Prepare to follow Christ from the rejoicing of Palm Sunday to the darkness of Good Friday

Palm Sunday Reding: Is 50:4-7; Ps 22; Phil 2:6-11; Mk 14:1-15:47 or Mk 15:1-39

By BISHOP DAVID MCGOUGH on Friday, 30 March 2012

“Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessings on the coming kingdom of our father David!”

As his Passion drew close, Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem as a King. In the following days the Kingdom of God would, indeed, be established on earth, but in a manner unlike the glories of earthly kingdoms.

We who welcome Christ at the beginning of this week must be prepared to follow him from the rejoicing of Palm Sunday to the darkness of Good Friday. As Jerusalem was divided by the unfolding events, so we must expect this week to lay bare hidden and conflicting loyalties.

The prophet Isaiah’s suffering servant is our guide. The servant listens to the will of the Father and the prompting of the Spirit. “Each morning he wakens me to hear, to listen like a disciple. The Lord has opened my ear. For my part I made no resistance, neither did I turn away.”

The servant, fulfilled in Jesus, did not turn away from insult and death. His Spirit wakens us to repentance. There can be no turning back: only the willingness to die to sin. We cannot hang on to the past anymore than Jesus hung on to his equality with God. “His state was divine, yet Christ did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave.”

The death of Jesus was not a reckless miscalculation. It was a considered act of humble trust. Jesus, to whom the Father had entrusted everything, entrusted everything, even life itself, to the Father. “He was humbler yet, even to accepting death on a cross. But God raised him high and gave him the name which is above all other names.”

It was within this dialogue of trust that Jesus was raised as Lord, establishing and sharing the kingdom of the Father. We do not enter his kingdom through negotiation, but by entrusting all that we are, triumphs and failings, to the same Father.

The unfolding of St Mark’s Passion is an invitation to become one with the suffering servant. We who eat his body and drink his blood must become one with the sacrifice that they signify. With Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane we must abandon ourselves to the will of the Father.

Before the High Priest Jesus acknowledged himself to be the Christ and Son of God, a confession that led to the charge of blasphemy and his own subsequent death. Peter, by contrast, could not even acknowledge himself to be a disciple of Jesus. How readily we hide or surrender our faith. On the Cross Jesus faced an emptiness that is the cost of complete trust. “My God, my God, why have you deserted me?” Even here, words of apparent despair were a prayer of trust. Jesus was praying a psalm of trust, a psalm that begins with the abandonment of death, but in its concluding verses entrusts itself to the power of God. “I will tell of your name to my brethren and praise you where they are assembled.”

The centurion, witnessing the manner of Christ’s death, understood the significance of this trust: “In truth this was a son of God.”

During the week ahead may we know the emptiness that entrusts itself to the Father.