Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Palm Sunday Year ABC: Reflections- 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

The Victory of Christ’s Death

After the blessings of the Palm and the procession into the Church on Palm Sundays the readings especially the long passion narratives (from Matt 26-27; Mk 14-15; Lk 22-23 or John 18-19) are sometimes always very challenging to comment on. Think of the number of parishes in our diocese, Seminaries, Schools and Religious Houses, then think of how different pastors and preachers must have approached this narrative of the Passion of Christ: all the false politically and religiously motivated charges- his arrest, trial and crucifixion and burial.

I have no doubt many might have focused on Judas’ terrible behavior of betraying Jesus for thirty pieces of silver and his regret afterward  (Matt 26:47-56; 27:3; Mk 14:43-50; Lk 22:47-53 and John 18:1-11),challenging us to be loyal and faithful to one another. Others might want to contemplate the significance of Peter’s weaknesses, the denial of his Master, the misappropriation of power by the Jewish leaders and his opponents. Others still may want to reflect on the role of Pilate in Jesus’ trial; His indifferent to truth and justice. He prefers to release Bandit Barabbas in instead of the innocent Jesus!

Whatever strikes your from today’s liturgy and scriptures we do not want to lose sight of the person and the figure of Christ and his  Love for us to the end (John 13:1), by going to the Cross to die for each and every one ( John 3:16). Going to the cross was not a defeat but a victory when we think of how Christ managed those false charges against him and his appearances before his enemies, Jewish authorities”; Annas, Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin and the Roman Tribunal, the soldiers, police officers, Gentile and Jews, secular and religious leaders.

 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.

Ironically, he 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.