The Cross of Jesus holds the deep secret of everything

Today is Palm Sunday which marks the beginning of Holy Week and leads up to the events of the Passion. Palm Sunday celebrates the triumphant entry of Christ into the royal city of Jerusalem.

At today’s mass, we have two gospels. The first Gospel is proclaimed before the procession with palms. It tells of Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. Through this event Jesus claimed the rights of kings but a peaceful king.

This Sunday’s first and second readings focus on the suffering and humility of Christ, the Son of God. The first reading is the song of the suffering servant of God. The second reading is taken from the letter of St. Paul to the Philippians which speaks of the humility and obedience of Christ, the servant of God.

The passion narrative is read from the Gospel of Mark. Mark stands out in a special way as the Gospel of the Cross. Crucifixion was a horrifying, torturous, agonizing and bloody way to die. It was made into a public spectacle where the victim was nailed or bound to the cross and suffered a degrading loss of all dignity. The crucifixion was meant to utterly humiliate the body of the person being executed.

In our world today there exist human sufferings that approximate that kind of suffering. Daily instances of violence in our world is so glaring. Senseless wars, domestic violence, sexual violence, torture, stigmatization, bullying in schools and workplaces are a daily reality. These mirror the humiliation of the cross.

For Mark, the cross of Jesus is the deep secret to everything. We can understand our identity as disciples and understand God and what he has done for us so long as we grasp the meaning of the cross. How did Jesus respond to the Cross? How did he respond to the violence and lies? How did he respond to the injustice?

When Jesus came before his accusers, he was silent. After he was sentenced to death, Jesus did not speak again until his final cry from the cross where he lamented the suffering caused by that silence: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Mk 15:34; Mt 27:46). On Golgotha, we find ourselves before ‘the word of the cross’, which is ‘silence’.

Today we learn to be silent before the cross. Before the cross we learn that we do not attain life by seizing it, but by giving it. Love is giving ourselves and, for this reason, is the way of authentic life symbolized by the cross.

Suffering is inevitable in life. Therefore, only those who are ready to persist and endure to the end will triumph. Also, if we persist in our faith, we shall emerge victorious over suffering.

Remember not to confront injustice with other injustice or violence with other violence: let us remember that we can only overcome evil with good and never by paying evil back with evil.

The great mystery Jesus lives this week, the mystery that he embodies, is that the greatest things in history do not come from seizing power or taking care of ourselves, but from handing everything over to Another, from handing our lives over to Another, by placing our lives in the Father’s hands.

Advancing in obedience to his very last breath, in the obscurity of death, Jesus called upon the Father. He commended himself to him at the moment of passage, through death, to eternal life: ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit’ (Lk 23:46)”

The mystery of the cross is a mystery of love. Love, in fact, means letting go of oneself, giving oneself, not wanting to possess oneself. This principle of love, which defines someone’s path, is identical to the mystery of the cross, to the mystery of death and resurrection that we encounter in Christ.

Love means letting go of oneself, giving oneself, not wanting to possess oneself, but becoming free from oneself: not retiring into oneself, asking ‘what will become of me? – but looking ahead, towards the other, towards God and towards the people he sends to me.

Dear friends, perhaps it is relatively easy to accept this as the fundamental great vision of life. In practice, however, it is not a question of simply recognizing a principle, but of living according to the truth that it contains, the truth of the cross and resurrection.

Paul, writing to the Philippians, says that God sent His Son, who ’emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave… He humbled himself, even unto death, death on a cross’. If we do not accept the path of Jesus, the path of humiliation that He has chosen for redemption, not only are we not Christians: we deserve what Jesus said to Peter: ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ (Pope Francis)

Humbly, the servant of God accepted all his sufferings to save us. He offered and lost his life to secure victory for us. The most important lesson from all this is that the virtues of patience, humility, and obedience are fundamental in life. Also, the readings teach us that suffering is inevitable in life. Therefore, only those who are ready to persist and endure to the end will triumph. Also, they teach us that, if we persist in our faith, we shall emerge victorious over suffering.

Today’s celebration anchored on Mark’s gospel is full of significant symbols. These include the palms representing Christ’s royalty and peaceful reign, “He shall be the prince, and the king of peace” (Is 11: 1-9; 9:6). The donkey is symbolic of Christ’s humility, “He is humble! He rides on a donkey, the foal of a beast of burden” (Zac 9: 9). Finally, the crowd symbolizes both praise and rejection. This is because the same crowd singing “Hosanna, Hosanna” today soon will demand Christ’s crucifixion.

Do we believe in our own power, or in God’s?

May Palm Sunday be a day of decision for you, the decision to say yes to the Lord and to follow him all the way, the decision to make his Passover, his death and resurrection, the very focus of your Christian lives.