Homily for March 29, 2015: Palm Sunday: Msgr. Jim Miller

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

March 29, 2015

Reading 1 Is 50:4-7

Responsorial Psalm Ps 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24

R. My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

Reading 2 Phil 2:6-11

Gospel Mk 14:1—15:47

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We have just read the Passion according to Mark.   This story is not so much about Jesus as it is a story about us.  If the Passion is to touch us deeply, we cannot listen to it simply as a story about what happened to Jesus or about what others did to Jesus.  Rather, we must listen to it as a story of what we have done and what we continue to do.  We must see and admit our role in the crucifixion.

A seminarian was studying in Rome and during an oral examination was asked to prove Jesus was God in one of the three agony-in-the garden passages.   He answered that he could not prove it.   The professor replied, “Correct!  He’s not God in the Gethsemane narratives.  He’s totally human.”

At the Last Supper Jesus said, “one of you will betray me”.   We all betray Jesus with our sins.   I believe the copilot on the German flight from Barcelona to Germany betrayed Jesus.   He chose to cause pain and suffering for people throughout the world and for his own family and friends.   Many people will have to try and live through an act that makes no sense except that it is the opposite of life, goodness, and love.   The devil offered him a temptation and he carried it out.   He chose death when God offered him life.   I pray for all who are suffering because of this senseless tragedy.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem the people welcomed him as they envisioned an earthly King who would free them from all oppression.   People were waiting to see what would happen next.   And yet one unnamed woman does more than wait.   Her actions interpret not only Jesus’ entry as the expected king but the sort of king Jesus must be.  After his entrance into Jerusalem, Jesus went to Bethany.  In Bethany, “a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head.”  The people gathered around Jesus ask a question:  “Why was the ointment wasted in this way?  For this ointment could have been sold for more than 300 denarii, and the money given to the poor.  And they scolded her.”   Their question is not without merit, for in scolding her they were probably attempting to voice Jesus’ concern for the poor throughout his ministry.  Jesus says, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her?”

Her identification of Jesus as the Christ by anointing went deeper, however, than even she knew, for she could not have known that she had also anointed Jesus’ body “beforehand for its burial.”  Faithful women will later seek to care for Jesus’ broken body after his death in order to anoint it with burial spices, but they would not find a body.  The unnamed woman, though, already had anointed Jesus not only as a king but as the humble king who emptied himself out in death.   She recognizes Jesus, and gives all she has for him, not understanding completely that her actions helped to prepare the king, first for his death and then for his triumph, but knowing somehow he is the Messiah.

The significance of her actions is felt when Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”   We, too, are called to recognize Jesus the Messiah in faith, not simply as a conquering hero but as a servant willing to give himself up to death for us.

The essence of discipleship is that we stand with Jesus and align our own identity with his, accept self-denial and self-giving and in this way walk with him to the cross.  Disciples go wherever the Master goes.