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READING: [Palm - portion: Mark 11:1-11; or John 12:12-16; Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29] PASSION: Isaiah 50: 4-9a; Psalm 31:9-16; Phillipians 2:5-11; Mark 14:1 - 15:47|
COLLECTFor the Sixth Sunday in Lent (also known as "Palmarum" Sunday - from the Palms waved this Sunday in the Sanctuary in imitation of the crowds at Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem long ago...) prayers of preparation upon entering the journey of Holy Week.
THOUGHTSI am not going to deal with the Palm narratives this time. Rather I will focus on the Passion.
Isaiah 50: 4-9a
I find this to be a potent reminder that the Cross was a choice. Jesus had been sent by the Father to do His will. However, Jesus still had to choose to pick up that Cross. When, in any of my struggles, have I set my face like flint to obey the call of God, to satisfy the demands of obedience? .
Jesus' prayer life, waking 'morning by morning' to 'listen as one who was taught' set the stage for his radical obedience as "son of Man," prepared to choose to endure the plucking of the beard, the stripes on his back, the insults and the spitting and the dust and the agony. Here in Isaiah I can see the Passion played out in shorthand.
While I think that the Catholic lection more properly chooses Psalm 22 as appropriate to this day, I do see a few good lines here. Jesus, while others are plotting to take his life, knows that his times are in God's hands, that nothing can happen unless God allows it. But I just cannot bring myself to identify, "For my life is spent with sorrow and my years with sighing" with who Jesus is, with what I see of him in the Gospels.
Catholic - Psalm 22: 7-8, 16-19, 22-23
The prayer, the cry of Jesus himself from the Cross rings in my ears. I used to see this psalm as a cry of complaint, a shout of pain. Now, however, I see it as a profession, a statement of "what is." Jesus' draws our attention to this cry of faith, this ringing declaration of what will be. "To him [God], indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and I shall live for him... Future generations will be told about the Lord, and proclaim deliverance to a people yet unborn, saying that he has done it."
In the agony of his dying Jesus rallies every few moments to focus in on some detail. The detail of this Psalm must have echoed in his prayers many times. The words would have come trooping up from his heart: "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" His hearers would have recognized the words, identified with the first level of their meaning and missed the deeper implications until after the Resurrection.
Read this psalm over several times. Think about it as a complaint, then as a declaration of deliverance. See it with new eyes. Hear it with new ears. As a kind of before and after exercise.
This is one of the earliest hymns of the church. Watch for the progression in this statement. Catch the significant words and phrases: emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, humbled himself, became obedient, to the point of death. We are admonished to imitate Christ here.
Mark 14:1 - 15:47
Mark 14:1-2: (Plot) Compare with Mark 15:10. These holy men break faith with God by beginning to plot Jesus' death. Pilate sees their motivation as arising out of jealousy. What "turf" do I protect and jealously guard?
Mark 14:3-9: (Anointing) The rude comments made out loud were a public scolding. Yet they sound so suspiciously trite. Were these folk really concerned with the welfare of the poor? When do we find ourselves sounding and acting rude like the above people?
As I think about the woman in the story, I think of how much raw courage it would have taken to do what she did. I can imagine that once she got started there would have been this incredible wordless dialogue going on between them. Did she sense that she was anointing him for his death before he said so? Or did she, like I often tend to do, realize a deeper significance to her words and deeds only in hindsight?
Mark 14:10-11: (Judas' betrayal) What motivated Judas? Did the exchange about the waste of money, the poor 'always among us' gall Judas? What do I do with God when I can't manipulate him? Why do we think we can be "the God of me?" Who did Judas betray?
Mark 14:12-21: (The Passover meal) Jesus had made prior arrangements for this most significant of days in Israel. It had deep meaning for him personally and only he knew its coming layer of meaning for the yet-to-be-born church. The meal is prepared and all is in readiness.
The betrayal is announced. This is deeply distressful to the disciples; so stressful, in fact, that they start second-guessing themselves and asking, "Surely, not I?"
copyright - Charlene E. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 2000 - 2006
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