jerusalem and to the cross. Going to Jerusalem he was on a donkey not on a horse. Remember at the time of David and Prophet Zechariah (cf 9:9) the donkey had been a sign of kingship, but later an animal for the poor, while the horses came to represent the might of the mighty. Christ today presents us the image of a King of peace arriving Jerusalem on a donkey not on a bullet and nuclear proof Presidential Limousine. Christ reminds us today in that long passion narrative of his fearlessness and courage to conquer death even death on a cross

 Like the Isaiah’s Suffering Servant (Isa 50:4-7), he handled it patiently with wisdom and humility, “he gave his back and cheek to those who slapped and plucked his beard. He withstood those spitting and mockery for his love for us.  Christ  handled his persecution as a true and peaceful King, a Hero and true Messiah who knew his “hour” of glory was up, who even forgives his persecutors (Lk 22: 14–23:56). Remember, in the garden before his arrest he did not resist his enemies. Rather when he asked the troops Judas had brought “whom they were looking for” they all staggered and fell to the ground’ (John 18:1-11). He taught Peter; at Malchus incidence of course each and every one of us that violent is never a dignified way to do things or to resolve all differences.  He said, “Peter put your sword back into its Sheath (cf Mk 14:47; Matt 26:51; Lk 22:50 and John 18:10). Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me”?; the cup of the Cross and the cup of the Resurrection (Mk 14:36;Matt 26:39; Lk 22:42 and John 18:11)

In the Praetorium before Judge Pilate, Jesus became the one Judging Pilate against his ignorance of the meaning of the Truth. Giving up his Spirit the veil of the Old Temple was torn from top to bottom, because the Christ the new Temple had not only cleanse the Temple at his entrance into Jerusalem but had divinely promised to destroy and rebuild it in three days (John 2:9). The crucifixion of Jesus is at the same the destruction of the old Temple, and the resurrection of Christ, a rebuilding of a new worship of God in the Spirit of truth, love, forgiveness and endurance (John 4:24 cf. Joseph Ratzinger, Jesus of Nazareth, Holy Week: From Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection, pp. 11-23).

Paul notices Christ’s teaching endurance and His exalted cross when he says today, “Christ Jesus though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God, something to be grasped…he became obedient to death, death on a cross (Phil 2:6-11). We do like Paul also notice the legacy of love Christ handed to us- the more reason we are not tired, but have come together, gathered in our parish to celebrate this day. Thousands of people, men, women, seniors and children, attorneys and physicians, philosophers and theologians, factory workers and business men and women of diverse cultural and political background. Doesn’t it remind us of the women at foot of the Cross, the Beloved Disciples? What about the Gentile Roman Soldiers and other Jews like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea  who went asking for the body of Jesus for a kingly anointing and burial in a new tomb that had been hewn in a rock (Matt 27:57-61; Mk 15:42-47; Lk 23:50-56 and John 19:38-42).  It all comes to fulfill the victory of the cross and what Christ had said that, when he will be lifted up on the cross he will draw everyone to himself (John 3:14; 8:28 and 12:31-32).

As we walk through this Holy Week may we see it as a Holy and a Saving Week; a Week of grace of victory of life over death? Let us not only focus on the weaknesses of Judas, Peter, Pilate and other disciples who fled the suffering and the trial scenes of Christ. But with God’s grace we want to imitate the teaching endurance of the KINGLY Christ, a King of Peace and Love with the faithful examples of those women, men, the Beloved Disciples at the foot of the Cross, by uniting our sufferings our illnesses, our setbacks, the mockeries we experience in life with the Exalted Cross of Christ and with the victory of the Resurrection.