Passion and compassion
With the celebration of the Palm Sunday also known as the Passion Sunday, we come closer to the climax of the redemptive action of God. The triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem invites us to enter with him and be part of the divine action taking place. This is the moment the disciples of Jesus must have enjoyed most since they were all full of expectations from Him, the Messiah. Perhaps they thought that their discipleship was going to be crowned with positions (see Mk 10, 35-45).
The fact is, Jesus is going to Jerusalem in order to give up his life as a ransom for many. In this act, the main actor is God who is going to manifest the power of His love. We are invited to be co-actors and not observers. We are called to be disciples and not fans. The attitude we choose is what determines the quality of our participation in the passion of Christ. Give us Lord the sentiments you had during your passion!
All the four evangelists (Mt 21,1-11; Mk 11,1-10, Lk 19,28-40 and John 12,12-16) report the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The crowds are thrown into a kind of excitement because they see in Jesus the one in whom all the messianic hopes have been invested. They have, all along, seen what Jesus has been doing: he has healed the sick, he cast out evil spirits, raised the dead up to life, fed the multitudes. This is the man to rescue them from the Roman dominion, they thought. As they spread their garments and branches on the road, they shouted: „Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hossana in the highest!“ They were receiving the Lord himslef. The word hossana has to do with salvation. Infact they were saying: „Come and save us O Lord!“ This is an authentic cry for help. One has to be careful not to pronounce it as a fan showring praises to a celebrity. Humanity is crying out to the Lord of life who whould intervene in the affairs of people. Amidst the Coronvirus-Pandemic humanity is ackowledging its limitations and sincerely cries: „Hossana, come and save us O Lord!“
Who is he? Crucify Him!
The passion of Jesus is the best moment of revealing his identity. Whoever wishes to know Jesus must be present in this darkest but at the same time most glorious moment. Jesus is the humble servant of Jahweh who was obedient up to death. His humility is seen in the gesture of using a colt, the foal of a donkey (First reading Isaiah 50,4-7), instead of riding on a horse like the many powerful of the world. In the letter to the Philippians, St. Paul speaks about Jesus‘ self-emptying and readiness to descend so deep into human reality. He accepted the shameful death on the cross (Second Reading Phl 2, 6-11). What is amazing though is that God did exalt him highly whom they ashamed. He gave him the name which is above every name. St. Peter will, after the resurrection, proclaim: „There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are tob e saved.“ (Acts 4, 12).
Surprisingly, the acclaimed Messiah is turned into a blasphemer (Mt 26,65) who deserves to be crucified (Mt 27,23). Can human beings be really trusted? What a turn from fans to condemers!!! Have the friends become deserters and traitors? The one who is being humiliated is truly the of God Son. This invites us all to get off our horses of pride in order to serve as he did. On Ash Wednesday we clearly accepted our being human when the material out of which we were made was poured on our foreheads. A human being who doesn’t want to be humble denies one’s humannes. The current Covid-19 pandemic clearly shows us how limited humanity can be. Looking at the humble Lord in his passion, may we accept the power of weakness which allows God’s grace to shine out! He is God and we depend on Him! God’s stregth is shown in the weakness on the cross.
Great love and great suffering
Amidst the current pandemic we ought to be attentive not to distort our image of God as a loving Father. Of course many do have questions that are justified: Why all this? Where is God? What will the poor do if the rich have failed? Etc. These and many others are forcing people to turn to God in prayer. Some are saying that this suffering is God’s punishment for human sinfulness. It may be true but let us not lose sight of the God who has accompanied humanity and given us many new beginnings. This he has always done out of his love. It is only love that can give meaning to suffering. It is only love that can withstand suffering. The paschal mystery can only be celebrated with a certain degree of maturity. Love beyond any form of romanticism means total self-giving. In the passion of Jesus we contemplate the passion and compassion of God.
Passion means „suffering“ on one hand and „ a strong and barely controllable emotion“ on the other hand. In the suffering of Jesus, we contemplate the „all-bearing love“ of God for humanity. It is this great love that can bear the great suffering. The evangelist John makes this love known at the beginning of the gospel: „God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…“ (John 3,16). The world that God loves is a wounded one. Humanity is so wounded by sin that it inflicts wounds on the sinless one. In his suffering, Jesus identifies himself with the wounds of humanity and bears them with a love that should attract everyone. His cry while hanging on the cross, is the cry of humanity: „My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?“ (Mt 27, 46). The Father seems to give no answer, but Jesus remains so confident, that he can commend his spirit into the Father’s hands (Lk 23, 46). In the mystery of the Cross we see the compassion of God. God ‚suffers with“ (Lat. Cum-patire) humanity. As we celebrate the passion of the Lord, especially amidst the Covid-19 pandemic may we feel ourselves accompanied by the suffering Lord in our struggles, looking forward to rise with him.