Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord (C)
Picture: cc angrylambie1
Sisters and brothers, imagine for a moment that you are a famous celebrity. And you want to increase the number of your followers on social media. What do you do? Well, I’m neither a celebrity nor a media consultant, but I’m told that one effective method is simply to post more pictures of yourself. Especially if you have a beautiful body. Flaunt it. Bare more skin. Show off your new bikini. Preferably with you in it… Bare and beautiful bodies. That’s what draws the most interest. That’s what catches people’s attention.
Shocking as it may seem to some, this is also what we find in our Mass readings today. As we begin the holiest week of our Church’s year. The readings draw our attention to a beautiful body. Not just any beautiful body. But the beautiful Body of Jesus himself. You may have noticed, for example, how the reading of the Passion both begins and ends with references to the Lord’s Body.
At the beginning, as Jesus takes his place at table with his disciples, he says: This is my body which will be given for you; do this as a memorial of me. And, at the end, we find not just one, but two references to Jesus’ Body. We’re told that, after the Lord had died on the Cross, Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. He then took it down, wrapped it in a shroud and put him in a tomb. We’re also told that some of Jesus’ female disciples took note of the tomb and of the position of the body.
Quite strikingly, Luke’s account of the Passion is framed by references to the Lord’s Body. Clearly, this is something important. Something to which we need to pay close attention. The Body of the Lord. A body that is truly beautiful. But not in the ways that our world usually defines beauty. In what then does the Lord’s beauty consist? We find some indications in the other readings.
The first reading speaks of various body parts that function in very particular ways. There is, for example, a disciple’s tongue. Which knows how to reply to the wearied. How to comfort those weighed down by the burdens of life. From where does this tongue get its knowledge? From the ears. Which God awakens every morning to listen like a disciple. The reading goes on to describe how the rest of this body also functions as a disciple. Especially how it makes no resistance when others refuse to accept its proclamation of God’s Word. When they respond, instead, with abuse. I offered my back to those who struck me, my cheeks to those who tore at my beard; I did not cover my face against insult and spittle.
Unquestioning obedience. Humble submission to the will of God. Patient endurance of mistreatment. This is what a disciple’s body looks like. This is true beauty. A beauty modelled for us, in the second reading, by the only begotten Son of God himself. Whose state was divine. Yet did not cling to his equality with God. But emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave. Taking on a human body like ours. And even accepting death on a cross. In order that we might live.
My dear friends, as we begin the holiest week of our year, our readings draw our attention to the Body of the Lord. A Body that shows us the Way to Life. A Body that invites us to contemplate and to adore its startling beauty. To take careful note of its various positions. And to seek to imitate and to follow it in our own lives. In memory of Him, who loved us to the point of laying down His life for our sakes.
Sisters and brothers, today the Lord is posting pictures of His Body. Bare. Broken. Beautiful. What must we do to follow his feed?